Sherif Gemayel

Avenue Calgary’s 2015 Top 40 Under 40.

Photograph by Erin Brooke Burns

Job title: President, Sharp Insurance and Sharp Mobile

Why he’s a 2015 Top 40:

Sherif Gemayel is busy clawing back market share from big direct insurers and disrupting what was a withering industry for brokers. His innovations in technology and customer service have led to dizzying expansion, making his company the fastest-growing brokerage in Canada, while helping those in his sector along the way.

Like almost everybody in the world today, Sherif Gemayel never intended to get into insurance. But his pathway to disrupting the insurance business all started when he visited a friend working as an insurance broker. After working in sales in the oil and gas sector, Gemayel was surprised to discover the brokerage’s method for attracting new clients was to wait for the phone to ring. Gemayel forced a cold call on his friend and helped him nab his biggest client.

“From there, I learned more about the insurance business and learned how sad it was,” says Gemayel. “And then one day I took him out for lunch and said, ‘What if you and I started up our own brokerage?'”

Six years later, Gemayel is president of Sharp Insurance, the fastest-growing brokerage in Canada. His lofty aim is to change his industry by bringing technology and customer service to brokers that were, as a sector, losing one to two per cent of market share to direct insurers each year.

In order to stem the tide, Gemayel developed an app that can be licensed by other brokers, allowing clients access to digital pink cards, real-time account information, details on claims and more. “Our big goal with [the app] Sharp Mobile is to change consumer behaviour, to do to insurance what the banks did with mobile banking,” says Gemayel.

In the meantime, he has taken his company from a start-up with two guys with two policies in their own names to serving more than 20,000 clients across Alberta and bringing in almost $4 million in net revenue last year. But he’s not prepared to sit back and enjoy his success. After launching Sharp Mobile in March 2015, he acquired a digital marketing firm to help brokers across the country sell their services.

He also finds time to serve lunch at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre (Sharp sponsors a DI lunch every three months). And he celebrates his team’s successes by taking his entire staff on trips to popular vacation spots like Cabo San Lucas each winter.

So how does Gemayel feel about the industry he stumbled onto now? “At the heart of it, we make people whole again,” he says. “When the floods happened a couple of years ago, those were some trying times, and some of the things that we were able to do to get people whole again, it’s satisfying.

“When someone has a massive financial loss and you’re able to bring them back, it’s a good feeling.” – Drew Anderson

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