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Flood Coverage, Broker-Direct Balance, Stampede Breakfast, IBAC (CAIB) Volunteers, Orlando Massacre

Posted By Thom Young, June 21, 2016

Flood Coverage

In my discussion of federal political advocacy last issue, I mentioned that the politicians all seem to be very aware of and interested in our industry’s response to the need for flood coverage. I’m always quick to mention the terms “overland water” and “sewer backup” in the discussion because people need to know that the changing dynamics of these coverages seem to be merging them into one. In order to drive flood coverage towards premium adequacy, you can’t have one without the other in some markets. It’s a saleable perspective: if you are in an area where you should be concerned about a sewer backup, you should be also concerned about overland water. Most people will agree that the proximate cause of most sewer backup is actually overland water. Combining the two coverages eliminates “the chicken and the egg” claims discussion that generates public confusion and protest when one side of the street is covered. This random coverage is an ongoing issue because many companies are still not providing any coverage for “overland water” perils and are offering only the old “sewer backup” endorsement. This competing coverage is now both a public issue and a broker E&O nightmare.

The failure of the insurers to develop a standard of coverage that is set out in common wording and is used by all companies referencing this protection will likely be a major issue for our business. No company or insurance adviser is immune from the confusion that will arise with the next catastrophic loss in a major urban centre. If we as brokers are advising clients to take coverage with one company or another but are confused by the variances in the wording and the special limits for “overland water” or “flood” coverage, we will not be able to describe the differences sufficiently for the client to understand the coverage and make an informed choice. Consequently, we will be held responsible for any shortfall in the coverage that causes the client an uninsured loss. Of course, the insurers will suffer the same challenges and may even be found liable to the public for failure to set a standard of coverage, but any liability charges would be years after the headlines sullying our reputations have long passed.

The political perspective on disaster relief programs may further jeopardize public good will. Some provincial and federal politicians have suggested that the programs in place for uninsured losses from flood can now be reviewed and the budgets for them limited so that these funds can be freed up for other needed programs. Well, the reduction may not be that simple. As most brokers will tell you, “overland water” coverage is excluded for those living within 300 meters of running water and the new forms won’t likely even cover “sewer backup” for these folks. When these exclusions become apparent after the next weird weather event, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to explain what happened. I can’t help but note that, as I write, the community of Dawson Creek is suffering from just this kind of thing. I know everyone’s tired of hearing me quip that we are just three days of rain away from a repeat of the 2013 flooding that devastated Calgary and High River. I recently toured some of the work underway to mitigate the Highwood River’s potential to create havoc again. While mitigation is happening, we’re far from prepared to deal with the kind of flood we saw just three years ago.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum—Eventually Everything Finds a Balance

The issue of “broker” companies entering into the direct-writing business is always foremost in discussions between brokers. Of particular concern is the manner in which the competition takes place and the use of the data accumulated from the customers for further sales and marketing by both the brokers and the company. The other main concern remains the name by which the competition takes place. It should be clear to anyone that competing with your brokers by using the same name as that used to write the business the broker sends the company is seen as a breach of trust, a violation of the exclusivity anticipated in the contract between the broker and the company and just downright wrong! To further belabour the point, the public is also very confused when they see the same name on the insurance contract that is on the broker’s wall and advertising. They expect to receive service and advice from the broker. Well, this confusion will of course sort itself out, eventually. If a “broker” company wants to be a “direct writer” under the same name as it is a “broker” company, then it will damage the relationship. Their support from brokers may wane to their detriment. All things being equal, I believe they will either have to commit fully to participating in the marketplace one way or the other.

With more competition in the direct-writing market, the direct writers may well be gearing up to hold their market share by offering their products at the same price through the brokerage market. According to Canadian Underwriter, “CAA Insurance Company announced on Thursday (June 16, 2016) that it has appointed 17 ‘well-known and experienced brokerage firms across Ontario’ to provide its customers with more choice.”

This is quite a move for an affinity-group insurance company. Would a membership in the Automobile Association come as part and parcel with an insurance application? I wonder as well if the agent will get a fee for this part of the transaction. Auto clubs have affected the insurance industry before. The roadside assistance endorsement SEF 35 was created to provide a direct competitive response by the insurance industry to the entry of automobile clubs into the automobile insurance markets. An actual Auto Club package that provided some of the auto club services such as mapping and hotel planning used to be sold by brokers for one market. Now most that has gone by the wayside—no need to spend an hour talking about a road trip with someone when you can simply Google a route (complete with turning directions) and immediately get a whole bunch of information on all the amenities you might need on your trip. As in most of the travel industry, technology has taken over the heavy lifting, leaving little money for the service providers, but the affinity group of auto-club members continues to survive. In Alberta, their operations seem quite healthy, and they compete actively in the insurance and travel marketplace. I wonder if they will be appointing Alberta brokers to represent them. If not, I’m pretty sure they’ll be watching the success of the Ontario efforts closely. I know I will be.

Stampede Breakfast in Calgary, Wednesday, July 13, 7:00–11:00 a.m.

9705 Horton Rd. SW, CGY, Southland parking lotCome and join around 1500 of our closest friends for a regular old-fashioned western whoop up. There’ll be lots to eat, world famous chuck-wagon drivers, line dancers, and a live band. It’s our 23rd time, and I think we’re starting to get it right. This has turned into an “all industry” event that you don’t want to miss. It starts early enough that even the 15 people in Calgary who do any work that week can get in on the fun before they get to the office.  

