In 1898, as boats came in and out of Port Colborne through the third Welland Canal, Omer L. Steele saw an opportunity to make a living. “My great great uncle Omer began selling insurance on the boilers of the boats that shuttled the lake boats and canallers,” states Bill Steele, Owner and President of C.M. Steele Insurance Brokers. Over 100 years later and C.M. Steele insurance is still a driving force for reliable
insurance in the Niagara Region.
Over the years, C.M. Steele became a full service insurance company. Charles, Bill’s Father, took over the business in 1940. “My father was in university when he got the call asking, ‘Does Chuck want it?’ He quit school and came home to get his insurance licence,” explains Bill. In 1945 Chuck enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and served as a fighter pilot for six years. Hanging proudly on the wall in the conference room of C.M. Steele is a plaque granting Mervin Steele, Chuck’s father, permission to keep the business going in his absence. “My grandfather signed on behalf of my dad until he returned from the war,” explains Bill.
Business continued to flourish for the Steele family in their office along the fourth and current canal. “My dad took a partner in 1976. I have been with the business since 1982. My dad retired ten years later, so I was able to work with him. I am the sole owner now,” explains Bill. Bill’s son, Mackenzie Steele, has been working alongside his father for the past year learning the ropes, thus guaranteeing that the business will remain a family run business. “My niece, Vanessa Coers, started with us as a high school student and is still with us today,” states Bill. “With our family being in Port Colborne since shortly after the revolution, having our family continue with the business is special.”
From cottages to wineries and farms, C.M. Steele has a diverse portfolio of clients with personal and commercial needs. “We can write anything anywhere in Ontario and we sell all types of insurance. We are a full operating insurance company that can take on larger risks,” states Bill. “We could insure a cottage or boat or airplane if we had to.” C.M. Steele also has access to American sales. “If you own property, liability, sell or ship to the U.S.A., or have a subsidiary in the U.S.A. we can insure that,” adds Bill.
Superior customer service and competitive pricing have remained the key objectives of C.M. Steele’s business model for many decades. “Our office staff is our biggest asset. How we deal with our clients and the companies themselves are our top priority,” states Bill. “Our staff work with the client to give them a package that meets their needs. We don’t try to over sell or under sell,” adds Bill. “We give a good product at a good price.”
Todd Shoalts, President of Lester Shoalts Limited Property Management and Construction, has remained a client with C.M. Steele for over 40 years. “From our perspective, it is important to deal with a local family run company who looks after you and your company. Customer service is better because of it,” states Shoalts. “Bill is always looking out for the best interest of my company. He is a trustworthy insurance broker.”
For over 100 years the Steele family has been very active in the community. “My grandfather started the Port Colborne Lions Club and my father was a Shriner. My oldest son coaches minor hockey and we try to do as much charity work as possible,” says Bill. The company is a supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Niagara, specifically in sponsor of the Ontario General Hockey Tournament. “People like to see the businesses they deal with do good things in the community and for 100 years we have been doing that. We are out there,” adds Bill.
This year C.M. Steele was prestigiously voted one of Canada’s top ten insurance brokers by Insurance Business Canada Magazine with top rankings in the categories of New Brokers and New Clients per Broker. Insurance Business Canada Magazine is very specific in their selection criteria. Their scoring system is designed to ensure that the top performing brokers were acknowledged based on a high quality of service and not mass production of sales.
“To be quite honest, I wouldn’t change the freedom I have being a business owner. When I was eighteen years old, I turned down a full time job at General Motors and at one point I had an RCMP application completed. I picked insurance because I want to be my own boss, have a staff, and continue my family’s business. I am glad I made the choice I did. It’s been a great choice,” states Bill.
C.M Steele’s ability to remain versatile while also being dependable, has garnered them a reputation in the community as a pillar in the insurance business. “We are not the largest insurance company by any means. Our success really stems from our exceptional staff and loyal clients,” states Bill. It is easy to see why C.M. Steele has remained the foundation for insurance brokerage in the community for over 100 years and will continue to do so for many more. TM