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Young’s stuff 6 08 for distribution fall 2017

Posted By Thom Young (Full first name: Thomas Clifford John), October 22, 2017

Young’s stuff 6 08 for distribution fall 2017

 

 

Preamble:

 

It’s been a very busy summer for me, and I apologize to my readers for my inability to find the time necessary to bring you these stories in a more regular manner. The project has been taking a back seat to some more pressing issues but I will try to get my time better set aside to get these out more regularly. If you have any topics that you’d like to engage me with or see me focus on, this is now posted in a true blog format for members of the IBAA and starting a conversation on any topic is as easy as clicking a couple of buttons on the Blog page and tapping out a few thoughts. I will immediately respond and others following will be advised so that the timely exchange of ideas will be served. Of course, you can also engage with me privately at any time by sending me an email at thom.young@landy.ca which come to me directly and as many of you know I respond quickly and directly to each email I receive. If you’re reading this on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, responses within those formats will be responded to directly as well!

 

 

** IMPORTANT ** Alberta General Insurance Council elections!

 

Every General Insurance license holder in Alberta has received an email from Election Buddy on behalf of the Alberta Insurance Council with a hyperlink to a ballot that allows them to vote for their choice for a position on the General Insurance Council. The link shows the 5 nominees who are standing for election and has a little bio on each. You click on the link from the email, review the people and their bios and click on a box for your choice. The site verifies your choice with you and you’re done. The whole process takes about 5 minutes, some more, some less but it really is a very simple task. The reality up to now has been that less than 10% of general insurance license holders invest this simple amount of time in making a choice for who is going to represent them and their industry in the process of developing policy that will affect them and adjudicating and disciplining those who bring our industry into disrepute. It is appalling to me the apathy that exists here. Here is a memo that I sent to all the license holders that I sponsor:

 

“You may or may not know I sit on the GIC and the topic of participation in these elections is often discussed at the board meetings, especially when there’s nearly 12,000 eligible voters and less than 1,000 actual invest the 5 minutes it takes to do so. While I go on about this in discussions about voter turn out at the meetings I’m more than aware that you license holders who are sponsored by me rarely vote as well. You have all received an email from the AIC uniquely coded to your general insurance license number that links you to Election Buddy’s web site. Only you with your AIC recorded email address can access this to vote. Take that 5 minutes and select one of the 5 candidates running. I know personally most of these people and any one of them would make a great addition to the AIC/GIC team. The GIC has some serious work to do fixing regulations and making policy that affects YOU. Have some influence in the process by selecting someone to represent you. Most other jurisdictions don’t get to choose the people who make policy and sit as their judges, you do but there’s been talk of changing that in Alberta because no one seems to care. Do you want to choose the next member of the council or have some bureaucrat or politician make that choice for you?”

 

I know you’re at your computer reading this, just a few more minutes of clicking your mouse and you can say you made a difference! I’ve already voted and it only took 2 minutes!

 

You have until November 1, 2017 to cast your ballot, so make this a priority for this week and get it done!

 

Market disruption in Alberta for General Insurance license holders and businesses….

 

This story is for the Alberta General license level three people or as they are more commonly known as the Designated Representative’s out there. Those who are one, those who were one and might want to be one again and those who might want to become one all will be interested in this story. It’s also pertinent to anyone who might want to sell their brokerage to someone or bequeath it to their heirs. Every brokerage has a Designated Representative and every brokerage is only a heart beat away from having to deal with the problem of getting a new DR in place within two weeks!

 

As a result of the general insurance licensing regulatory reforms that came into being in 2012, severe adjustments to the licensing standards were made in Alberta. The education standards for all General license levels were changed and new examinations came into play for each level of license. The immediately noticeable results of these changes were the seeming inability of newly recruited customer service representatives to pass the level one licensing examinations. At one point the pass/fail rate dropped below 30% and the industry began making a lot noise with the regulator at the amount of resources being wasted at recruiting. When only one out of every three people you hire and train can pass the licensing exam, the costs to your business are immediate and two-fold, you spend a lot of time looking for and qualifying people and your business suffers through lost opportunity and poor service issues. The issues with the level one license pass fail rate were nothing compared with the virtually awful failure rate for the level 3 with a nearly 85% failure rate! As a result of the agitation of our industry the AIC set out a plan to undertake a review of the license standards and study material with the industry for each level of license.

 

In consultation with the industry stakeholders a complete review of the curriculum design for preparation of examinations for each level of license holders took place and a new curriculum design came into play at the end of this review. This process took nearly 3 years and I’m not so happy to report that so far as the level 1 license exam goes, the pass rate is now back to the unacceptable 40% (or so) that it was before we began the review and with regards to level 2, it seems that the pass rate is climbing but still not to the extent that would indicate that the review and rewrite of the exams has accomplished the goals set out at the beginning of the project. So far as the level 3 license results go, it does seem that people are now finally able to pass this exam but the number of attempts do not produce a sampling large enough to make a verifiable statement that this problem is solved and all of the industry education stakeholders have commented that the curriculum for the level 3 exam continues to test for advanced insurance concepts that have virtually nothing to do with the role or responsibilities of DR in a general insurance brokerage. Every brokerage must have a DR but holding the bar to the same conceptual level of proficiencies for the DR of an Alpha House employing thousands of agents as that of the corner store insurance brokerage focusing on personal lines coverage and employing 3 or 4 agents is absurd. Even more absurd is attempting to measure the competency of an individual in advanced insurance concepts through the application of a multiple-choice examination is a totally dysfunctional way to make that measurement. Every educator will tell you that the higher the complexity of a question the harder for the candidate to choose “the best” answer from 4 choices. This is why advanced concepts are tested on long answer essay results. Despite this obvious situation the AIC has continued to put forward a multiple-choice examination for this critical license that is difficult to pass and not relative to the role of the DR’s function.

 

Let me be clear hear that I have no issues with testing for advanced insurance concepts for the positions within our industry that require knowledge of them. Certainly, the level 2 license has been structured for that expectation and insurance concepts should stay in that level of testing but the level 3 role is one of regulatory responsibility and all about the regulations surrounding market conduct and the role of the person in the brokerage that ensures qualification for and compliance with the regulations and statutes. Having an understanding of reinsurance concepts and components of advanced risk transference has literally nothing to do with being a DR in Alberta (or anywhere else so far as I’m aware) nor does understanding the tax codes for Canada or employment standards in Alberta, yet we’re continuing to test on these things for some reason.

 

In general, it can be said that the Alberta licensing regulations are pretty much the most difficult to deal with in all of Canada, we have step licensing in place but no regulations providing any reason for them. The regulations we do have are confusing and give us little in the way of defining the rules and penalties for failure to be in compliance. In fact, the penalties for poor market conduct come from violation of the statutes governing market conduct, not from the regulations. It is very difficult to justify the licensing structure as it presently exists and it won’t be fixed until our industry challenges it at a political level.

 

Consider that under the existing regulations an Alberta level 1 license holder operates unrestricted in service to the public and can solicit, arrange any plan of coverage and bind the coverage without the need of any assistance from any other level of license holder. On their first day at work they can without restriction write any kind of risk without any help from anyone. The Regulations provide a nefarious and confusing reference to the level 1 agent being supervised but all that really means is there must be a higher-level license in the organization and as there must be a DR in the organization there’s the assumption of supervision but no requirement for it and no penalty for the failure of it. The level two license besides allowing for the undefined supervision of an unrestricted level one licence holder is pointless except for compliance with the prerequisite of two years at this level prior to being able to become a level 3 DR. Of course, this begs the question that if the level 2 license holder has no ascension in responsibility over a level 1 what is the point or need for obtaining a level 2 license if you do not at some point want to become a DR?

 

We’re consistently told by the Alberta Insurance Council that these regulations came about through industry consultation and agreement but as long as I’ve been in this industry I have never found a reason to support such a intrusive set of regulations governing the operations of a business nor can I find anyone other than the regulator speaking out in support of these regulations in Alberta. Even stranger is the reality that one would normally expect that the motivation to put in place such a strict set of regulations governing the customer service market would be in response to a failing of the existing standards to protect the public. Isn’t that what would be the role of a properly functioning regulator, to define a failure in the market place and put in regulations to correct poor market conduct so that the public isn’t at risk? Well I can tell you that every General Insurance complaint received by the Alberta Insurance Council from any source is documented, investigated, summarized and reviewed, discipline is given where due with due process in the conclusion of every investigation. You can examine the public record for the past 25 years and you will find that the number of infractions is miniscule by measurement to the number of license holders with no uptick at any point to suggest a need to harden or complicate the licensing process. You can find no evidence in review of this data that new general insurance agents are the cause of more complaints than experienced ones (in fact I believe the review would conclude the contrary) and you can find no evidence that there has been any increase or decrease in the findings of fault in investigations of all license holders. There’s nothing in the data that would indicate that the Designated Representatives (which just used to be a license holder nominated by the brokerage with no regulatory definitions of qualification) were subject to more investigations and sanctions before or after these new regulations were put in place nor any instance that I can recall where a DR was sanctioned for noncompliance with the new regulations.

 

You can conclude by my review that in my opinion we’ve seen much regulatory change in Alberta that has been extremely disruptive to our industry for which one can find no substantive reason for implementation and for which one can find no benefit to the public because. It should not have happened but it has.

 

We are in dire need of restructure and review of the way the general insurance industry in Alberta is regulated and represented. No one can claim that the General Insurance regulatory changes implemented in 2012 came about because of full and proper consultation with the industry.  Had they been the issues we’re dealing with 5 years later would have been resolved before they arose. I believe that if proper consultation had been in place with the implementation of the new education standards we’d have seen education equivalencies in place for each license level as in every other jurisdiction in North America. I think the logical expectation as well that information would have been provided to the industry education stakeholders so they could properly prepare a course syllabus and allow for proper teaching constructs to allow candidates to successfully challenge each of the levels of the exams.

 

Alberta and Ontario are the only provinces that demand that the Designated Representative in a Brokerage must pass an examination but the exam in Ontario focuses on the regulatory responsibilities of the DR, not on insurance knowledge and concepts. Alberta and Ontario are also the only provinces that have set an administrative barrier to becoming the DR in an insurance brokerage by requiring that a certain amount of time at a lower level of license be in place before you can hold the position of the DR. This has caused severe issues with the start up of new brokerages and the transference of ownership of established ones in both jurisdictions. I’m told that in Ontario there are several hundred brokerages where the DR is a surrogate lending his/her name to the process so that the operation of the corporation isn’t impeded by the lack of a DR. I know in Alberta that there are several dozen similar operations where the DR isn’t affiliated with or have an equity position with many brokerages for which they are the DR. In both jurisdictions this is skirting the regulations intent but not outside of them at law. Just as well though, there’s no indication from any review that the public is being impacted or disserved by these arrangements. As I stated at the outset of this essay, these regulations in Alberta came into place despite any indication that the previous status quo needed amendment.

 

We have a problem in Alberta and it needs to be fixed! What do you think needs to be done to get some action underway to correct the problem?

 

 

Catastrophe follows catastrophe follows catastrophe…….

 

Well the predictions for more severe and frequent storms began in earnest following the record breaking hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, but those predictions didn’t come true until this year which may break the records again. Perhaps that means the cycle is 12 years? I don’t know but I do know that the historical records of damage from Hurricanes striking land go way back, but the meteorological records that detail anything that can be seriously analyzed only go back to the 1970’s. Still, the level of destruction from events like Harvey this past August is unprecedented. If you consider that in the suburbs of Houston nearly 150,000 homes sustained severe damage with over 100,000 of them as a result of severe flooding which resulted from record rainfall, not storm surge. Data is still being developed but I’m told than over 70% of the dwellings dealing with water damage from flooding are less than 25 years old. Why these subdivisions were built upon a provable flood plain without any mitigation such as retention and draining infrastructure is anyone’s guess? Certainly, the survey technology and flood mapping was available to the city planners who authorized these residential developments, they can’t claim that the topographical information wasn’t available 30 years ago, it was.

 

Now one has to measure how much these losses can be attributed to a predictable event like a hurricane and how much can be attributed for failing to build to allow for that event. Whether we’re experiencing more severe losses as a result of weather events or we’re experiencing more severe losses as a result of where and how we are building our towns and cities should be a primary part of our efforts to understand how we should be mitigating future losses. I’m as concerned about the damage from the storms as from the failure to mitigate them. People affected should be too. We’ve seen in our own province what the failure to engineer residential developments properly can do in the face of an extreme weather event. Over 300 dwellings in High River were complete and total losses from flood damage in 2013 despite the best efforts at the time to mitigate the potential for this peril. It is my personal assessment that much of those losses occurred by failure to understand the potential of the flooding and even to allow for the possibility of the breach of the levee’s designed to prevent the damage that occurs. Plan A failed and there was no Plan B. In Houston it would seem that there wasn’t even a Plan A in place.

