Picture of Chelsea Fitzpatrick smiling at cafe

Tattooed and pierced, Chelsea Fitzpatrick is quick to admit that she’s definitely not the stereotypical insurance broker – and that’s a good thing. Driven by her passion and innovative mindset, she’s been working to create real change in her brokerage and the insurance industry has definitely taken notice.

During her 10 years at Park Insurance in Burnaby, BC, Fitzpatrick has worked in every department of the company before settling into her current role as Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Officer. Along the way, she’s picked up a number of awards and accolades including the 2017 Rising Star Award and Young Broker of the Year in 2018. In June of this year, she was also named one of the industry’s Elite Women for 2020 by Insurance Business Magazine.

One of the many things that Fitzpatrick is proud about at Park Insurance is the organization’s strong focus on both their internal and external communities. The brokerage partners with local businesses to host quarterly personal development days to help employees learn about personal and mental well-being topics such as mindful meditation, nutrition, financial health and psychology. Wanting to actively support their neighbourhood, staff are also regulars at many of the area businesses.

“Lots of us have our dentist right across the street, use Caffé Divano as a second office and have enough favourite restaurants within three blocks of the office to fill a novel,” says Fitzpatrick.

Giving back to those in need is also a priority for Park Insurance. The company supports different charities throughout the year and is also very active in Month of Caring – a program Fitzpatrick started in 2016 through insurance organization Blue Goose BC Pond. Month of Caring takes place each February and brings the local industry together to provide assistance to different charities from Vancouver to Surrey.

“The Month of Caring, along with all the other initiatives we do at Park Insurance, definitely brings out the best in our team,” Fitzpatrick says.

She spoke with us for Go Magazine about the importance of community, putting employees first, workplace culture and not being a passive participant in your career.

Let’s see what she had to say.

Why do you like working at your brokerage?

I realized early in my career that putting employees first led to a happier customer experience. What I love about our brokerage is that we’ve created a culture grounded in our values of personal growth and community, and we’ve hired talented individuals who are aligned with those values.

In 2019, the Burnaby Board of Trade awarded Park Insurance with the Healthy Workplace Award, which recognizes organizations that prioritize their employees’ work-life balance and physical, emotional and mental well-being. Winning this award proved that making employee empowerment and support a focal point of our leadership strategy was absolutely the right choice. 

Park Insurance employees have been working remotely over the past few months. What was this transition like and how did the team work to overcome any challenges that arose?

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, there were so many unknowns and the lack of certainty kicked my anxiety into overdrive. I absorbed every webinar I could. I’d lay awake at night worrying about the safety and health of our team, the intricacies of suddenly transitioning a company to remote work and the possibility that the workplace culture that we had worked so hard to build would start to unravel.

When I look back at it now, I realize that we were completely prepared. Our leadership team focused on overcoming a few technological hiccups and continuing to support our staff remotely, which allowed our brokers to remain focused on our clients. Within a few weeks, we returned to a sense of normalcy. Now, our workplace culture is stronger than ever. We do daily group exercises, have virtual lunch roulette with colleagues and host virtual “water cooler” meetings for departments. Our incredibly passionate and innovative Chief Culture Officer, Natasha Purnell, also hosts a weekly virtual Happy Hour, where the games are competitive and the costumes are hysterical.

Why is it more important than ever to foster a strong workplace culture?

I strongly believe that “workplace culture” and “employment satisfaction” are not just buzzwords. As an organization, we recognized this back in 2016 when we launched our Cultural Evolution Plan with a mandate of strengthening and developing our workplace culture. We established ways to track and measure our progress, which gave us a solid foundation to lean on as we transitioned to remote work. 

One cultural challenge that we’re facing is in creating a virtual space for those small, yet significant everyday interactions, like chatting in the elevator, catching up over lunch or in-between meetings. These interactions can serve as reminders, idea-generators and personal check-ins. Now, we’re recreating these experiences as much as we can through virtual meet-ups. Is it the same? No. Have I tried to to recreate this by working from a lawn chair at the end of Natasha’s driveway as we loudly tossed ideas back and forth? Absolutely!

There is a lot of change happening in Canada right now. How is this impacting the work insurance brokers do? What opportunities do you see for brokers and customers going forward?

Canadian companies across all sectors have had to adapt quickly. For brokerages like ours that had been preparing for digitalization, we were excited to adopt these digital enhancements and provide our clients with more options for engaging with the management of their insurance policies.

Technology has opened up access to more information than ever before and this gives us the opportunity to tell our story to a wider audience. There’s also a renewed importance placed on corporate ethics. Here at Park Insurance, we’re very proud of the way we operate. Increased transparency and interconnectivity allow us to show up for our clients in a more genuine, personal way. 

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever been asked to insure? 

Ears! My brother is a successful audio engineer who’s worked on popular video games like NHL 17 and UFC 2 and 3. His new game Hytale comes out in 2021. Due to the nature of his work, his hearing needs to be kept healthy and sharp. Should anything happen to his hearing, his livelihood is at risk.

What’s the most unique insurance claim you’ve ever encountered? 

I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say the claim involved some “expired” domesticated animals in overhead vents. 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t try to fit someone else’s mold because it’s easier. I’m young, female, tattooed and pierced – not exactly the stereotypical insurance broker. I’m not here to be a passive participant. This is my dream and my life. I’m going to work hard and be proud of what my team and I have accomplished. 

Tell us something about you that most people don’t know. 

I deal with anxiety in my daily life. I work hard to take care of myself so that I can show up as the best version of myself both for my family and for my team at Park Insurance. 

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t working in insurance, I’d be …

If I wasn’t working in insurance, I’d be a barista. This has been my lifelong dream job. Cafés, like my favourite Caffé Divano, are important in the community, serving as a meeting place for celebrations, intimate conversations, job interviews, first dates, book clubs, study groups and unofficial offices. A barista doesn’t just pour coffee, they help facilitate an environment for these interactions to thrive. They are there to help others, something that I feel called to do.

What are some of the reasons why you like working with Gore Mutual?

Gore Mutual’s values closely align with our values. Supporting innovation and employee satisfaction, fostering diverse management teams with strong female leadership, and cultivating talent are all values that Park Insurance holds dear. Gore Mutual also believes in being an important member of the community. You don’t last 181 years as a company without community support. As a business that’s been around for 70 years, we recognize and appreciate the work that it takes to be a successful, community-focused organization like Gore Mutual.

Check out Park Insurance’s website here.

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