Carving out a niche market – Bernie Robertson describes what it takes


In the May 2017 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker, Bernie Robertson describes what it takes to specialize in the Mining and Exploration sector:

Bernie Robertson, Corporate Risk Manager, Knox Insurance Brokers, Ltd. handles “everything from an explosives hauler, blasting contractor to diamond core driller exploration companies.”

Having insured the mining and exploration sector for the past 23 years on operations in six countries, you could say he’s dug in.

By getting involved in trade associations and providing them with risk management […] I get a lot of referrals back.”

He’s on the board of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Canadian Diamond Drilling Association. “By getting involved in trade associations and providing them with risk management […] I get a lot of referrals back,” he says.

Canadian mining companies have projects worldwide and Robertson has become well known among the mid-tier and smaller operations.

“There seems to be a disconnect within the larger firms in dealing with the small to medium sized accounts. If it doesn’t meet a certain premium threshold […] in most cases they don’t get the same level of service that I provide.”

A hands-on approach

“I go to the site and I actually look at what the needs are.” That level of attentiveness pays off. In one case, for example, a graphite operation wanted a sprinkler system. “Their cost was $150,000. I came back to them with a proposed work-around […] which reduced the cost down to $40,000, and still met the underwriter’s requirements,” he says. He’s not there to volunteer, however. “I don’t work on commission basis; I charge a fee for service to my accounts.”

Chatting with a hockey buddy in the industry led Robertson to the sector, identifying it as an opportunity to get into an area “not everyone and their dog” already understands.

Specialization takes time

“It took me about seven years to really become a specialist. My expertise developed over time with more exposure to more people; word started getting out that I know what I’m talking about,” he says.

Obtaining that knowledge can’t just be done from a desk, either. “I sat on a remote site for four days in the freezing cold and observed, then completed two days of on-site safety training to get a better understanding of what’s involved in the process.”

Mining companies need the same type of coverage as a small manufacturing company, Robertson explains, but “there are usually more zeros at the end of the numbers”. “As far as risk level goes, we’re not just talking about potential loss of life, but also potential lost production. When you have a major mine down for an extended period, we’re talking millions per day.”

Always keep learning

Robertson understands his research is never complete. Autonomous vehicles, for example, present a new set of challenges.

“It will make the industry a lot of safer, but it will deplete the number of miners that are required,” he says. With cybersecurity in play, “now I’m having new conversations with the companies that are moving into that risk space.”

Granted, Robertson knows it’s harder for younger brokers to carve out a niche market as they have to “align themselves with what management wants,” he says. “But you may have better luck finding your special something within the boundaries of a larger structure,” he says.

To read the rest of the article So, You Want to Specialize, eh? from the May 2017 issue of Canadian Insurance Top Broker:

Bernie Robertson featured in Canadian Diamond Drilling Association’s March Newsletter

As Finance Chair of the Canadian Diamond Drilling Association, Bernie Robertson has unique knowledge of the best practices and safety concerns of companies in this complex industry. This knowledge is put to use daily in his role as Corporate Account Executive and Risk Manager at KNOX Insurance Brokers Ltd.

“As a (CDDA) supplier member, I get a lot of face time with the members. That allows me to deliver timely information that is relevant to them, and the industry as a whole.”

To learn more about the CDDA and the role of risk management in the mining industry, Bernie’s profile in the March 2017 CDDA newsletter is available at

More information regarding Bernie’s services at KNOX and Mining Insurance is available here.

Tips for a Safer Office Holiday Party

As the holiday season approaches, so do employee appreciation events such as the annual office holiday dinner or party. As a business owner it is important that you take steps to protect your business and employees from harm at events that involve alcohol.

Although you cannot eliminate the risk entirely, you can do a great deal to reduce the likelihood of a liquor-related incident and minimize your liability in the event that an incident occurs. To promote the safety and sobriety of your employees and guests at company-sponsored events, below is a list of suggested control measures:

  • Host your event at a third-party restaurant or banquet hall that hires smart serve certified staff.
  • Set up bar stations instead of having servers circulating the room; if offered, people are inclined to accept drinks they wouldn’t have otherwise ordered.
  • Place table tents at each bar reminding employees and guests to drink responsibly.
  • Don’t price alcohol too low, as it encourages over-consumption.
  • Offer a range of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks at no charge.
  • Require servers to measure spirits.
  • Always serve food with alcohol.
  • Close the bar an hour before the scheduled end of the party.
  • Do not offer a “last call” as this promotes rapid consumption.
  • Never raffle alcohol or hold contests that involve buying or drinking alcohol.
  • Entice guests to take advantage of safe transportation options by subsidizing taxis or promoting a designated driver program.
  • If your event includes a program or speaker, schedule it for after dinner and drinks are served. This allows additional time for alcohol to wear off.

Before your company hosts its next event, contact KNOX Insurance Brokers Ltd. We can review your coverage and assist in developing a risk management plan that keeps safety a top priority at your company-sponsored events.


Sources: © 2006, 2012-2013 Zywave, Inc.