Cannabis Broker Spotlight: Tobin with Bolton & Co. Works to ‘Become a Master Student’
Editor’s note: This part of a series of profiles on cannabis brokers, in which Insurance Journal explores why and how these folks got into the business, the ups and downs of insuring cannabis, as well as a few tips for those interested in a little professional development.
Corey Tobin, a senior vice president with Bolton & Company in Pasadena, Calif., views the cannabis industry as a complex, ever-changing place, where continuous learning is the key to success.
Tobin founded and leads Bolton’s cannabis business practice. He has been in the insurance industry for roughly 10 years, and for the last five years he has focused specifically on the risks and challenges of the cannabis industry.
His past two positions have been within Bolton, having grown from assistant vice president to vice president into his current title and position.
Tobin spoke with Insurance Journal about his experience as a cannabis broker.
Insurance Journal: Why did you get in the cannabis and insurance space?
Tobin: As an insurance broker in a state that was seeing a lot of boom and bustle from the emerging cannabis industry, there were a number of local, legitimate business operators who just didn’t have access – or didn’t know how to access – the appropriate coverage for their operations.
I noted this growing lack of proper insurance support and took the initiative about five years ago to better understand the industry, get involved and help those businesses that wanted to be properly insured.
Insurance Journal: Has this been a good financial decision so far?
Tobin: My book of business has grown considerably since becoming involved with the cannabis industry, and this trend continues today as my clients expand into new states, open new locations and seek grow their business capabilities.
It takes time to build the required rapport, knowledge and business sensitivity to this industry, however, it’s worth it. It’s very rewarding to see the businesses you partner with thrive.
Insurance Journal: What’s the hardest thing about the cannabis industry to deal with?
Tobin: The cannabis industry is still growing, and with a lack of maturity comes a higher degree of volatility, uncertainly and a general lack of understanding. I see a lot of professionals from other industries moving into the space who assume that the traditional policies you would see (for say a tech or banking company) would apply to cannabis – they seldom do.
This kind of lack of understanding early on resulted in many coverage gaps, oversights and in some cases no coverage whatsoever for many businesses. Unpacking these situations requires special attention. Often, Cannabis businesses require a tailored approach with specific language related to the unique risks an operator may face – a business that sells vape products, for example. You have to know this space pretty well to stay ahead.
Insurance Journal: What insurance product is the most difficult to obtain for your cannabis industry clients? Why?
Tobin: Currently, there is a lot of cross-state activity for successful businesses that want to expand. It can be challenging to secure proper coverage in the home state of your business, and that complexity only multiplies when you try to open a business in another state that has different rules and requirements.
I’ve been focusing a lot of time into developing a coverage offering that would help simplify this process, which has just recently been launched. It’s not easy to make coverage simple for your clients, however, it’s a necessary effort and one that today’s insurance consumer is expecting.
Insurance Journal: What two or three tips do you have for brokers entering the business of insuring cannabis?
Tobin: There is no substitute for understanding the industry you support. You have to be active, know the day-to-day developments and stay on top of the regulatory and legal framework you are operating within – become a master student.
It’s this expertise that will help you provide ongoing education to your clients who – even though operating in the space – might not actually know that much about it (outside of their own business operations).