Consumer centric: Canopy Insurance VP optimistic about the future
The name Alicia Foster may not be a household name in Jamaica; however, it is one that is ubiquitous in the health insurance industry. After spending 25 years as a senior executive in the industry, inclusive of more than 12 years at Guardian Life, Foster recently joined Canopy Insurance Limited – GraceKennedy and Musson’s new insurance partnership – as its vice-president of sales and client relations.
Though Foster states that the decision to change paths at this stage of her career was not easy, she simply could not turn down the opportunity to help develop Canopy from scratch on a core foundation of being customer-centric – something she has always believed in so passionately.
“Leaving school, I knew I wanted a job where I had the opportunity to convert dissatisfied people into satisfied people. I didn’t earmark on a specific industry, but I wanted to deal with people – their issues and finding solutions, not a back-office job,” she added exuberantly.
Foster, whose father was at one time a travelling salesman, said that she and her family moved around a lot and engaged with Jamaicans from all walks of life. It is one of the many experiences which taught her to have a sense of compassion and understanding.
Additionally, upon completing fifth form at The Queens School in St Andrew, Foster faced a dilemma that tested her value of service above self. That year, her father suffered a major heart attack and, as a result, she decided not to add to her family’s financial burden by matriculating into higher education. Instead, she went right into the working world and has never regretted it.
She recalls that entering the workforce at an early age taught her invaluable lessons, like time management, effective communication and the importance of diligence. These, coupled with her willingness to improve, saw her return to school to obtain her MBA – an accomplishment that she looks back on with pride.
“Growing up, I was naturally shy, but I quickly realised that my parents weren’t going to be there to hold my hand and make decisions for me. Eventually, I came into my own and this has served me well. As such, at work I really enjoy working with young people to help them self-actualise and fulfil their full potential,” she added.
SUBSTANCE OVER FLASH
Foster has gone on to adroitly master several technical areas of insurance to complement her natural passion for people and client management. These include health and life underwriting, policy development and employee benefits administration. Over the years, this experience has developed in Foster an unwavering philosophy on life and work that is simple yet applicable to all – substance over flash.
During her early career, she would often note that top performers did not put on a show or airs, but rather put the needs of their clients first while being direct and well-informed.
“Telling people what they want to hear is fine, but at the end of the day, no one benefits from it. I always ensured that no matter what field I was in I knew the products and the regulations surrounding them. By ensuring I was familiar with the technical aspects of the business, I could be more confident when delivering sales pitches to clients, so there was no need for embellishments. I am the type of person where what you see is what you get, and there is no need for smoke and mirrors”
While working with CEO Sean Scott to define Canopy’s vision and points of difference in the industry, Foster shared that she and Scott are well aligned on the importance of building a team culture that encourages healthy disagreement – the fertile ground from which new ideas and innovation are most often born.
“We have been purposeful to create an environment at Canopy where no one should ever feel that they can’t share an idea – no idea is silly or unreasonable.”
While not divulging the plans for Canopy’s future, Foster is optimistic that the groundwork she is laying will be one that will stand the test of time.
“We only need to remember that people are, and will always be, the heart of any business and when we put them first, only positive things will happen,” she added.