 

Right on the heels of all the hurricanes comes the tragedy of more California wild fires. I first learned of this from a client who called to ask me if there was anyway to insure for the business interruption of his business caused by the destruction of his supplier’s inability to supply him with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes destroyed by the North Napa Valley fires. Events that occur all around the world have direct consequences to our industry and people right here in Alberta.

 

Flipping on the news I immediately saw that the construct of this loss was huge. Over 4,500 homes and untold numbers of businesses caught up in the conflagration of 100 kph winds blowing fire along the wilderness valleys north of Napa, California. While watching an overview on TV the announcer was using a google overhead of the area showing the fire damage and aptly described the movement of the fire as following the border between the developed area and the wildlands and pointing out that the abutment of these two areas lacked any adequate fire break to prevent the movement of the fire or to even allow the firefighters to stand against it. New developments right up to the forest edge were apparent in the mapping of the damage. Again, reinforcing the need to mitigate for the possibility of losses from perils like this when developing our cities.

 

In Alberta the failing of our defenses and resources to prevent catastrophic fire losses were pointed out before and after Slave Lake and again after Fort MacMurray. An Emergency Measures expert indicated to me that there are over 75 cities, towns and hamlets in Alberta that are in the direct path of a possible wind driven fire and with a shortage of resources to fight fires as well as the lack of fire break defenses. There’s also very little being done to fix this problem. As we saw in the Southwestern Alberta fires last month and the grass fires near Medicine Hat, much more must be done to prevent these serious losses and we should be getting work done to fix this now, not after the next dry season and corresponding fire outbreak. The political reality of this needs to be addressed at every level of government! As well, our industry needs to buck up and get on this here and now. Communities that are not protecting their citizens need to be identified and shamed into getting busy at it. The simple refusal of insurers to provide coverage where they are well aware of the risks of sever catastrophic loss is the first step in getting the problem resolved!

 

What do you think? How should our industry react to the failure of municipal planners to mitigate catastrophic losses? In the UK municipalities receive a rating from the insurance advisory boards that bands the risks based on the assessment of perils and the towns efforts to mitigate them. Levee’s and water retention engineering to prevent water losses are rated on effectiveness after scrutiny by engineers. Separation of structures and developments from forests and industrial exposures are evaluated. Where the risk is assessed the rating is public and there’s quite a bit of motivation on the part of the civic authorities to improve those ratings because the costs of financing, insurance and taxes are all factored into the cost of housing and development based on those ratings. Hard to sell a house where the costs of insurance are three times what other houses cost to insure in other communities. Hard to finance a house purchase without insurance. Hard to promote your community with that black flag hanging over it.

 

This is an issue as we begin moving in North America to map these exposures and the industry is receiving considerable resistance from municipal authorities who are not excited about their risk exposures being identified and publicized. I would think though that its long past the time for this to begin to happen. The costs of insurance are born by all of us, the essential actuarial assumptions define the need for normal risks for premium to be shared fairly. Where risks exist that are excessive and could be mitigated, the costs of insurance and even the availability of it should be reflected by the nature of the risk and efforts to limit the possibility of it. Fire suppression equipment in a restaurant is virtually mandatory for these reasons, you can’t get insurance without it, you can’t get a lease or borrow money without insurance and bylaws have been enacted to protect the public from the fire exposure on restaurants without fire suppression equipment. I think you see where I’m going with this!

 

With the recent introduction of residential overland flood coverage in Canada there’s finally been an effort underway to prepare risk maps to accurately determine the actual risks relative to the locations being insured for this new peril. Of course, risk mapping by its nature lends itself to proper analysis of all perils, not just flood. For most of Canada there has been little done on risk mapping for overland flooding or anything else since the 1960’s and that’s sad because much of our urban developments in the past 50 years have expanded out into the flood plains around all our major cities and disrupted the prior infrastructure. Consider recent events in Slave Lake Alberta or Fort MacMurray, where the existing risk management maps held no relevancy at all to the current stage of development in these communities. It should be no surprise to anyone when a mini supercell hovers over a city like Burlington Ontario for 3 days and produces a flood event that had no historical equal causing billions of dollars of mostly uninsured losses occurs. Post analysis of the event shows that losses could have been reduced to nominal interruptions in commerce waiting for water to recede. The post analysis also determined that efforts to mitigate water losses had not allowed for the potential catastrophic effect of a stagnant weather system dumping huge quantities of water for such a long period. Further new development around the community had not built in the necessary drainage capacity and in effect had the effect of funneling water downstream to an area already overwhelmed by the event. Sound familiar? Same thing happened in Alberta in 2013 resulting in the High River, Okotoks and Calgary flooding events and as much as we’d like to hope we’re prepared for the next one, I like to remind people that we’re only 3 days of rain away from finding out. I have little doubt that when that happens we won’t be as prepared as we think we are.

 

As I’ve written previously, severe weather is the new reality. Hurricanes, windstorms, supercell rain events, storm surges in coastal areas, F5 tornadoes both in greater frequency and arriving in urban areas. I have no reason to believe that we’ll be able to change the weather anytime soon but I know we can build better, smarter and out of harms way. We’d best get at this now. If the houses that were destroyed around Houston are rebuilt in the same places without any improvement in drainage or flood mitigation then we’ll be paying to rebuild them again in short order. That would be silly!

 

As I finish this the news is reporting another 1,500 homes lost in the North Napa Valley area from uncontrollable wild fires. Nearly 10,000 firefighters are battling the blaze and they thought they had it under control yesterday afternoon but it thought otherwise. The scope of the destruction is horrendous and as those of us in risk management know, it could have been avoided with a little better municipal planning.

 

I’d Love to hear other thoughts on this!

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion………

 

As many of my readers often point out when these essays get out in the 4,000 word range they are difficult to read. Well I’ll point out that there’s about three issues worth of Young’s stuff here so if you’ve plowed through to this point you’re caught up with my commitment to the project. 😊

 

On the topic of regulatory reform and the effects of it, I must point out that our industry through the General Insurance Council has a voice that can be heard and brought forward in both the making of good regulations and fixing bad ones. To have that voice you need to vote. Find that email from election buddy and make a choice for someone to represent us. You have until November 1st to get it done!!! Do it now!!!

 

 

Normal disclaimers apply:

 

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below (you need to be logged on for the link to appear) or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

 

XXX

 

 

 

 

Tags:  Building in the right places to avoid losses  Preventing Catastrophic losses  Regulations causing market disruption  Voting for GIC rep 

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Young’s stuff volume 6.07 for distribution in the summer of 2017

Posted By Thom Young (Full first name: Thomas Clifford John), August 7, 2017

Young’s stuff volume 6.07 for distribution in the summer of 2017

 

Tropical storms, Tornados, Forest Fires and Floods, Real Global Warming

 

When I started writing this just over a month ago there were over 30 million people in North America under severe weather watches with standby notices for evacuation as a result of the potential for serious flooding from severe weather. The first tropical storm of the summer season was tripping its way inland from the Gulf of Mexico. Serious tropical storms aren’t supposed to happen until later in July so we were just a few weeks early. While so far as we can tell it’s not terribly unusual for these storms to happen a few weeks early it seems that they are happening earlier each year and more often and with larger and stronger storms than normal. Still hard to say if that’s a trend or not, hard to say if the statistical analysis of the frequency and strength of these storms extrapolates to an empirically provable conclusion. That really doesn’t matter to the millions of people who are affected more frequently by these events.

 

There are only about 50 years of modern comparable data in storm analysis to look to, before that local records of temperature, rain fall, barometric pressure and wind speed were pretty much all you had to go by and the accuracy of these records was often dubious. At a time when even just agreeing on what time it was at a location was determined by the designated civic authority through the observation of the highest point the sun reached at that location and the setting of a clock to 12 noon and adjusted every day to ensure accuracy. Well maybe every day if some other task of more importance didn’t occur at the appointed hour. We become accustomed to the perceptions of accuracy that our modern technology allows us and don’t even think about the challenges our ancestors faced without even comprehending them as a challenge. As with the never-ending debate on the benefits of daylight savings, any farmer will tell you that the cows need to be milked when they’re ready, not on any construct of time agreed upon by those doing the milking.

 

Satellite imagery of atmospheric phenomenon only started in the early 1970’s and the collation of that information to prepare models of weather patterns didn’t really get going until the 1980’s. So when you’re reviewing data for patterns and looking for predictive indicators from the data, the more data you have the better the conclusions you will draw. The simplest conclusion to understand is one of cycles and to make predictions of probable events in cycles you need time lines that are provable. Geological time lines run in hundreds of thousands or even millions of years so convincing people that there are trends evident with just 50 years of good data and 2 or 3 hundred years of anecdotal data is a serious challenge. Conceptually the validity of information gathered is often challenged from the perspective of the observers. One way to reference this is with the analogy of 3 blind men describing their encounter with an elephant. One approaches from the rear, one from the front and one from the side. The summary of their three observations might be descriptive enough to get some idea of what they encountered but individually the data would be quite contradictory. The challenges of analyzing climate data is similar but tempered by the amount of time each observer is able to spend accumulating the data and the conclusions drawn from the conclusions drawn in assembling the data leaves the research wide open to challenges of the validity. This is why good writers and speakers (is there a difference) are often able to raise enough doubt about the conclusions made about climate change to  cast doubt upon them. This happens even though the majority of climatologists and weather experts have reached the conclusion that our climate is changing and that the cause of it is our behaviour.

 

As I mentioned in my last essay, I attended a couple of conferences in Toronto in June. One was focused on the changes taking place in our industry and the inevitable effect it will have on all of us. Much was made of advances underway in technology and data management and how it will make things better faster and cheaper for brokers, companies and their customers. The ongoing discussion of the challenges in keeping the current delivery mechanisms working along with the usual predictions of the eminent demise of the broker channel were debated. As I’ve often said, the rumors of our eminent demise have been greatly exaggerated. We can cut back on the paperwork or make the access to the process easier with technology but insurance is a complicated product, there will always be the need for competent counsellors who can help people understand what they are buying and how to access the relief it provides them after a loss. They may change the name of these people and they may change the way we’re compensated but our future as advisors is in my opinion well assured. The other conference I attended was focused on weather related losses, particularly flood.

 

When you listen to a climatologist present a message on climate change it soon becomes apparent to you that something of note is going on. I’m not easily swayed when facts are laid out supporting a new change in thinking. I tend to have a very close and thorough review of “facts” and will challenge them to the nth degree. When you toss words around about 1,000 year events and evaluate the impact of weather related events based on the probability of them happening once in a thousand years, I want to know with some degree of certainty what you are basing your certainty on, particularly when there’s absolutely no records around for comparison to for over the last 500 years in North America let alone a thousand. In a thousand year period rivers can (and have) change direction, forests can (and have) become grasslands and grasslands can (and have) become forests. I’m always tempered by discussions about North American climate by the realization that the geological evidence indicates that most of the places we call home in Canada were covered by several kilometers of ice and cold water dammed behind it only 12,000 years ago, so when you’re trying to figure out the scale of things its helpful to get some time lines in front of you when determining cycles isn’t it? Think about that when you hear a news report about a one in a thousand year flood event, if the analysis shows four or five one in a thousand events in a ten year period the mathematical conclusion might be accurate based on the data, but in my opinion the data needs to be challenged for verification.

 

The last ice age sort of eliminated the need for North Americans (if there were any) to worry much about weather patterns or flooding in the river valleys for a few millenia. Our species hadn’t really established itself in North America until after the Ice bridge formed by that ice age showed them the way from Asia and once they arrived they were too busy altering their environment by killing off the Woolly Mammoths and hunting other animals for food to concern themselves much about the weather. Somewhere along the way the emphasis on hunting and gathering turned to farming as a more reliable way to feed people and again the evidence for their altering of the environment through irrigation works and the clearing of forest is readily available in the archaeological records. Finding archaeologists and anthropologists who agree on what those records mean is often as difficult as getting climate scientists to agree but what cannot be denied though is the success of these people had in creating large advanced cultures supporting millions of people by taming their environment and cultivating enough food to support the dietary needs of large communities. Irrigation and selective breeding of plants and animals was underway in North America long before Francis Bacon started mapping the genealogy of bean plants in Europe.

