History of McKillop Insurance
No one knows the exact date Charles (Bud) McKillop decided to go into the general insurance business other than the year was 1953. Bud was starting a family and being a traveling salesman and out of town much of the time, he looked for something closer to home, something to build his family’s future.
The McKillop family had been doing business in Lethbridge since the early 1900’s. Bud had worked in the family grocery business until forced to sell in 1948. He spent the next 5 years in different sales roles, with different companies, many involving time away from home.
Bud started his agency by first renting a small office which he shared with a number of other small business owners. He managed to convince 2 or 3 insurance companies he could build an insurance clientele that would be profitable for both parties.
Times were different in the 50’s. The war was over and the peace time economy was gearing up and people were settling into life that revolved around trying to raise a family and get ahead. Bud set out to call on people he knew and hope to persuade them to deal with him for their insurance needs.
At the time there were over 30 small insurance agencies doing much the same thing in Lethbridge. Since they were small businesses the owners were usually involved in other things. Very few insurance agencies could make a satisfactory living just selling general insurance!
This was no different for Bud. He accumulated a base of clients but still needed to supplement his income. Bud decided to get into property management, and managed some of the buildings in downtown Lethbridge. This eventually led him to obtaining a real estate license so he could sell homes and small acreages in and around Lethbridge.
With his numerous business contacts Bud’s insurance business started to grow nicely. He relocated his offices and now had a secretary and 2 associates selling real estate out of his premises. Bud enjoyed building his business one client at a time. He particularly liked visiting clients at their place of work and at their homes in the evenings or on weekends. Whenever it was convenient for them to meet. Clients liked his way of doing business and in turn were referring their friends to deal with Bud.
The insurance companies he represented were also happy with his success so they continued to support him in ways that would promote the business. Being a very independent minded individual, when his business was big enough he secured 3 or 4 more insurance companies. This gave him and his customers more choice in terms of who he felt they were best to insure with. Bud thoroughly enjoyed being an independent insurance agent and he continued to grown the business into the 1960’s and 70’s.
His son Bruce joined him in May 1971 having graduated from the University of Lethbridge. Bruce had finished traveling throughout Europe finding himself (like so many other young men at the time) before settling down and deciding on a career and family. Bruce didn’t really think he would enjoy the business when he first joined his father. He saw it as a temporary fix until he really decided what he wanted to do.
Bud was very patient hoping his son would make smart decisions with what he wanted to do with his life. Bruce started slowly into the business, one day at a time, doing similar things to what his father had done years before. Then a light bulb went off. Bruce like Bud was out seeing people the way his Dad had done 20 years prior. Bruce couldn’t make a living just selling insurance so like his father he too had to take on real estate and property management to make a living.
The 70’s and 80’s and even into the 90’s were good times in Lethbridge to grow a family business and this is what Bruce focused on. With an established clientele already in place Bruce was able to build on the business his Father established.
Together father and son were able to change roles over their years together where Bud became the anchor and Bruce was allowed to go out and promote the business in a way that suited both of them. The hard work was paying off as the McKillop name was getting very well established as an insurance agency committed to looking after their clients as best they could.
Some things were changing in the business world as computers were just coming along that would revolutionize the way business owners conducted their business. Businesses were attempting to get larger and consolidation was first becoming a factor in all types of business operations. It seemed every one had to get larger to be able to have some economies of scale. This was no different in the insurance and real estate business that Bruce had taken over from his father but he was determined to not let computerization take the place of ongoing personal relationships with McKillop insurance clients.
Bud retired in 1983 having been in the business for 30 years. Bruce was able to carry on and brought the business through the 90’s and into the 2000’s. Times had changed and a small family business of father and son and 1 or 2 employees had now grown to a staff of 10 to 15.
The business now large enough to where Bruce and his staff were able to devote all their time to the various insurance needs of their customers.
Claims service was always a priority as the insurance clients policies were only as good as the person selling it. Bruce insisted that his staff be there for clients in their time of need as clients only knew how good their insurance was when a claim occurred. As business becomes more and more in personal, attention to customer’s needs at the time of a claim still is paramount at McKillop Insurance.
In the mid 90’s the business continued to expand by attaching a registry outlet when the provincial government decided to privatize licensing services. Only 5 contracts were entered into at the time and McKillop was one of them.
Since the business was prospering, Bruce like his father before him, was allowed to spend some time getting involved in the Lethbridge community. Bruce served on the Regional Hospital board during the 80’s and was involved in other volunteer capacities to where he now spends time trying to give back where he can. Supporting good local causes is his way of giving back to a community that’s been good to him.
After 40 years of building a family business Bruce decided it was time to look for a successor hoping that the business could remain being independent and maybe if very lucky it could stay in the family. His daughter Sonya had moved to Calgary and was currently married and raising 2 young boys there. Sonya was also pursuing a career in insurance different from her father’s. Sonya had once worked at McKillop when she was in school at the University of Lethbridge. After her move to Calgary she had joined a large independent insurance broker to again supplement her income. Like her Father she did not vision her life in the insurance business.
Renfrew Insurance was a great opportunity for Sonya. Starting at the bottom she moved from underwriting to personal lines insurance where she looked after personal home and auto insurance. 17 years later she was working alongside a very large and successful Commercial Producer at Renfrew, servicing commercial clients with complicated insurance needs.
Discussions started to take place between father and daughter and in the year 2011 Bruce and Sonya, along with their families approval, decided that Sonya would purchase the business and make McKillop a 3rd generation business.
Sonya will bring things to the business that her father Bruce couldn’t do. Just like Bruce’s Father couldn’t do before him. Passing the torch in a business is always a difficult thing but since Sonya has taken over she is going to continue to build on the same principles that made her father and grandfather successful. Her emphasis will remain on good customer service and building long time relationships in the community of Lethbridge.
Lethbridge continues to grow and is becoming a vibrant business hub in Southern Alberta. Sonya strongly wishes to make McKillop a big piece in the success of our community. The possibility of a 4th Generation may be in the future!