"After 35 years of service, it is very gratifying to reflect back on the business relationships and great friendships made from Vancouver Island to St. John’s, Newfoundland,” says Western Surety’s General Manager Neil Penner, who retires at the end of this year.

"And it’s those people, including my co-workers, who have made it all worthwhile and certainly the most rewarding part of those years."

In the beginning, Neil didn’t have any idea how his career path would change in the future. In 1977, armed with a business college certificate, CMA qualifications, and five years’ previous work with KPMG and Revenue Canada, he began work as an accountant with the Hill Group of Companies.

He was comfortable being an accountant but after a little over two years with the Hill Group, he was lured to Western Surety by its then President, Leo Ell. The offer was reinforced by the personal blessing of the late Fred Hill, patriarch of the entire Hill Group, who called Neil into his office to confirm the opportunity and Neil’s willingness to try something different.

"I recognized that if I moved over to Western Surety there was more opportunity to advance. That’s the advice I got from people around me. I took that advice, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made."

Within Western Surety, Neil rose steadily through the ranks as surety trainee, underwriter, senior underwriter, and to assistant general manager. In 1994, after 15 years in the surety business, he was appointed GM and has held that position for the last 18 years.

"The first couple of years with Western Surety I wondered what I had got myself into, but once I gained the underwriting knowledge and skills and then started meeting with brokers and contractors – well, that was the turning point.

"It’s truly a people business – I have been fortunate to work with a great team of people over the years and have been introduced to so many other dynamic interesting people on the brokerage and business side. It has been personally satisfying to be part of a successful organization of people and provide others with the products and service they need to grow their business.

"These people become friends and that’s the part that keeps you in this business.

"If you want to have a challenging and rewarding job, this is certainly it. You’re working with professional people, constantly learning, changing and adapting.

"It’s not just about making the sale or getting the new business. It’s maintaining those relationships for the long term and every relationship is different."

Neil will be able to maintain some of those relationships in the years ahead partly through travel, but also by continuing to work on special projects for Western Surety.

But now, he says, he’ll also have much more time for family activities, which includes two grandchildren and (he hopes) more grandchildren to follow.

He’ll also be active in community volunteer work, pursuing his golf game, home hobbies and travelling with Donna ("my better half"). Travel will include long trips with Donna on his Honda Gold Wing – "the best touring bike on the road," he says proudly.

"I am leaving with fond memories but really do look forward to the next chapter in my life", Neil adds.

Neil’s last day of work will be December 21, 2012.

Still Time – Enter to Win an iPad 3

Western Surety’s Facebook contest is still open. It closes December 31, 2012. The prize is an iPad 3.

Here’s how to enter:

  • Visit the Western Surety Facebook page.
  • Click on the contest button under the cover photo.
  • Enter your information in the contest form.
  • Click "Submit."

While you’re there, remember to "Like" our Facebook page.

Visit our Facebook page often for news and updates.


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Its always about the people!