 

Just the same though, in our day and age our business runs on statistical analysis. Actuarial sciences is all about making predictions of losses based on the records of the kinds of losses that have happened in the past with allowances for mitigating factors that may limit or increase the potential claims. Figuring these out while making investment decisions to increase your pools to pay the claims is the essence of the insurance business. The first actuaries saw a 100 ships go out and only about 70 return with good enough cargos to make a profit on. Doing the math on the costs of losses and the returns on ventures is how the premiums were determined in that old coffee shop called Lloyds of London. The method hasn’t changed much even though the data is much more complex these days. Analysis of the available statistics leads us to the undeniable conclusion that severe weather events affecting people are becoming more frequent and more severe than the historical and archaeological records indicate. This might be happening because there are so many more of us in more places, it might be happening because our impact on the environment is causing climate change, it might be happening because in the normal cycle of these things it is time for them to happen. No matter how you question the issue, there is no denying the common part of each question is that it is happening. The logical response is that we need to mitigate the process regardless of why.

 

Perhaps we can’t stop it but we can limit the effects by doing simple things. We can choose to conduct our activities in such a way as to limit the impact on the environment. We can plan and build in such a way as limit the environments impact on us. It is for certain though that we cannot continue to do nothing about it.

 

So here you might ask the question often heard at presentations made about climate change and our reaction to it, “What if we make this huge investment in changing the way we do things and it turns out that climate change wasn’t caused by us?” Of course the answer to that is we’ll all be living in a cleaner and healthier environment and what would be wrong with that.

 

Since I began this essay with 30 million people under flood evacuation watch, that event has passed but record heat is causing the Northern forests of North America to once again burn. Evening campfires are impossible with fire bans in effect just about everywhere. Back country excursions on ATV’s and even hiking and horseback trips are prohibited or ill advised with the potential for forest fires reading severely high on every ranger board. A boating trip in the BC valleys finds you unable to navigate in the thick pall of smoke descending on the lakes. The roads are closed because of fire and smoke and over 40,000 British Columbians are evacuated from areas under threat. Health advisories are in effect through out nearly all of Western North America. Meanwhile in Europe the southern Mediterranean is baking under record temperatures and forest fires burst into fury spontaneously nearly everywhere. Southern Alberta hasn’t seen any rain for nearly 3 months, but 250 ml of rain falls in a small town outside of Montreal in an hour, a never before seen event. New Orleans is flooding once again receiving record amounts of rainfall in micro bursts rarely seen at this time of the year. A very rare nearly unheard of late night Tornado occurs in Tulsa Oklahoma tearing through the town. Phoenix is dealing with record rainfalls and serious flooding followed by record heat? With deference to Robert Zimmerman, “The Times they are a Changing!”

 

In conclusion it is my decided opinion that there is something to this climate change story. The facts are there to see with your own eyes. Many of my peers may take issue with me on this and that’s fine with me, their perspective is rapidly being countered by the growing body of evidence showing things aren’t the same as they used to be. The longer we wait before we do things different the harder and more expensive it will be for our species to adapt to this change and that is why we need to act now! Our industry has determined that climate change is a factor that needs to be allowed for in the pricing and availability of our products. Everyone is paying for the past catastrophes like Fort MacMurray and Slave Lake, but we’ll all soon be paying for the predicted losses assumed on this account. Time to get off the side lines and take a stand.

 

I hope you are enjoying your summer and that the smoke isn’t keeping you in doors.

 

Normal disclaimers apply

 

xxx

Tags:  Forest Fires and Floods  Real Global Warming  Tornados  Tropical storms 

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IBAA Convention, Cybercrime, Gore Mutual Conference, BMS-Insurer Technology, Demise of the Broker, Flood Conference

Posted By Thom Young, June 21, 2017
As we get closer to our ever-brief summer, I seem to be busier than ever. If you’ve missed seeing my blogs, please be assured that I’m doing my best to catch up with the schedule.

IBAA Convention 2017

If you didn’t attend the IBAA convention in May, then you’ve shortchanged yourself on an easy commitment to keep yourself apprised of the changes going on in your industry and who is leading us in the process of adapting to them. In all the years I’ve been trying to figure out how to remain aware and responsive to the challenges we all face in this business, I think this year’s convention was the most helpful to me. The seminars were interesting and informative (especially my little presentation), and the new people in attendance this year brought with them refreshing perspectives to deal with old issues. I strongly recommend you attend the convention next year. I enjoyed the ability to meet new people as much as see old friends, but convention is not just all about partying and having a good time; it’s about remaining competitive and informed so that you can lead yourself and your business through the challenges that change brings.

Cybercrime Is Real Crime!

One of the interesting presentations at this year’s convention was a cybercrime panel that was stewarded by very knowledgeable insurance and security experts. Of interest was the large show of hands when the audience was asked who had been a victim of a cyberattack. The response was larger than I expected given that a significant number of people in the room would likely not be inclined to admit to the event. Clearly, this issue continues to grow beyond a mere annoyance to a significant risk of financial loss for us individually, for our businesses, and for our customers.

I was one of the people who raised my hand. I’ve had my credit and debit cards scammed several times. Once in Mexico, I received a call from the bank security people asking me if I’d just purchased a TV in Cancun. I was surprised: I was in Mazatlan at the time. Another time, my U.S. dollar credit card was scammed at a merchant location in Sandpoint, Idaho. By the time I’d gotten home, over $14,000 in bogus charges were accrued against my account. The charges were all reversed, but fixing the problem was still a heck of an aggravation. Throughout all of these scams, no one in law enforcement would accept a complaint. The Federal Police in Mazatlan and Cancun, the Sherriff in Sandpoint, and the police in Calgary and Tel Aviv where the fraudulent charges occurred showed no interest in initiating an investigation to charge the perpetrators involved. All claimed that the jurisdiction of the events made them of no concern to the individual agency. In reality, they all had no knowledge of the process or interest in the outcome of this criminal theft. Credit card scams are less likely to occur now that most cards are equipped with a chip, but the process of obtaining the pin number through criminal entrapment and observation continues. One of my business interests was recently subjected to a ransomware attack that enabled a criminal to get a worm into our computer systems that encrypted our files. Attempts to open programs directed us to call an 800 number that would provide us the encryption code for the nominal fee of 35 bitcoin. Fortunately in our case, our backup protocols allowed us to restore our system and avoid paying the ransom, but we lost half a day of inputting and spent a whole day and night restoring our systems. With bitcoin’s trading at around $3,500 USD, the solution was a lot of work but each a cheaper solution than paying the ransom.

Imagine a scenario where someone broke into your home, found your safe or filing cabinet where you keep all your personal information and financial records, changed the combination to it and the alarm codes into your house, left a note tacked to your front door with instructions to call the people who had broken into your home for the new codes and combination, and were very helpful when you called them in getting you back into your home so long as you paid them $5,000 for their assistance. Ransomware on a business or personal computer has the same effect. Wouldn’t you define the perpetrator as a criminal who should be punished severely?

In order to remain secure from criminal attacks on your computers whether at home or in your business, you need get up to speed on the security processes that you need in place on your systems. You have to defend them with proper procedures and security software that will keep your data safe. In today’s day and age, you can’t run your business without computer systems that are connected to the world wide web. Accounts are settled online, products are sold online, payroll is processed online, and client data exists in the clouds. If you’re not taking actions to secure your systems and your clients’ data, you may well be in violation of several privacy statutes and subject to fines and penalties in the event of data breaches that release clients’ personal information. Beyond the business costs of such a security failure, you’re looking at regulatory penalties for allowing it. If you don’t have the expertise in house to install security, then you have to get yourself some professional help, have someone in your office attend the training classes needed to ensure your compliance, and review your internal security protocols to ensure your people are following them. In almost every case that malware enters into a computer system, it arrives with an unsuspecting employee innocently processing a transaction outside of the firewalls you’re using to secure your systems. Phishing attacks in emails; piggybacked malware on flash drives, telephones, cameras, Sony Readers, Kobos, and Kindles; and naïve trusting employees opening the door to the criminals are all things that knowledge through training can prevent.

The last word of advice that I have on cybersecurity for all of my colleagues in this business is that coverage for this peril continues to evolve. Several really good packages are available at increasingly lower costs. Our industry responsibility is to get ourselves informed about them and to offer the protection provided by them to our clients. Don’t get caught in the situation where a cyber breach of computer systems causes your clients a substantial loss that could have been mitigated by a policy you could have offered them. While some businesses need this coverage more than others, no businesses operate in today’s business environment without the risk of a data/computer system failure impacting their operations. While considering this coverage for your clients, ensure that your brokerage has the proper protection in place to keep your doors open should a cyber breach occur on your watch.

Looking Fast Forward

I had the opportunity to attend Gore Mutual’s Fast Forward conference in North York, Ontario, last week. Gore Mutual brought together a select group of brokers to talk about the future of our business from the perspective of the changes we all face and will have to adapt to. The morning began with presentations by David Suzuki, followed by Commander Chris Hadfield, and wound up with futurist Jim Carroll. Each focused on his area of interest. Dr. Suzuki gave a fairly bleak summary of the environmental prospects for our species and the planet unless we change our ways. Commander Hadfield focused on the process of solving problems, declaring that anticipating and preparing for problems was more productive than worrying about them. Mr. Carroll talked about the pace of technological change outstripping predictions by over a hundred years. Much to think about and much to talk about.

The afternoon session was a structured interactive panel discussion on several topics. A panel of selected industry representatives was on stage, and moderated topical discussions were driven by Gore representatives. Interaction with the audience was facilitated by a meeting program called “Go Connect,” which allowed the audience to comment and question the topics in real time. At the end of each moderated discussion, the panel members selected questions they addressed. The focus of the three panels were the challenges facing the distribution network, evolving opportunities for synchronizing the technology platforms in use by our industry, and the increasing risks of damage to the industry and the public through cyber malice.

I must admit that at one point in these discussions I was feeling kind of jaded. I’ve reached the point in my evolution through this business where I’m now hearing new people discussing old issues like they are new and proposing solutions that have been attempted several times before with less than stellar results. Perhaps because I’ve been speaking out for the past 35 years about the lack of cooperation on communication issues in the insurance industry, I’m once again dismayed to find the same entities entering the discussions once again as if they are new. IBAC, IBC, CSIO, and IBAO all had representatives in the panel discussions, and all were politely nodding during discussion of the “technology crisis.” The issue is only of concern to them now because disrupters are just now starting to exploit the opportunities of our industry’s failure to unite on a functional common platform in technology. Only one spoke up about the opportunity this situation presents to fix the technology rapidly and without too much dissention because the technology is readily available at reasonable costs and the limited number of players both on the Broker Management Systems side and the company side of our industry makes the change feasible. The point was valid, but not one taken up by the panel’s other representatives. At this point, I just sighed in recollection of the failed SEMCI projects I had been involved in and even as far back as the ICEnet CSIO undertakings that I had been active in development and promotion of—all failed to be taken up by the very people funding the research.

I’ll say it again, if the insurance companies had been charged with the development of telephone technology, we’d have a telephone in our office for each company we deal with. (The last time I said this, the president of a large Canadian insurance company lectured me on how much more complicated computer systems were—duh?) Communication systems are very complicated, and they’re much more complicated to work with when the point of sale for products (the broker) has to follow completely different protocols to enter the data on every company portal and requires yet again different hardware platforms to unite the data. Maybe the broker’s inability to capitalize on this information (the metadata) in the incapable Broker Management Systems has finally been the eye opener.

The financial industry has actually been able to get their systems doing some of the things that would improve our industry’s service, marketing, and actuarial prognostications. Meanwhile, I’m trying to explain to a customer that I don’t know why he can’t make an email payment to the insurer we placed his business. Go figure.

70 to 90 Brokerages Left in All of Canada in 8 Years???

One of those dumbfounded looks from the crowd at Gore’s Fast Forward conference came when one of the panelists made this response to a question about the future for brokerages:

“‘In my view there’s probably going to be 70, 90 brokers across Canada seven or eight years from now,’ Aly Kanji, President and Chief Executive Officer at InsureLine said. ‘I just don’t think small, independent brokers can survive. I don’t think you can compete in the face of the consolidation that’s going on and the super brokers that are forming.’”

If I had a nickel for each time I’ve heard someone predict the demise of the broker distribution network, I’d have a whole lot of nickels! We’ve survived direct writers, banks, telephone sales, and internet marketing; various forms of franchising, nesting, and strategic alliances; and no end of unfair treatment by insurers limiting our markets and interfering with our operations. Still, we hear young people who have no idea how resilient our business is making these outlandish statements. We might be facing some hurdles that we will need to adapt to, but we will be here in 8 or 80 years. That’s how I see it anyway.

In Conclusion

I continue my journey around Southern Ontario and will attend a Flood Risk conference on June 12th. This should be interesting as we’re finally seeing the claims results of a serious flooding season after the implementation of flood coverage by the industry. I will do my best to have another issue out by the end of the week. In the meantime, I’m hoping you’re having a good summer. Other than the severe weather and thunderstorms, it’s sure better than the winter we had.

Keep those emails coming!