IBAC Volunteer Work—CAIB Review

I’m working my way through the chapters of CAIB 2 covering business interruption and crime coverage and reviewing their content for relevancy and accuracy in our ever-changing marketplace. Reacquainting myself with the material is interesting: I find I learn more by teaching than I ever did by studying. As I’m plodding along with this project, the thought crossed my mind that those of you far more in tune with the current market than I am might have helpful contributions to these topics. If you, do I’d be happy to include them in my overview of the suggested changes to the instruction program. For example, we’ve come a long way from the old 3D wording as the basics for crime coverage, but all the new package stuff just builds on the old foundation. I wonder if tossing out the basics might hinder comprehension of the reasons the new package works the way it does. Many of you are far wiser on this topic than I, so I’d welcome your ideas. The email address below is my personal one. Feel free to drop me a note.

In Closing

Real life is stranger than fiction—watching the news these days sure hammers that saying home. The events unfolding to the south of us make me pause and reflect. The aberration that occurred in Orlando leaves me simply overwhelmed with grief for the people killed and injured and their families. I can make no comment that makes any sense of this. It is just so sad. Something has to be done. While I can hope for change, the lack of it after the massacre at Sandy Hook leaves me with a fatalistic view, believing that it will continue to get worse before it gets better. Pray I’m wrong!

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:  broker channel  CAA  CAIB  competition  direct writer channel  disaster relief  Hill Day  insurance industry reputation  mitigation  Orlando massacre  overland flood insurance  sewer backup insurance  Stampede breakfast 

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Fort McMurray: How Can We Help?

Posted By Thom Young, May 10, 2016

Fort McMurray: How Can We Help?

Despite a host of issues to discuss, my focus in this column is on the Fort McMurray catastrophe. The scale of the tragedy and scope of the disruption is just becoming known. As I write, the current estimates are that over 1600 “structures” have been lost to date and several hundred more are in imminent risk saved only by the whim of the winds and the valiant efforts of the fire fighters and volunteers doing all they can. By the time you read this column, our industry response to this historical disruption to the people that we serve will be well underway. The media has conveyed the confusion and the concern in this mass scramble to evacuate a community of more than 80,000 people and the reality of people navigating their vehicles with their families and whatever possessions they could grab through the conflagration of a forest engulfed in flames. One client of ours reported that the windows of his car were, at one point in his journey to escape, too hot to touch on the inside. Another told the story of his family seeing the flames lapping at the back of their home as they were going out the front door. By some form of providence, no lives were lost directly from the fire, the sad tragedy of a traffic accident taking two young lives notwithstanding. I cannot recall such a successful movement of that many people in so short a period of time and over geographical distances of such proportions. Floods cause evacuations with a much lesser sense of urgency than feeling the heat of a fire on your back while running away. This truly amazing story has only just begun.

Our insurers have sent many notices about the systems in place to deal with the clients who are out of their homes with little or no documentation and very confused about what to do now. While they can find help in many places, getting the information out to these people is the problem. The magazine Canadian Insurance Broker has put out a guide for brokers that is very comprehensive and is being updated regularly.

If people don’t know who they are insured with, they can be referred to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, whose coordinated name and address searches with their members can identify claimants’ policy information to get the claimants in touch with their company’s claims centres. The process is tedious though and the frustration level high, so be patient with these people if you are trying to help them.

I had an interesting discussion with a broker the other day who was of the opinion that assisting an insured who is not a client with the claims process on behalf of the insurer is somehow an infraction under the Insurance Act. Nothing could be further from the truth, and you’re adding to the frustration these people are experiencing if you tell them that you can’t help them. Pushing them back on their broker is futile as well. I know of one brokerage firm an office of three agents that has 3500 clients in Fort McMurray. The office has been evacuated, and no one can get in to restore operations until the evacuation orders are lifted. The three brokers working there have all lost their homes and will be dealing with their personal priorities for a while. If you get a call from people looking for help with their claim, please provide them with information and advice.

  • Get them in front of the right people to initiate their claim.
  • Tell them to keep good records of their expenses.
  • Advise them as you would your own clients on beginning to prepare the lists of belongings lost.
  • Advise them on the time they have to get their claim started.
  • Most importantly, comfort them with assurances that you would give your own clients.

Of course, you will need to qualify the advice because you haven’t seen their policy, but you can provide general advise. You know what’s covered under a homeowners policy, and the statutes are absolute no matter who the insurer is. These people are desperate for words of comfort, and we can give it to them without creating an estoppel. Do what you can to help!

Replacing Alberta Official Documents

People who have been evacuated from Ft. McMurray and are in need of replacement documents—from auto registrations to driver’s licenses and birth certificates—can obtain these at most registry agents offices free of charge. The government has waived the fees for these people and most registry offices have waived them as well. People who are starting to rebuild their lives can be directed to a registry office to get this task underway.

In Closing

I am busy with a number of things focusing on the Ft. McMurray event and am cutting my essay short for this issue. Much more is to come on this story. After the tragedy of Slave Lake, much dialogue surrounded what could and should have been done to prevent what occurred there from happening again. All of our communities situated in the boreal forests of Canada must take note and begin to implement mitigation and suppression efforts to protect against wildfires. That discussion is for another day. Today, we focus on helping our fellow Albertans get through this.

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:  catastrophic risk  customer service  evacuation  Fort McMurray  IBC  Insurance Bureau of Canada  mitigation  wildfire 

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