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Sutton Special Risk cultivates a positive work environment, encouraging collaboration and camaraderie.Provided

For Taylor Dunne, a career at Sutton Special Risk, Inc. began as an adventure of sorts – a chance to apply well-honed skills to a new and challenging product line. “I had worked previously at big insurance companies with standard products across the board,” she says. “Not a lot of customization there. I was excited by the unique nature of the products at Sutton.”

Sutton Special Risk opened for business in Toronto 45 years ago, offering special risk insurance to professional athletes and teams. In those days athletes weren’t earning the salaries they can fetch today and customers were more likely the team owners looking for protection from risks such as teams travelling together or players suffering catastrophic injuries at the beginning of a long contract.

Over the years the customer base expanded, says president and CEO Greg Sutton. “As soon as athletes started earning these large salaries, it became important to purchase specialized coverages to protect their future value from injury and sickness. That’s when we started to shift from group coverages for teams to insuring individual athletes looking to protect their earnings.”

The next logical step was to take that unique coverage and apply it to customers in the corporate world: C-suite executives who travel to risky places, business owners with enterprises that depend on them, the film and television industries and other clients.

Dunne started eight years ago in the claims department. Today she is the operations manager in the special risk department. She says every day with Sutton has been a chance to learn and grow. “Being a smaller company, no matter what role you’re in you can see what everyone else is doing. You can feel the impact you’re having personally on the company. That’s very rewarding.”

But it was Sutton’s culture of inclusiveness that really sealed the deal. “The company does a good job recognizing people and appreciating them,” she says. “We celebrate our wins. Let’s say someone just sold a big account – we’re going to have a company happy hour or there’s going to be a message sent on the company board congratulating that person and giving them recognition.”

“We have always strived to develop an environment where the employees are supported and encouraged, heard and respected,” says Sutton. “I think we maintain a nice balance of accountability and fun.”

Being a small player in an industry filled with giants can be challenging, Sutton admits, but it also gives his company distinct advantages – nimbleness, for one. Sutton’s size also allows the company to foster that culture of inclusiveness that’s so valued by employees like Dunne. It allows Greg Sutton the luxury of spending time with every employee. “I’m always mindful of being in touch with everyone in the company as an individual,” he says. “Because of the size of the company we can do that.”

Just as the world shut down for the pandemic, Dunne gave birth to twins and moved out of the city. Suddenly life seemed a lot more complicated; she feared she might even have to give up the job she loved. Sutton Special Risk stepped up by developing a hybrid work environment that allowed her to manage her new duties at home and continue with her work at the same time. “It was a big adjustment and crazy at the beginning,” she says, “but Sutton made it work.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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