 

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below (you need to be logged on for the link to appear) or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  broker channel  broker management system  cybercrime  flood  Gore Mutual conference  IBAA convention  insurance technology 

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Supplier Loyalty, Airline Customer Service, AIC Stakeholder Meetings

Posted By Thom Young, April 19, 2017

How Happy Are You with the Loyalty of Your Suppliers?

While our suppliers have been competing with us for a long time, the issue has been of considerable concern to all independent brokers. Insurance contracts have not always been easy for brokers to obtain. When I first got into this business, finding a sponsor to back you was almost impossible. The insurers had field men and local managers who operated in a manner that would make King John and the Sherriff of Nottingham proud. The regional managers had nearly absolute control on who they allowed into the business, and the field men enforced their own pride and prejudice in the treatment of the brokers contracted to those companies.

Getting a contract wasn’t a sure thing even after all the leg work of putting together a bang-up business plan and amassing enough capital to get a general insurance brokerage going. Regardless of how good your business plan was, how much capital you had to ensure your start up, or what you promised the company in business volume or profitability, getting a contract was all about whether or not the good old boys running the territory you were trying to establish yourself in liked you. Even buying an existing brokerage was no sure deal if the field man and managers didn’t approve of the sale to you. I know of more than one offer to purchase an existing brokerage that was usurped by an insurer who didn’t like the buyer and directed a different broker to better the offer to the vendor. I can hear people gasping while reading this, but I can assure you that business was done this way when I started in this business in the 1970s.

In this kind of environment, our product suppliers demanded and enforced total loyalty. Taking issue with their people, policies, or procedures could result in severe consequences for you and your business. Companies could impose market restrictions on you through underwriting and special regulations. They could limit your ability to grow, restrict the territory you wished to compete in, and even direct who you could associate with or hire. Being a small broker often wasn’t easy, and sometimes even large brokers found themselves faced with hard decisions in a perceived ultimatum in their business relationship with a company. Rewriting a multi-million dollar book of business is never good for your bottom line. The harder the marketplace, the more difficult these relationships were. Even in a healthy competitive marketplace, it is hard to remain competitive if those you place your business with don’t play fair.

Imagine the morality in the business and social relationships of the TV series Madmen, and you’ll have an idea of how cliquey the general insurance business was just 30 years ago! Even the local chapter of a prominent insurance club wouldn’t allow women to join. The number of women in middle and senior management positions was so small that not even a tiny whimper of complaint would arise back then. No one spoke up against this abomination due to fear of the negative consequences applied equally to both men and women who took issue with the status quo. Their careers depended on their compliance. Such conduct wasn’t limited to just the insurance industry. Ethnicity, social orientation, religion, and other restrictions were even more of an issue in some places. For the most part, our industry has thankfully made great strides in overcoming these travesties, but we were not leading these advances and can still do more to advance our industry and people. Atonement for the past is unnecessary, but we need to ensure we don’t forget it or repeat it.

I started this trip down memory lane looking for the reason why we join associations but got lost on the way in exposing some of our dark history. To get back on track and summarize the musings above, our suppliers fail to take into account our interests when acting in what they see as their best interests. One of us cannot do much to influence them, but all of us together can force change in the manner that those we count on to support us in our businesses deal with us. For the most part, our interests are the same as those of our suppliers, so when we are treated fairly everyone wins. Some people have a different perspective on what’s fair though, and that can make dealing with the people you rely on difficult. Common interests draw us to groups like IBAA and IBAC and ally us with other groups representing consumers and governments. Some common interests ally us with the associations representing our suppliers too, like when we’re arguing against banks competing with us from their branches or restrictive regulation that stifles our ability to serve our customers. The dynamics of these relationships become readily apparent at association meetings as they fill the discussion time in one way or another.

Recently two of our sister associations have taken extreme issue with Aviva and the manner in which its direct marketing arm is competing with the brokers who represent Aviva (Insurance Business). Both IBAO and IBANB have refused to allow Aviva to participate as sponsors in their annual conventions, alleging that Aviva’s new affinity program does not play fair with brokers. Aviva has spent much time attempting to justify this program, but for many, including this writer, a supplier that sells essentially the same product that brokers sell, under the same name and at a price less than what brokers can sell it for, puts brokers at a considerable disadvantage and particularly strains the business relationship. Beyond the issue of fairness, explaining to clients who want to partake in Aviva’s affinity program why they can’t have the services of a broker who has the Aviva shield hanging on the wall in the reception area is difficult, to say the least!

The idea of being contracted to sell a company’s products under all kinds of rules, regulations, and stipulations, only to have that company begin direct advertising of the same product at a lower price to your potential and existing clients is absurd. Imagine how many of us would sign up to represent a company doing business like that. I’m sure the line would not be very long. MacDonald’s has franchise stores and company-owned stores, but the price of the burgers are the same in each location. Not many would be very willing to invest the millions of dollars to obtain that franchise if they weren’t. MacDonald’s guarantees this equivalence in its franchise contract. Perhaps we should be reviewing our contracts for similar assurances.

I wonder if this topic will arise at the IBAA AGM or at the IBAA convention. The convention has a broker Town Hall. The AGM is in April, prior to the convention in May. Make sure you’ve got yourself registered to attend!


IBAA Annual General Meeting 2017

Via Webinar
Wednesday, April 26, Starting at 9:00 a.m
.

Register


It All Boils Down to Customer Service, Doesn’t It?

Way back in the day when I was on the board for a prominent insurer, I had to fly from Calgary to Toronto on short notice because the insurer had made some major decisions that needed to be ratified immediately. My return airline ticket in coach cost $2,700 because of the short booking time. The young lady in the seat next to me was flying return but had booked her flight two weeks earlier at the competitive price of $500. We did not pay a surcharge just to get a seat. Such a charge was unsupportable by the marketing dynamics in place at the time and the likely half a dozen empty seats on most flights. This was the way things worked in those days and you just put up with it.

When I was a kid, my father moved around a lot. We seemed to be always on a plane to somewhere or from somewhere to Winnipeg where my mom’s family lived. I had to wear church clothes whenever we flew, and the accommodations and the service were beyond the norm of anything we were ever used to. Stewardesses and stewards were always in formal attire, and pilots were never without a tie and jacket. They all looked like officers and carried themselves with a deportment that commanded admiration and respect. Customers were treated like royalty. Little things like toys for the young kids and attentive service for the adults were routine and not just reserved for the people in first class. Taking an airplane trip was a special event. Today, not so much, and anyone born beyond 1980 has no idea what I’m talking about.

The new airplane cabins cram as many human beings as possible into them. Even in first class, the seats are smaller and the service less than special. About the only advantage of paying the extra couple hundred dollars is getting on and off the plane with less inconvenience. Flight crews are half the size they used to be. Commonly, only four or five people are charged with the task of getting some form of service to 300 or more passengers. A cart rolls the aisles with a frazzled attendant doling out soft drinks and a bag of seven pretzels or a biscuit that could double as a door stop. If you want an adult beverage or a sandwich, you need a credit card on some airlines but cash on others. Some may not have anything left to sell you if you’re sitting any further back than the wings. Young people look at you as if you’re silly when you tell them that hot meals were included with your plane ticket and the norm was that adult beverages were just as free as the soft drinks were. Go figure. For people like me who find themselves on an airplane about twice a month on average, the advantage to flying is it gets you to where you’re going in the shortest possible time with no extra comfort than a public bus. Strangely enough, you chalk it up as a win if the plane actually leaves on time.

United Airlines has been getting quite a bit of media attention in the past two weeks. In the first fracas, a couple of teenaged girls were denied passage on a flight because they were inappropriately dressed. Initially, the story was spun with the slant that they were just innocuous young girls boarding a flight and were turned away on account of them wearing “leggings.” Social media immediately erupted with cries of a sexism and anger at the thought of it. Later, we found out that these young ladies were travelling on employee passes for free and that, as with all employee airline passes, the user is required to dress in appropriate business attire. While these rules are often applied selectively and young children are usually not held to as high a standard as an adult, the rule was the rule and the kids’ parents were well aware of it. The airline got a pass on this one in March, but not the next in April. In the absolute dumbest display of callous actions in today’s “everyone has a video camera” environment, United called security agents onto a plane to eject a passenger because the company had oversold the flight and he was protesting his removal from the seat he had bought and paid for. The short clip of them beating the hell out of the poor man and dragging him off the plane bleeding about the face and in a semi-conscious state has now been viewed by several million people online and millions more on the news channels. If ever there was an example of poor public relations management, this was it. As a consequence, the stock value of the airline has dropped by half and its already poor reputation for service has been forever ruined.

What were they thinking? The pundits being interviewed on TV are all lamenting the action but stating that the airline was within its rights to do what it did. Sure, the contract legalities of the carrier’s right to refuse passage can be debated in the corporate arena, but no waiver in any North American corporate contract can give anyone the right to physically assault another. We make laws to protect us from physical abuse. As anyone can see in the video, those laws were clearly broken. One thing for certain is that public awareness that the airlines are able to eject a paying customers at their whim is increasing demand upon our lawmakers to protect them from such unfair practices. Much discussion has arisen in the USA about bumping passengers and the compensation necessary to do so. In Canada, we’re talking about banning it altogether with a passenger bill of rights. How customers are treated is the essence of competition. I’d like to make a shameless plug for WestJet who makes it a rule not to double book people and just doesn’t bump passengers for any reason. WestJet is not perfect, but you won’t be asked to leave the plane after you’ve sat down in your seat, which, in my opinion, is how it should be for all airlines.

Alberta Insurance Council Stakeholders meetings Edmonton and Calgary

If you hold an insurance licence and are checking the email you have on file with the AIC, you will have received this notice:

The Alberta Insurance Council would like to invite you to attend our Stakeholder Information Sessions to be held in Edmonton the morning of May 18, 2017 or in Calgary the morning of May 25, 2017.

These sessions will begin at 10:00 AM and will last approximately 2.0 hours. New for this year, a live renewal demo will be included.

Edmonton session:
When: Thursday, May 18, 2017 starting at 10:00 AM
Where: Holiday Inn Conference Centre Edmonton South located at 4485 Gateway Blvd.

Calgary session:
When: Thursday, May 25, 2017 starting at 10:00 AM
Where: Hotel Blackfoot located at 5940 Blackfoot Trail SE

For further information or to register for either of these events please visit this link.

Please RSVP no later than May 11, 2017 to indicate if you will be attending and which session you would like to attend.

Follow us on TWITTER @AbCouncil for ongoing updates at https://twitter.com/AbCouncil.
Alberta Insurance Council


I hear many complaints about the AIC, but I often find on investigating them that most of those complaining the loudest are not at all familiar with the AIC, its role, its purpose, and its function. Besides the responsibility for market conduct of all licence holders, AIC is responsible for the structure and the standards of the licence examinations, as well as for awarding certificates for the class and types of business. I also hear arguments about the AIC rules and the definitions of what they mean. This is the place to air your concerns, get your explanations, and demand change for things that aren’t right, so register and go if you can. You get the bonus of receiving CE credits as well. Be prepared to listen to people complain about Life Insurance and Accident and Sickness issues too as all licence holders are represented in this process. Still, if you have concerns about the way our industry is regulated and licensed, here’s the forum where you can make those concerns known. I know I have some concerns about many things, the CE-credit process for one and the Level 3 licensing boondoggle in Alberta for another. When I ask about these things in my role on the Council, it would be nice to have the support of the many people who share my views (many of which have been expressed in this forum) to reinforce the industry’s concerns!

These meetings are public, and I don’t believe you need a licence to attend them. At past meetings, industry representatives have attended and lobbied for changes to allow the sale of their products and challenge regulations, so if you’re not licensed but concerned about our industry feel free to attend.


In Closing

The days are getting longer and warmer and those of us who like to play outside when it’s not cold and white are getting outdoors once again. Biking and hiking, family outings to parks, and other outdoor attractions are increasing as we approach our ever-brief summer. Remember to drive carefully through those school and playground zones. Be aware of people out and about, and watch for the little and big people playing with their toys. Spring is my favourite time of the year, with new life springing up all around us and new opportunities to reset your goals and make new objectives for your life! I’m looking forward to convention in May (all the tech-savvy, fun, and informative stuff) and hope to see many of you there.

 

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  Alberta Insurance Council  Alberta Insurance Council Stakeholder Meetings  customer service  insurance company  supplier loyalty 

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Bank Marketing, AIC Disciplinary Website, Consumer Protection in Travel Insurance

Posted By Thom Young, March 28, 2017

The Banks Are Coming, the Banks Are Coming—They Never Went Away

Recent media reports (e.g., Insurance Business) have revealed that once again the marketing departments of our federal banks are flouting the rules for insurance sales. The problem seems cyclical. About every four or five years for as long as I can remember, the marketing managers unfamiliar with regulations governing their industry (maybe they’re a new crop of managers) begin their never-ending search for success by generating new revenue streams for their employers. (Maybe they review the revenue ledgers for the profit centre they are responsible for and wonder why there’s so little in the ones for insurance.)

