This week we’re learning more about Bill Zolis of Penmore Callery.

What inspired you to join the benefits industry?

No, I did not say in my grade 6 class, “When I grow up I want to be an Insurance underwriter”.  By fluke, I had a couple of summer jobs during high school at Crown Life, went back to school, and then back to Crown Life.  I started my career with Crown Life as an underwriter.  I have always been a numbers kind of person.  I was in various positions at Insurance carriers before eventually switching to the consulting side.  Underwriting provides you with a great background.  As you know relationships are very important in this business.  When you negotiate with the Insurance Carriers you must have valid reasons for your reason to not agree with the initial proposed position.  When you are on the consulting side, we work for our clients however we still need to have a good relationship with the carriers.  We are partners.

No matter how long you have been in this business, you can always learn something new.  I always want to share my knowledge with anyone that asks.  I’m a bit of an information freak.  This is a great career that many young folks should look into.

I love what I do and love being a Healthcare advocate for all our clients, friends, and family.  The Healthcare system in Canada is very difficult to navigate for the average person.  

Who is your mentor?

I have had many mentors throughout my career.  Too many to list.  I have been taught by many great leaders which continues.  I remember when I worked for John Bowden, if I did not get the answer he was looking for, he would say “You’re not talking to the right people”.  In his day, he would go directly to the underwriter and usually would get his way.  Times have sure changed.  We cannot get near the underwriters.    As Brian Callery says, “Everyone, grows old, gets sick and dies” 

What is something that people do not know about you? 

I used to teach aerobic classes at Crown Life.  I recently taught zoom exercise classes to some Penmore coworkers.  I’m a huge Mental Health advocate.  I’m on the foundation for fundraising for Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences.  I recently completed the Mental Health First Aid Canada course from the Mental Health Commission of Canada. I love to garden based on my European roots.

What is the biggest lesson that you have learned in the business to date?

Being kind to people goes a long way.  We have two ears and one mouth.  Listen, listen, listen. I have had to work on this.  Telling real stories has the greatest impact compared to just numbers.  We all have many real stories.  My son-in-law passed away this past summer.  This is a real story that I often tell now especially for the young that think nothing could happen to their health.  Many just rely on their Group Insurance coverage.  As you all know, this is a big mistake.

Do you have insights about the industry that you would like to share? Thoughts about the future of our Industry?

The Employee Benefits world is changing with the younger employees wanting much more flexibility with their plans.  Technology has advanced at lightning speed.  Especially since Covid started.  It is hard to keep up.  This will not change.  Most Group advisors are nearing the end of their careers with many selling to the big consolidators.  I still do believe there is a place for good advice and close relationships with our clients.  Every advisor has to keep up with the changing landscape or they will be left behind.  We also can be great connectors where clients are asking us all kinds of questions even if the questions are not in our area of expertise.


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