Ryan Sakamoto embraces the unexpected—and discovers a fulfilling career in the insurance industry

April 11, 2018

When Ryan Sakamoto first made the decision to delay entrance into the “real world” by pursuing a law degree, he never imagined it would lead him to the insurance industry. And yet, 11 years on, that’s exactly where he sits—as Senior Vice President at Marsh Canada, leading its Transactional Risk practice. A testament, he believes, to the true versatility of law.

“Law can lead to a lot of different career paths,” he reflects. “You never know where a legal career can take you. It’s definitely not what I originally expected, but I think things could not have worked out any better for me.”

“Looking back, law school was a tremendous personal experience and the education was very valuable. I met a lot of great people and it taught me a certain way of thinking that continues to help me even though I’m no longer practising.”

In his current role, Ryan is responsible for helping buyers and sellers in M&A transactions understand a relatively new insurance product in Canada—representations and warranties (R&W) insurance. As the intermediary between those buying the insurance and the insurance companies writing the actual policies, Ryan’s job is to educate his clients on how the product can mitigate transactional risks, as well as guide and advise them through the process of putting their policies in place.

It’s a job he thoroughly enjoys—due to its variety, growth potential and fast pace—and one he feels comfortable in, thanks to the M&A experience he gained in nearly six years as an associate at Osler.

The right fit

Ryan joined Osler as a summer student in 2008 while he attended law school at the University of Toronto, and eventually articled there before joining the firm as an associate in 2010.

“As a student, I found the firm’s reputation incredibly appealing—especially in my desired practice areas, such as corporate, M&A and tax,” he explains. “In those areas, Osler was—and still is—second to none.

“After applying and going through the interview process, it was a no-brainer for me. I still remember when I got the call. I didn’t hesitate accepting the offer.”

As an associate in the Corporate group, Ryan primarily focused on M&A and gained experience in the area of corporate finance and securities. It was during this time that he learned countless invaluable lessons that he would draw upon throughout his career.

“I learned what it means to deliver exceptional client service, as well as how critical it is to pay attention to detail. Those were the most important insights I gained as an associate, and it really stuck with me,” he recalls.

“A lot of senior lawyers at Osler set a great example of how to be a true professional. For them, it wasn’t just about having great legal skills, but also about having the requisite soft skills—like managing client relationships and deal teams—that really help transactions go smoothly.”

Opportunity knocks

In 2016, when a former Osler colleague heard that Marsh Canada was looking for a corporate lawyer to join its team, Ryan immediately came to mind.

“He thought I might fit the bill, so he got me in touch with Marsh,” Ryan explains. “I was quite happy at Osler at the time, but it sounded like an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.”

Since joining Marsh, no two days are alike as Ryan always has different deals—and deals in all different stages—on the go. In many ways, it’s similar to his role as an M&A associate at Osler, working with clients who are in the middle of M&A transactions—but there are also some key differences.

“I work on a far larger volume of deals now. Because we only do the R&W insurance aspect, we’re much more tangentially involved,” he explains. “I could have 10 to 15 deals on the go at any time here, so it can be a challenge to keep up with all of them. The M&A world moves at a very quick pace.”

Despite the challenges, Ryan appreciates the unique opportunity his position offers. Not only is he still involved in M&A, he’s also focused on a very specialized insurance product as it begins to take off.

“There are only a handful of people in Canada who do this right now, maybe five of us who do it full-time,” he says. “I’m the only one at Marsh in Canada, so I’ve been afforded an opportunity to lead the practice and develop a business here around a very fast growing-product.”

With a job he thoroughly enjoys, Ryan foresees himself staying where he is to see where the insurance world will take him.

“Hopefully the R&W product will continue to grow in Canada. It’s become mainstream in the M&A world elsewhere, and I hope that will be true in Canada too,” he says. “I think we’ve really only scratched the surface in terms of its growth—it’s an exciting place to be.”

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