Bank officers seem to receive little in the way of training on the regulatory responsibilities limiting their operations. While they may understand that banks cannot sell insurance from their branches, they don’t seem to understand that promoting the products of a subsidiary that sells insurance from their branches is the same as selling the insurance itself. In my own personal dealings with banks and lenders, I’ve often seen the offer of financing come with recommendations for life insurance and General insurance sourced by bank officers. When I do, I immediately notify the regulators, but most non-industry-related borrowers would not have any idea that they were being unduly influenced and directed by the inclusion of an insurance agent’s business card or even a quote for coverage when they are in the process of arranging financing.

Unlike the credit unions which are for the most part provincially regulated on marketing rules, the chartered banks are governed by the federal Bank Act. The Act provides a number of regulations that limit the ability of banks to use their market dominance and biased influence to compete unfairly in our business. The good lobbying efforts of our industry associations have been able to continue this limitation on the banks’ entry in our insurance market. Still, the banks seem to need to be reminded on regular intervals that they’re welcome to compete with us in selling insurance so long as they play the game the same way we do. Under Alberta insurance regulations, employees of a lending institution and many other professions cannot hold an agent’s licence if what they do can be used unfairly to influence the buying public into purchasing policies from them. Bankers are also restricted from holding an insurance licence by the Bank Act, which limits them on this point for the same reasons.

Those of us required to hold a licence to sell insurance are personally responsible for upholding the rules. The regulations require us to understand the rules, and our very jobs hinge on our compliance. The individuals involved in the banking business have no licences to enforce their compliance. Their employers are bound by the regulations but are rarely sanctioned for their employees’ violation of them. When they are caught in activities outside of the rules, their regulator most often sends them a letter to deal with the infraction and orders them to cease from further activity that is outside of the rules. When the federal Minister of Finance gives them formal notice, they usually comply, but sometimes they push back.

The banks pushed back a few of years ago when they were developing websites with hyperlinks to their insurance divisions. Their web pages advertising insurance products were indistinguishable from their banking pages. When consumer groups and our national association brought this conflation of the bank and the insurer to the attention of the Minister of Finance, the minister issued a notice that in his view they were violating the provisions in the Bank Act that prohibit the sale of insurance in their branches. Initially the Canadian Bankers Association began lobbying against this interpretation and attempted to justify the activity. The appeal didn’t go so well. The minister sent them a letter clarifying why they were wrong. Arguing a point of interpretation with the people who make the regulations rarely wins. Sometimes new regulations may be introduced that clarify what the government meant. Sometimes these new rules may seem punitive to the industry being regulated. Our industry can attest to such futile struggle in several examples over the years, not the least of which is the ongoing structure of the Alberta auto reforms introduced by the Government in Alberta over a decade ago.

The federal financial watchdog has now formally given the banks notice that they are under investigation for their marketing methods. The findings will no doubt show that the banks continue to press against the marketing service limits set out in several fair market regulations, not just the insurance ones. Telemarketing ignoring the Do Not Call List and violations of tied-selling rules for bank products seem to abound. These issues should not recur cyclically. Perhaps a couple of multi-million dollar fines might get the attention of the banks’ own in-house compliance people. Who knows if even that would have any effect. When you make billions of dollars, a million dollar fine would just be chump change, wouldn’t it?

The ongoing arguments about who can and how they can sell insurance products in Canada will continue. The banks invest millions of dollars in government advocacy and have whole departments in their organizations that develop strategy to get around rules and regulations that they see limiting their right to dominate any field in which they choose to compete. As with the stock brokerage investment business and before that the Trust business, they’ve been able to take over an entire industry and market sector completely with hardly any public notice. While some of our colleagues will argue the old laissez-faire point of view against regulations that limit or restrict access to markets, history repeatedly demonstrates that, without rules to ensure fair play, the marketplace does not play fair. This principle applies as much to those already in our business as it does to those who wish to expand their operations into it. Both the new entrants and the current players have to be watched closely as time and again insurers and large brokers try to dominate the market to the point that they can bypass competitive reality. Allowing anyone to do so is not going to benefit the consumer, the independent broker, or ultimately anyone. Market dominance destroys healthy competition by stifling the adaptation of price, service, and product to a competitive end. Without regulations to ensure fair play and proper enforcement of them, any marketplace won’t remain healthy or beneficial for long.

Transparency Is Important

The very public nature of our disciplinary matters has now become readily apparent in the Alberta Insurance Council’s new website. The public can now view the decisions of the disciplinary committees for the General Insurance Council, the Life Insurance Council, and the Adjusters Insurance Council, as well as the work of the appeal boards for each, at http://decisions.abcouncil.ab.ca/abic/en/nav.do.

As someone who has been involved in every one of the General Insurance Council decisions for the past four years, I like that the work being done is easily available for review. I think the very public and transparent record of these disciplinary matters will both encourage all licence holders to follow the rules properly and make the industry and public aware of the work being done to ensure that we serve the public properly!

If you are a DR for an insurance brokerage firm, I would encourage you to subscribe to this site for updates on who’s being disciplined for what. If your shop is large enough to have an HR person, I’d make certain that that person is subscribed too. You can subscribe to an RSS feed for email notifications of all new listings on the site at http://decisions.abcouncil.ab.ca/abic/en/l.do.

Speaking about the Regulations—Better Consumer Protection Is Needed

Ultimately, government regulations are enacted only to benefit the public. Whether the regulations are about the way insurance coverage is interpreted and adjudicated for losses or about keeping the market for these products competitive for the consumer, they’re all about the customer. The main lobbying point from the various associations representing all the participants in our industry is that making rules that benefit their operations will provide a better outcome for the public.

One issue that seems to cause recurring problems is distance from a licensed insurance agent. The further the insurance sale gets from the sales intermediary who is licensed and required by the regulations to have a standard of knowledge and professional conduct, the worse the outcome seems to be for the customer. The problem arises with many different kinds of insurance products. Take creditor life and disability insurance for example or equipment warranty coverage offered by equipment dealers. Travel insurance is another example. A report produced by insurance regulators has determined that a good number of travel insurance companies in Canada are not treating their customers fairly. Have any of you had the displeasure of reviewing one of these wordings for your clients after the adjuster tells them they’re not covered? In my experience with several situations, reviewing the wordings is complicated and discussing the coverage with the insurers confusing even for an insurance professional. The insured often times gives little thought to what the coverage is until such time as when a claim arises.

bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgottenThe consumer’s assumption of comprehensive coverage seems to prevail as the seller puts little emphasis on pointing out the limitations of coverage and the seller’s knowledge of the product rarely amounts to little more than understanding where the insured is to sign on the application. Such deficiencies might be acceptable when the product is an extended warranty on a $135 ink jet printer but clearly not when a travel insurer may be adjudicating a US$50,000 hospital bill claim. This client might not have travelled to where the medical condition occurred had this client been aware that a claim arising from a condition that is already being treated may not be covered. Alternatively, this client might have been offered a product with a higher premium that was commensurate with the risk exposure for this client’s situation.

The real issue with travel insurance from an insurance perspective is that it is “post claim” underwritten. Few questions are asked in the application stage. The insurer thoroughly reviews the risk and makes a qualifying assessment only when a claim is made. Only then is the question asked, “Would we have insured this person for this risk?” If the answer is “no,” the applicants are left on their own to deal with the loss and not even given the basic assistance of adjudication by an insurer that often reduces the cost of a claim in the U.S. by more than half of the uninsured billings. Other than a few absolutes that limit or void coverage such as age and pronounced medical conditions, little in the process of obtaining travel insurance provides the applicants with the knowledge necessary to comprehend whether the policy actually provides the protection they expect it does. Involving an agent with an Accident and Sickness licence in the process provides a good chance that the client understands what a preexisting condition may be and how it is defined. Unfortunately, these contracts are more frequently arranged by travel agents or even completed online by the individual applicant dealing directly with the insurer than they are being completed with the assistance of an insurance professional. I recall reviewing a declined claim for an 83-year-old lady who bought a policy for a trip to Florida only to find that after a medical event leaving her with a $15,000 bill that the company she bought the coverage from didn’t insure anyone over the age of 65. She was even more confused because she had been buying the coverage from the same people for 15 years.

Travel insurance is a lucrative business. Analysis of the returns on this product for the insurers show it to be a real money maker. More checks and balances seem needed in the process to protect the consumer better. Does anyone have different thoughts or some suggestions as to how to address this problem? Please send me a note!

In Conclusion

I was out last week for my first Canadian ride on a motorcycle this year. The roads are covered in sand and gravel, wet, and in shady spots even icy. With nearly 60 years of riding experience, I’m well aware of the technical issues of road conditions and am able to navigate these hazards without too much difficulty. The road conditions are a given, but the main hazard for bikers old and new are the people driving the four wheelers. Particularly in spring, they’re not used to motorcycles on the road and often enter the roadways or change lanes without consideration of the people on motorcycles. Our bikes are small, hard to see, and quicker than many expect them to be. It’s hard to judge how fast we’re coming at you when you’re making a left turn, and we fit too well into the blind spot beside your car. While we do our best defensively to avoid getting in your way, if you are not watching for us we can’t always be quick enough to avoid you. The first statement given by the driver of a car when explaining an accident with a motorcyclist is always “I didn’t see him.” The truth more properly told is that the driver wasn’t looking. As our spring continues to unfold into our brief summer, please give us a thought while driving, and take a little extra care looking for us! We’re not all wheelie popping head bangers on crotch rockets ripping up the roads. Some of us are quite harmless old papas just out enjoying a leisurely ride on a sunny spring day. My grandchildren will thank you if you watch out for me in your travels.

Are you getting ready for Convention? I’m excited this year and will be presenting an interesting topic for discussion at the Broker Town Hall. If you haven’t got yourself booked in yet, get yourself on the IBAA website and do it now!

Keep those ideas for discussion coming. My private email address is thom.young@landy.ca and you can get me on twitter @Thomcat04. Some of you have found me on LinkedIn and Facebook too.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  Alberta Insurance Council  Bank Act  banks marketing insurance  disciplinary website  insurance licence  motorcycle  travel insurance 

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Prescribed Marijuana a Human Right in Employee Benefits, Public Confusion about Residential Flood

Posted By Thom Young, March 7, 2017

February comes with a short week for many as we pass the first civic holiday in 2017. While many business owners try to run every long weekend into a mini holiday, the demands differ for small business owners. Being the first one into work each day and the last one to leave is the norm for most small business owners, and getting a break from it isn’t always easy. When you’re the one who gets the payroll done and the remittances sent in on time all while building and servicing what is usually the largest client base in your shop, you don’t have much spare time to enjoy on rest and relaxation. Managing your cash flow often sees you paying yourself after everyone else. When there’s more month than money, you become a skillful juggler of all your cash obligations. When we first started up our own business, long weekends were always very important to our business success, not because we could eke out a little holiday but because that whole day of uninterrupted desk time allowed us to catch up on paperwork with a little time extra for planning. We sure knew how to get some stress relief in when needed, but no laws govern how many hours the owners are allowed to work when they’re building their businesses, nor do they get paid any overtime. Still, if it is done right, right the rewards in the end can be unbelievable. The toughest boss you’ll ever have will be the person in charge of the business you are running.


My computer has a little box in the top right hand corner that keeps me in tune with the weather, both where I’m at in my travels and at my Alberta home. Sometimes, particularly in the spring months when those Chinooks blow in, I’m amused by how close the morning temperatures can be. But, sorry, as I find myself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean now, the temperatures are not close to equal at any time of the day, Chinooks blowing or not! Work in this connected world carries on no matter where you are. Some are always surprised by my answer when they ask how my holiday is going. While some of the places I work are much nicer than the square room in Calgary called an office, I’ve got reports to review, decisions to make, people to talk to, meetings to attend, and staff in need of my support. My “holiday” some days is more of a chore than others. I must confess though, my view is much more relaxing.


ocean view


Prescribed Marijuana Defined as a Human Right in Employee Benefits Plans

While the law does not require employers to offer an employee benefit plan, companies commonly offer some form of group insurance as an employee benefit. In large established companies, these employment benefits are expected and for many form an important part of the decision process when entertaining an offer of employment. These group benefit plans usually contain some mandatory provision for participation in the basic coverage such as Life, disability, dental, and extended medical coverage for extra things not covered by provincial healthcare, such as travel insurance, private rooms, and prescription drugs. While these group benefit plans all have similarities, the form of coverage and what is covered often varies.


Recently, an employee covered by the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan was declined coverage for the cost of a plan member’s prescription for marijuana. CBC News Nova Scotia, The Globe and Mail, and the Financial Post, among others, have covered this case. The member filed a complaint against the Trust with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Board. They set down a ruling that failing to cover a doctor’s prescription for marijuana was not only in contravention of the definitions of what was covered and not covered within the plan but that, in doing so the Trust had violated the man’s rights. The insurer was ordered to pay the individual’s current and past prescription marijuana expenses. The ruling is precedent setting, so it would seem that the issue of whether or not marijuana is a prescription drug or not is now defined.


I haven’t heard of any such issues in Alberta but, from my perspective as a licensed accident and sickness insurance agent, I would be very proactive in advocating for any client that was denied coverage for any prescription medicine that falls within the authority of a provincial doctor to prescribe. Plans managed by Trusts can be less inclusive in what they cover, but they are subject to the same insurance rules if they’re set up as a group benefits provider. Trying to understand the legalities of what and why such differences have occurred is strange to me. Does anyone have some insight?


Regardless of the interesting asides about the processes, it is heartening to note that the very real and effective benefits of this drug are now being acknowledged, not only by the medical community but also in the legal precedent set down about its prescribed use.


According to the Financial Post, the returns on investment for the legal operations are also clearly catching up with the new reality. I’ve often written and opined that the social costs incurred in fighting against this naturally growing weed that has been scientifically shown to be far less harmful in its use than other legal mind-altering substances has been a huge drain on our social networks. Every dollar legally earned in these enterprises reduces by a hundredfold the criminal distribution networks activities. Investment capital seems to be getting on board with this new reality.


Public Confusion about Residential Flood Coverage

Apparently, the general public is totally and completely confused as to what is covered and what isn’t when it comes to any form of catastrophic loss, especially flood damage. A recent survey by Public Safety Canada has concluded that over 40% of homeowners believe that the federal government will initiate relief programs in the event of catastrophic overland flooding.


As we all know, the government’s perspective on flood relief has changed substantially now that “flood” coverage is generally available through private insurers. The initiative to cover flood by private insurers began after the severe flooding issues that occurred right across the country throughout 2013, but the private insurers’ response has been less than 100% inclusive in making this available to the people most likely to be affected by overland water. Since 2013, we haven’t seen any really intense overland water incidents in Western Canada, although some limited damages have occurred in the East. Given this relative lull, our industry should steel itself for the response that’s going to come about the next time major losses occur, like in 2013. People in those areas with catastrophic losses are going to look first to their insurers. When they see the limitations and lack of coverage in the private forms, the pressure will immediately come to bear upon the various governments to deal with uninsured losses. The overall result will be that everyone will be unhappy and looking for someone to blame. Insurance brokers will as usual get the worst of it.


The federal and provincial Disaster Financial Relief Programs all require verification that the losses incurred could not have been covered under the homeowners insurance policy. Some of us can remember when the government required a letter from the insurers (not the broker) verifying that the losses a client had were not covered under the insurance form. While claims service is an adjusting function, the task fell to the broker to facilitate the insured’s need for that letter. Can you imagine assessing coverage availability for each of the thousands of people affected by the July 2013 Alberta floods with the kind of coverage options available today? Is the home within 300 meters of running water? Was the damage a sewer backup or an overland flood event? Did you offer the insured coverage and explain the limitations sufficiently? All I can say is that it’s going to be ugly when (not if) this situation presents itself again.


The public is not going to be aware of the limitations that will present themselves long after the reports of financial ruin and uninsured losses occur following the events to come. A few news articles such as one in The Star have presented the issue as a caution that the public should read the fine print in their policies. While many of us would read this perspective as a win for the industry, most of the public would see this fine print exclusion as “just another example of the insurance professional’s questionable reputation.” In this article, the writer who is a lawyer calls his insurance broker and is “surprised” to find out that seepage isn’t covered and that an insurance policy isn’t a maintenance contract.


As a broker, you’d best make certain that your E&O coverage is in good standing and hope for the best when dealing with water damage claims. You can also mitigate the possible problem by being very clear about the coverage limitations for these perils and collect the best evidence you can that you’ve explained them to the insureds before they leave your office. That best practice is one we should be using for all coverage, isn’t it?


If the government wants to get out of having to pay claims for uninsured catastrophic losses, I believe it should set up a facility to cover them: a risk sharing pool for mandatory property damage from overland flood and earthquake. The coverage should come with every policy and include a statute limitation for these perils as a percentage of the policy limits (say 10%). The premium generated should be estimated and pooled like other facility association premiums, and the insurer should adjust every claim for the peril accordingly. Extra coverage to policy limits should be available at the discretion of the insurers and at the premium they decide to charge. In this manner, every insured would be aware of the minor and insufficient limits of coverage and of the option to purchase appropriate limits. That way, we cover our assets when consumers are upset that they don’t have enough coverage in place. The added benefit of the adjudication process would be that the government wouldn’t have to administrate the claims process for insureds who are in a zone where additional coverage can’t be obtained. Such claims would simply be an extension of the adjusting done for the risk sharing pool. Unfortunately, the probability of such a program happening anytime soon is dubious at best.


Prairie flood forecasts are “moderate to severe” and qualified by the speed of the spring thaw and the likelihood of precipitation. In other words, no one has any idea as to what might happen, just what could.


In Closing

Some things you can change and others you can’t. One of my father’s frequent rejoinders when I was complaining about the inevitability of certain things was that “Ducks quack. There’s no point in getting angry at them because they do!” That thought is frustrating and calming at the same time!


Anatidaephobia is the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you!


The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  employee benefits  medical marijuana  overland flood  residential flood  sewer backup 

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Local & Global Economic Forecasts, Demise of Commissions, Taxi vs. Ride Sharing

Posted By Thom Young, February 14, 2017

Happy Ground Hog Day—Global and Local Forecasts

Since the fat, privileged rodent named Punxsutawney Phil apparently found the day too nice to run back into his burrow, this scientific process of long-term weather prediction has determined that winter will not soon be over and spring 2017 will not arrive earlier than normal. One wonders if good old Phil has some scientific equipment down in the ground that is giving him some confidence that the earth is in fact warming at an ever increasing pace. Hard to say, but it’s a safe bet he’s not watching Fox News!

Regardless of the bulletins from Gobblers Knob Pennsylvania, the real scientific reports clearly show that the past two years have been the warmest since we’ve been keeping records. Sceptics keep challenging the conclusions: the data is limited and inconclusive, the time frame of the measurements is limited, other variables are at play, etc., etc. Even considering these concerns, the information those of us in the risk management business have to analyze gives us a basis for concern. Regardless of statistical variances and the inconclusive outcome of an analysis, the probable outcome is significant enough to demand that we develop a plan to mitigate the risks.

Actuaries around the globe are already using predictive loss formulas for rate adjustments responding to the variables in losses predicted by models allowing for global warming. Reserves are being established to provide for severe weather losses. Reinsurance treaties are being negotiated for catastrophic losses using rate allowances for increased incidents of hurricanes, tidal surge, and changing weather patterns that produce more frequent and more severe weather systems. Loss ratios that are better than predicted continue to generate significant ROE for the insurers as a whole, which continues to keep the marketplace very competitive for most classes of business. In a strange way, even with the upward actuarial adjustments for increased loss, the expanding insurance marketplace is producing competitive benefits for consumers. I believe we will continue to see this market producing a positive outcome until a very severe catastrophic loss occurs.

Fairly accurate predictions about the performance of the insurance industry are not that difficult to make using the information we have from historical results and predictive modeling. The math is not that difficult and recorded variances can be explained. However, one uncertain variable needs to be identified and qualified in any discussion about economic performance, that being the economic performance of other industries and sectors. Globalized trade is as important to the economic returns in our industry as in any other.

Our world has become so interdependent on the delivery of goods and services that no economic unit can survive on its own. Reinsurance arrangements today transfer risk for losses all around the globe. For example, the Fort McMurray catastrophe had a global effect. Homeowners not only in Canada but also in cities on every continent are seeing a portion of their homeowners premium set aside to cover the insured losses in Fort McMurray and a little extra for the possibility of another Canadian community going up in flames. Likewise, when Australian brush fires destroy a community, the Santa Ana winds blow wildfires through the suburbs of Los Angeles, or even the French Riviera sees communities in flames, we all become part of the risk transference. Through the risk transference and sharing facilities of reinsurance, even a homeowner in Red Deer contributes premiums into the pool that funds the payment of those global claims.

I was recently at a seminar discussing the evolution of business models and how they are affected by disrupters. This term seems to be the new buzz word for those people and situations that force situations to change and adapt, often for better outcomes. Corporate emphasis has for a long time been focused on finding team players and implementing systems that support the status quo, but research seems to show that the evolution of successful strategies often comes from those who “think outside of the box” or “challenge the norms.” While many successful business people have long known this strategy to be productive, the concept is making the rounds as a new business model. Certainly, the discussion above regarding predictions of a continuing stable market for the insurance business is focused exclusively from the perspective of the “norms” challenging our business. Continuing and new situations such as the effects of climate change are being dealt with in the normal way. The best laid plans can always be disrupted by irrational and unexpected factors. Such disruption must be considered in light of the current economic and political events unfolding in our world today.

Outside of the capital in play in our business to meet the reserve requirements set out by the insurance regulators, this money isn’t always in play as cash waiting pay claims. Funds for all kinds of developments and investments are sourced from the funds managed by insurers until such times as they are needed to pay claims. These are managed in a balance of liquidity and security to generate much of the “investment income” that supplements the results of the underwriting profit or loss when determining income for our insurers. Disruption in our economy can have devastating effects on the insurance industry. As we saw most recently in 2008 and other times in recent history, the decline in the value of investments as a result of the failure of capital markets can very quickly see insurers trying to line up their business written with the capital values they are holding in reserves. This shedding of market share is the primary cause of a hard market. Hard markets and soft markets are never a good thing for our business. Every investment manager hopes for stable markets moving in predictable directions, either up or down.

Turning to the 800 pound orange gorilla in the room for a moment, the calamity that may come about by the disruption of international trade agreements and the removal of regulatory oversight of the finance business is what’s keeping the financial managers that I know up at night. The threat of 20% or 30% tariffs imposed on trade networks that have evolved to remain competitive in the new global supply chains and markets should concern everyone. This kind of disruption will not be good for anyone, particularly the USA, and failure of the American economy would be devastating to all of us. At the same time, the exit of Great Britain from the European market without bilateral adjustments with the whole of the EU will no doubt tip international trade on its side as well. The times are changing and my fingers are crossed that the reality of fair balanced cooperation for the good of us all will eventually be the reality we get in the end. So far the consequences of irrational disruption seem lost upon the man who thinks he’s running things down south. The wakeup call will no doubt be loud and confusing when it comes.

The Demise of Commissions?

Want to work as a true broker? No set commissions? Our associates in the life insurance business are facing a new challenge in regards to the way in which we are remunerated. A number of people hold the belief that agents should be allowed to charge a fee for service for their work with no set compensation percentage on the value of the amounts the client invests (see “The Higher-Cost, Higher-Service Future of Investing Advice"). The threat to ban commissions is real. On January 10th, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published CSA Consultation Paper 81-408 – Consultation on the Option of Discontinuing Embedded Commissions (Consultation Paper) suggesting the need to transition to a direct pay arrangement, where the investor directly pays the dealer’s compensation. Such an arrangement certainly would resolve the disclosure issues that always seem to arise, but would it make any difference in the long run? How would this work in the General insurance industry? This discussion has come up many times over the years about the insurers quoting their product on a net basis and leaving the broker to add commission to the bill. General insurers often start talking about this when a hardening market puts price pressure on holding market share. The thought is that, if the insurers have to forego revenue to remain competitive, the broker should too. I’ve never really seen the sense in that argument, but then I’m a broker at heart!

The life insurance agent’s main lobbying association Advocis isn’t taking this proposal sitting down. Advocis has launched a digital campaign targeted at both financial advisers and their clients. Financial Advice for All is a micro-site that outlines the issue of banning commissions and how it will affect Canadians. I wonder how General insurance brokers and agents would feel about the challenge of this kind of regulation affecting their business.

Thinking of Buying a Taxi?

Following along with the topic of business disruption and the effect on norms, the taxi business certainly seems in dire need of adaptation to the competitive pressure coming from Uber. Recently in Las Vegas, I learned that many taxi drivers are participating in the Uber model along with their regular taxi business. Either the meters in the taxi or the Uber app is collecting the money. Vegas Taxi drivers are notorious for scenic routes and special shortcuts to pad their fares. Uber seems to be keeping everyone honest. Those less technically proficient in the use of apps on their phones are stuck with the taxi meter. Those with the Uber app are getting directly where they’re going at a fair price with the tip included.

I don’t think that buying a taxi business would be a bright idea these days. I’ve written many times about the livery business and the manner in which it has evolved. The advent of Uber and Lyft has reduced the taxi business to something more like a bus service for moving large groups of people from specific locations or sectors to other sectors. The individual looking for a lift home or to a function from home is not looking for a cab service anymore. Uber is cheaper, more reliable, and more pleasant to use than any taxi ever.

I was introduced to Uber in Ottawa when we were bouncing around the capitol lobbying on behalf our industry. I had ridden to town in a cab from the airport. The cab was filthy, the driver was indifferent, and between texting while driving and using his hands-free function to have a loud discussion with an equally loud associate, he left me very unhappy with the transportation experience. At one point I wished to ask him a question about the route he was taking and ended up trying to yell over the discourse going on in the front. When he did give me his attention, he had no idea what I was asking him anyway.

The normal fare for a shuttle from my Phoenix house to the airport is $70 plus tip. Taxis are reluctant to come as far out as the urban setting where I live but will take me from the airport to my house for around $100 plus tip. Uber recently picked me up in a very nice, clean, four-door car and delivered me to the airport for $37.85, tip included. Hard to see the shuttles and the taxis staying afloat for long with that kind of price competition.

A survey by Angus Reid shows the consensus is that the Uber guys should be subject to the same rules and regulations as the rest of the livery business. Properly qualified drivers and equipment are expected by the consumer. Uber says this isn’t a problem.

In Closing

This is the second edition of Young’s Stuff for 2017. I hope you’re finding it enjoyable and thought provoking. Share your thoughts and open dialogue with all who are receiving it. Feel free to post in the blog link on the IBAA website or on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. I’m always looking for feedback and ideas. The direct email link below comes only to me..

 


The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  business disruptors  capital reserves  catastrophic loss  commissions  global economy  global warming  life insurance  orange gorilla  reinsurance rates  ride sharing  transfer of risk 

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A Healthy Lloyd’s Outlook and Software for Falsehoods

Posted By Thom Young, January 20, 2017

Apologies for the missed issues since September. I’ve been pretty busy for the past couple of months due to travel through four provinces and five states, a convention and trade show, Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving, two company Christmas parties, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, along with some particularly time-consuming business projects. This project is now in its sixth year and, for the most part, I’ve made that deadline every two weeks without very many interruptions.


A number of people have approached me at various functions asking if I’m still writing and indicating that they aren’t receiving the email with Young’s Stuff in it. The full text version of the essay is not sent out by email anymore because IBAA is striving to keep to a minimum the number of emails sent to members. When the blog is posted on the IBAA website, those who have subscribed through the website are emailed a link to click on and open in a web browser. (You can subscribe through the Blog Subscriptions section in your profile.) A link to these blogs is also included in IBAA’s monthly bippler email. Some of you may have missed the link and not forwarded it on to your staff because the link was buried under other information and promotions. IBAA has informed me that the new bippler format will open with a link to the most recent editions of Young’s Stuff. I do strive to get information into this essay that’s of some value to all members of our industry. Hopefully that information is important enough to get circulated to the staff at the brokerages who receive it. I’ve also been posting links to Young’s Stuff on Facebook and LinkedIn and sending links to it via Twitter. If you see something in my stories that you think should be shared, don’t hesitate to send it on if you know how.


For my “old” friends who have difficulty with links and such other complicated internet and computer terms, send me an email and I’ll send you the blog in text form so you can have your assistant print it out for your later reading pleasure. If you’re reading this, you obviously somehow have found the link on the IBAA site. Just in case you want to forward it on to someone who isn’t as astute as you are, here it is:


http://www.ibaa.ca/blogpost/1251553/Young-s-Stuff


If you don’t know how to copy and paste a hyperlink, ask someone younger than you in your office for some help.


It Almost All Began (and Continues) at Lloyds

If anyone is telling you that our industry is suffering in any of the world markets, don’t believe them. Lloyds has posted another record year of over 1.4 billion pounds in profit for just the first six months of 2016. While a number of insurers seem to be floundering around with lack-luster results and less than stellar projections, good old Lloyds continues to show how it’s done. Lloyds is leading the way for expansion of the insurance industry in Eastern markets, and the numbers appear to indicate they’re doing it right. As Europe and North America continue to pull out of the economic malaise that began nearly nine years ago, the future seems bright. The Lloyds financial performance model is unique, but Lloyds goes to great lengths to make it comparable in review to what people are used to, even though the ownership structure at Lloyds is also unique. According to the published financials (see Insurance Business), Lloyds seems to be producing an enviable return on equity of about 8% and is having absolutely no trouble attracting capital investment to meet the reserve requirements of its business model (which well exceeds those legally mandated in any jurisdiction). This strength means that rates will remain fairly stable in the immediate future and, barring any huge catastrophic losses in the coming months, Lloyds will be sending out huge dividends on its reporting date. How well Lloyds performs indicates how the industry will, at least in my opinion anyway!


One wonders, though, how Lloyds is going to deal with the Brexit issue, which is certain to impact its UK operations. As the UK pulls out of the European Union, Lloyds will likely have more difficulty keeping the staff that is now able to move seamlessly between their home country and the UK for work and lifestyle. Still, with modern technology people can work wherever there’s a good internet connection. The main impact will be that they’ll be spending their paycheques somewhere else. The leadership at Lloyds has clearly indicated that they are not going to leave London as a result of the Brexit vote and their outlook for the future is more of the same. The Brexit issue will, in my view, have more of an impact on the UK than on Lloyds anyway. Time will tell, but barriers to the free flow of commerce are not a benefit to anyone in this new-world economy where (at best guess) the assembly of any complicated product includes nearly 25% of parts and materials made in another country. Trade barriers of any sort that could interrupt these complicated supply chains will make for serious challenges in the ability to deliver a competitively priced finished product.


Is Big Brother upon Us?

I was recently discussing with some colleagues the use of linguistic analysis software in the adjudication of claims. Science seems to have developed some pretty reliable technology that can analyze speech patterns to determine whether or not someone is telling the truth in a discussion (see The New York Times). No longer the stuff of science fiction, this kind of program is apparently surprisingly cheap to acquire and implement. The analysis is done in real time and available to the user during the interview process.


Imagine that you’re called into your manager’s office to discuss just about anything, and your boss is constantly glancing at his laptop during your discussion. Is he dealing with emails while talking to you, or is he looking at a graph measuring your sincerity in your answers to his questions? Are you really in favour of his proposal or just telling him what he wants to hear? How do you feel about the new person he hired? How do you feel about his decision on the firing of a colleague? In the normal course of interaction with your manager, you formulate your answers to protect your position in the hierarchy of the organization. I’m not talking about lying in your answers but about answering in such a way as not to harm your relationship with your boss and your future in the organization. Is this new tool that gives your supervisor the further ability to analyze your responses a personal intrusion into your privacy? Some think that good managers already have the people skills that give them this ability, but studies show that such is not the case. Analysis of a software review of people’s opinions about the truth of answers showed that 57% of the answers reviewed were accurately determined to be false by human beings while the software was able to determine 70%. That’s a 23% improvement in accuracy. How would you implement this software into your life choices? Imagine running a review of an investment proposal or perhaps a financial report on a company in which you are involved. The real question is whether our personal relationships will be tempered by degree with an application on our smart phone that is running a truthfulness review of what we’re being told in real time during our discussions. I know my mother didn’t believe some of the excuses I gave her for many things, but I got the benefit of the doubt more often than not. Can you imagine those same discussions with an amber or red light flashing on her smart phone indicating that the story I was telling was clearly not being bought by the software analysis?


In our business, the process of claims adjudication is currently using this technology when collecting information on claims reports. I don’t think there are any precedents yet where this review would be the single deciding factor in denying or limiting a claim, but no doubt it is influencing the adjuster’s review of other factors when verifying claims reports. Brokers often have a hard determining the adjusters reasoning for a position taken on a claim. This software may be the “secret” part of the equation working against your client. I guess a broker could easily record a discussion with a claims adjuster and run it through this software to verify the answers too.


Technology is advancing at a huge rate and will continue to be the prime disrupter of many businesses, and very definitely ours!


Winding Up


The New Year is here! The reset of the calendar marks the end of our very small planet’s complete revolution around our rather insignificant sun and the 2017th year since the majority of us agreed that the modern era began. Archaeological research reveals many other methods of measurement based on other assumptions, but the trip around the sun seems to be a common denominator in how most calendars work. Another common denominator is the perspective that each culture marks the significance of the New Year as a time to wish each other good health and prosperity in the coming year. For all of my readers, I certainly endorse this tradition and wish you well in the coming year.


The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  Brexit  claims  lie detection  Lloyds  technology 

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Government Auto, Online Competition, Run for Childhood Cancer

Posted By Thom Young, August 17, 2016

Is It Just Me, or Does Everyone Else also See Our New Government Moving on an Imaginary Mandate of Change?

You know, I do my best to remain apolitical in these little stories that I write, but it’s often difficult when commenting on things the government does that may affect our industry. Certainly, the adjustment in perspective necessary to understand the actions of this philosophically different government is readily apparent. Take its initial swift move to implement action on the labour-standards obligations for family farms with Bill 6. This resulted in the agricultural community rolling machinery and people up to the legislature to express disapproval for the impact it would have on their business operations. Traditionally, the family farm has been insulated from the normal stringent labour standard legislation.  Previously exempt from coverage and costs of participation in Workman’s Compensation insurance, the small family farmers saw this new legislation as an expensive intrusion into their traditional operations.  Family farms had exceptions for certain classes of employees in addition to exclusions under labour standards legislation for family workers. Their political response appeared to catch off-guard the new government that believed this new legislation would be welcomed by farmers.  It is understandable with a new government, particularly one imbued with youth and inexperience, that this type of change would be unfamiliar territory to the electorate. However, one might reason that the public reaction would prompt the government to ponder the public expectations of their mandate.

Recently, the government announced its decision to review automobile insurance regulations in the province. Many in our industry have been quite concerned that this review might be the first step towards a government-run automobile insurance scheme. When our previous superintendent of insurance was seconded to Finance to work on a “new” project, the new government’s interaction with the industry  sprouted rumours: would the legacy of the NDP Provincial Government in Alberta be a public automobile insurance plan?

Facts make little difference when measured against political ideology. Counting our three provincial auto-insurance schemes, only a half dozen government automobile insurance programs exist in the world. In most cases, they have resulted from a lack of competition in an extremely small market, allowing insurers to impose severe underwriting restrictions and unfettered, uncompetitive pricing on those who need mandatory coverage. In each jurisdiction that has experimented with a public automobile scheme, underwriting limitations and pricing increases brought about political pressure to ensure that coverage would be available to all at a fair price. Those who have been around the business long enough to remember the auto reforms imposed upon our industry by the former government may recall that, at that time, a hard market left insurers trying to reduce their market participation to meet their reserves and struggling to deal with reinsurance treaty limitations. At one point, for over 90 days, the only market accepting “new” automobile insurance applications was the Facility Association. Regular markets were flagging clients for non-renewal for any dumb thing they could imagine. When the public is disrupted in any way, their frustrations are quickly heard by their elected representatives. Thankfully, the auto reforms proved to be adaptable to the needs of the public and the insurance industry. What could have happened then should not be lost on anyone. Market realities can spur action by governments to limit the impact of any business on their constituents.  In British Columbia though, a new dimension was introduced to the equation. The change came about through the election of a government with a new political ideology. Government auto insurance was one of the mandates it was elected upon, and the government moved quickly to fulfill that mandate.  Will this election be seen as a mandate for our new government to follow a new ideology? Perhaps in the next election auto insurance will be a focus of the platform, potentially determining the future of our industry.

One way or the other, this topic will be up for much discussion in the coming years.

More Competition or Less?

I was reading an article in Insurance Business magazine about the withdrawal of Google Compare from the U.S. internet insurance marketplace. Google Compare provided a price-comparison shopping point for insurance customers and was supported by charging a fee for directing clients to specific insurers. Google pulled the plug on the product in the spring of this year, apparently because the insurers were not that enthused with the results. Brokers in the U.S. were happy to see Google leave the marketplace. They claimed the withdrawal was a win for the independent-broker approach to marketing. The focus of the article seemed to be that brokers shouldn’t be claiming the withdrawal as a victory because online competition for insurance is still ubiquitous, and we shouldn’t drop our guard.

Rating engines have been around forever. In Canada, an interactive internet-rating company has been around since the beginning of the online information age. In the U.S., many companies such as Progressive and State Farm use their own in-house rating engines to give clients not only their quote but also their competitors’. Certainly, large brokers who write for many different companies are already competing in this process since they check several companies to find the best rate for a call-in customer. Of course, the questions asked by the brokers are the same as the filters used by the rating engines, but the broker’s experience in interpreting those filters gives the customer’s quote validity and is a better assurance that the policy will be issued at the rate quoted. Frequently, online clients think they have a lower quote than they really do until an answer on the application changes the response. Unfortunately, clients don’t always get the difference between marketing and reality.

Is calling around for quotes any different from doing an online survey? Online is faster, but discussing your circumstances with a professional insurance adviser leads to better accuracy. The review of coverage needs is definitely better in an in-person setting with a professional. How many of you have ever had the discussion with a call-in client that begins, “Do you write for this company or that company?” Often they’ve already got a quote or have been told by a friend how low company A’s price is. These callers are looking to find an adviser to validate the information, and look after them at the point of sale and when they have a claim. I don’t really mind if the customer shops around and then looks for a trusted adviser to respond to these items. Even the least-proficient insurance broker should have little difficulty doing a better job for the customer than a computer. Some might cite an exception here or there, but in truth I’ll stand by that statement.

The more complicated the product, the less it lends itself to successful comparison shopping. Even a very well-designed computer application cannot assure a correct answer to the question “what does that mean?” when the applicant is interacting with it. No matter how many “click here if you’re confused” buttons there are, the reassurance of another human being when you don’t understand is unbeatable. Now don’t get all smug about this limiting factor. New computer interaction programs bring the human dimension into the process with the “click here to chat with a real person” button. However, when the little box pops up and informs you that “all our advisors are busy right now, please be patient, the approximate wait time before we get around to you is 20 minutes,” you can understand the limitations in the service level of this online medium. When you then pick up the phone, call the company, and hear the identical message, you know how important the call really is to the company. After that frustration, why not call a broker a shop rule that when the phone rings the third time, anybody who isn’t with a customer better answer it? Are you getting the picture of the service commitment of these alternate providers now? Don’t let anyone tell you that brokers compete on price. Brokers compete on service. So long as we remain dedicated to providing superior service, our future in the insurance business is assured! Of course, “your mileage may vary,” but then again I’m a half-full kind of guy. While things change, I still believe that cars don’t take a different route to the same destination just because they go faster. My conclusion is that the broker service model will remain strong through the technological evolution we continue to experience.

Run for Childhood Cancer

I occasionally use this medium to promote or endorse a good cause, and I hope you will indulge me with one here. Recently, I was approached to help out an old friend who is the new director of a fundraising program to assist families coping with kids who have cancer and to further the researchers in finding a cure for kids with cancer. Many of you may recall Rob Siroishka from his time working in our industry. He is now active in a number of different projects, the most importance of which I think is the "Run for Childhood Cancer” fundraiser that takes place in September of each year. This charity had been receiving terrific support from the oil and gas industry until the industry’s realignment last year. Since then, the charity has suffered a decline of about a third of their support. Rob reached out to his friends and a number of us stepped up to help them recover from the loss of funding, but more can still be done.

Recently, I toured the research facility of Dr. Mahoney at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute that is the recipient of the funds raised through the Believe in the Gold efforts. Believe in the Gold is the charitable organization that hosts the run and manages the fundraising. These funds provide assistance to families who are struggling with the challenges of a child fighting cancer. They also provide funds for the ground-breaking research into immunotherapy treatments configured uniquely for children’s cancers that has had some promising results. While immunotherapy has had tremendous success in treating many kinds of adult cancers, the unique physiology of growing children presents many challenges in order to achieve the same success rates as in adults. Even small successes here will produce life-changing results for many of these children and their families.

If you’re a runner or even enjoy just a stroll along the Bow River pathways, find some sponsors to raise some money for this good cause. If you’re a business owner looking to get behind a charity that can make a real difference in the world, you might want to look into this a little further too. Personal donations are also appreciated. To find out how to join and sponsor, go to the Believe in the Gold website: http://believeinthegold.ca/campaigns/run-for-childhood-cancer, or get in contact with Rob at 403-542-2660 / email robsiro@shaw.ca.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  competiton  government auto insurance  NDP and insurance  online insurance  Run for Childhood Cancer 

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Summer Storms, GIC Elections, Problems with the Level-3 Licence Exam

Posted By Thom Young, August 12, 2016

The Lazy Days of Summer Are upon Us

We continue to have an exceptionally weird summer here in Alberta. Someone told me that Calgary had more rain in July than Edmonton and that the total amount topped the usual annual precipitation for the city. All I know for certain is that every day in Alberta seems to end with severe weather warnings for many places. While we were in Ponoka at the beginning of July, a tornado formed almost directly over us. It touched down less than two kilometers away, took the roof off a home under construction, and threw a porta-potty into the trees, making quite a mess. Luckily, the amount of damage was negligible. Still, I’m left wondering what could have happened. On the ridge east of Aldersyde where I live, we have watched the severe storms moving from the north west to the south east through Calgary, Okotoks, and High River, soaking our place with large amounts of rain. We’ve seen many funnel clouds, and hail storms are almost routine. Cutting the grass is becoming a full-time job!

The summer storms have produced some catastrophic losses for our industry, and summer is far from over yet. The Fort McMurray fire has been declared the worst insurance disaster in Canadian history, a record previously held by the 1991 Calgary hail storm. This past weekend saw parts of Calgary dealing with wind, hail, and overland water—all in one afternoon. Will we start seeing claims settled under the new “flood” wordings? The response of those who were not offered the coverage and have now suffered an uninsured loss will be interesting. Can any of you enlighten me with examples of any such situations?

Elections for the General Insurance and Life Insurance Councils

If you hold a General or Life insurance license, you should have received an email link to the Election Buddy website for voting. This link is configured uniquely to the email in your AIC profile. If your email address has changed, contact the AIC and have this corrected so you can vote. Voter apathy is a concern, especially given the history of how the election was created. Before the 1990s, the superintendent of insurance would choose agents for the position on the councils. Industry pressure to make the process more representative initiated a change to the process, and we were given the ability to vote for candidates. Ballots were mailed out but yielded extremely poor returns. The electronic voting system has been in use for quite a few years, but the response rate is rarely much above 10%. Please stop what you’re doing, and invest 10 minutes of your busy day by clicking on that link and choosing a candidate to represent your interests in the regulatory process.

Six candidates are running for the two openings on the General Insurance Council. My term has expired and I am running again. If I am successful, I think this will be my last time on the General Insurance council. I am going into my second term, candidates are allowed to serve only on two consecutive 3-year terms, and I am getting close to retirement. Sherif Gemayel, who is an IBAA director, is also running. If you click on each candidate’s name, you can read a brief bio. The entire process of going to the website, reading each bio, and selecting two candidates will take you less than 10 minutes. Do it right now! If you have only 10 minutes, do it rather than read the rest of this essay! If you have a life-insurance licence, you will have received an email for this election between three candidates as well. Roy Jaques is running again and has served the life-insurance licence holders well. Again it takes less than 10 minutes to click the link, review the list, and make a choice. When a regulatory change or review arises that you do not like or have thoughts to share, you can open the conversation with “I voted for you….” You will likely have more influence in the outcome.

If you’ve read this far without voting, let me remind you once again. Go to the email from Election Buddy, make your choice, and then come back to read the rest of this entertaining epistle. It will wait for you!

Don’t you feel better that you did that?

Alberta Level-3 Licence—the Designated Representative for Your Brokerage

Let me apologize to those of you who have no interest in the Level 3 issue. While this discussion might be boring for you, I would appreciate you mentioning to your DR that she or he might be interested in this article.

When a brokerage started up, it used to have to register its name with the AIC. The name was then linked to the brokers working there, and that was pretty much it. The regulations on “holding out” are quite simple. The brokerage advertises itself. The broker employee licences are managed by the DR for the corporation (including the DR). All these staff are bound by the regulations governing all General Insurance agents. Other than the regulations specific to the role of a DR (supervising the activities of sponsored agents and notifying the AIC when an agent is terminated), the rules for market conduct of the brokerage are the same for the agents.

A couple of years ago, a new regulation that required the DR to pass an examination came out of the blue. While it did not specify what had to be tested, the direction from the government to the AIC was clear: DRs are to be tested. No one recalls any industry consultations that implied a need for this testing. DRs in other provinces aren’t tested. I certainly would have had an opinion on this requirement if I’d been asked. I first became aware of the new testing requirements when people started calling me to complain about the difficulty in passing this exam. The pass-rate for the Level 3 exam continues to be ridiculously low. Strangely, most of the people having difficulty with this exam are long-term, experienced brokers. Many of the new people attempting and failing it have demonstrable academic skills, business degrees, and advanced management experience, all of which should have made a reasonable test of their aptitude and the understanding of a DR’s role a breeze. Either the test is not focusing on what these people were studying, they were studying the wrong stuff, or the educators in our business are teaching the wrong material. Regardless of how the change occurred and who is to blame, the problem is serious for our industry. In my role as one of your broker representatives on the General Insurance Council, I have been working very hard to fix it by sitting on the licensing course-curriculum review committee for all three levels of licensing as well as on the equivalency committee.

This spring, we made recommendations to the government to amend the regulations and approve particular equivalencies for Levels 1, 2, and 3 licensing exams. While the process of government approval on this is painfully slow, I have heard that progress is being made to get this implemented. I am not holding my breath for an immediate response, but I am hopeful. We have amended the curriculum of study for both Level 1s and 2 licensing. Level 1 was implemented several months ago, and we have seen some improvement in the pass rate. It is still under 40%, which in my view is unacceptable, but it is steadily improving from the low 20s when we began the process. The General Insurance Council is working with the education stakeholders to help them further understand the curriculum necessary to pass the exam. After each review, the results seem to improve, and we seem to be moving in the right direction: even before the exams changed as a result of the curriculum review three years ago, the pass rate for the Level 1 licence exam was never higher than 48% over all. Individual course providers have had better results than the average. The new Level 2 examinations, based on the revised curriculum, were introduced last month. The initial results from a very small sample show a mid-40% pass rate, and we are hopeful that for Level 2 we have found the balance we were looking for. Time will tell. The Level 3 examination remains the same convoluted and confusing thing it has been since the exams for this level were introduced.

The committee has so far done a lot of work to make the testing of the DR commensurate with the role. As all the technical insurance material is tested in Levels 1 and 2, we have removed it from the course curriculum for Level 3. The requirements for the information necessary to run a business, not relative to the regulations, have been reduced to an appropriate level. However, we have no unanimity on these requirements. Some believe the exam should test a level of proficiency that is beyond the reach of regulations governing our business. I am not in that group.

I believe we should not even need an examination to become a DR. What a DR really needs to know for regulatory obligations is covered in two pages of the regulations. A DR should have a Level 2 licence and have been in the business for two years. The management and organizational material, as well as the insurance technical knowledge, is already tested in the Levels 1 and 2 licences. The role of a DR is not hierarchical either in the gathering or the exercising of expertise. Often in larger brokerages, the DR is an HR function, while in the smaller ones the DR also empties the waste baskets and answers the phones. How do you test for proficiency at the level necessary for a 100-person brokerage or a 3-person brokerage and be fair? How do you permit the smaller brokerages to start up and become established in the usual manner without creating a very challenging barrier with a complicated exam designed for proficiency not needed in a small brokerage? Eliminating the need for an exam is an option, but complicated, because it would involve a change in regulations. The best solution is to make the exam relative to the role of all DRs at the lowest common denominator.
    
I have strong views about regulations limiting access to our business and will not bore you here with a thousand-word essay on it. I ask you to think about these issues because the AIC is going to send all DRs a survey. The direction of the Level 3 licensing study and testing will be guided by the responses received. I am told the survey will be out in the coming weeks, and I am looking forward to seeing good participation in this process. The relevance of the representative process that results from the voting for members of the councils is often challenged because voter response is so low. When I have dug my heels in on an issue, I have been told that I am not representative of brokers because so few actually participate in the voting process. I certainly hope that each DR will grasp the serious need for input and a positive result on this issue. At least a half dozen smaller brokerages are currently in a holding pattern on the sale and the succession of their businesses due to the difficulty of getting this Level 3 licence in place, particularly in the rural communities. This problem needs to be fixed now.

Those who is not Level 3 licence holders will not get this survey but may well have some ideas on this topic that are important. Do you think you might want to own a brokerage some day? If so, you will need to get a Level 3 licence. Send your opinions directly, and I will make sure they are reviewed by the General Insurance Council. (I will meet with members of the council in person if I am successful in getting elected to another term.)

In Closing

That’s it for this issue. We’re off to points west for a couple of weeks, hopefully to get away from the never-ending rain and thunder storms. I’ll have to get some heavy equipment in to cut the grass when I get back!

If you haven’t voted yet, please do it now!

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  elections  flood  General Insurance Council  hail  Licensing Level 3  tornado 

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