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Global Outreach of Bill and Melinda Gates, Aviva Overland Flood Policy

Posted By Thom Young, February 26, 2015
Updated: March 11, 2015

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

When it comes to industry success and marketing strategy, I’m often asked where I get some of my ideas. I’d like to brag about how they are all original thoughts that I developed all by myself, but the truth is there’s rarely any new idea on how to manage any business that hasn’t been tried before with varying degrees of success or failure. Management and marketing are studies that you never complete. The process continually evolves with the changes in social mores and the behaviour of the market you’ve selected. All those boring economic theories really do come into play when developing a market strategy, and a good healthy understanding of human behaviour is the most important management skill you can develop. Remember the basic rule of everything: “People with experience don’t make as many mistakes as those without, but you don’t gain any experience until you’ve made a whole bunch of mistakes.” The trick is to not make those mistakes more than once.

Over the years I’ve read probably over a thousand motivational and management books. They’re easy to find in the bookstore, on the internet, or in the library in my basement. Literally, tens of thousands of books exist on how to be a better sales person, manager, and business owner. Almost all of them deliver a core message that doesn’t change much. Know your product, know your customers, and know your employees. Treat everybody well, work hard, and you’ll be successful. There’s a lot of ground to cover before you figure all that out though, and getting it right more often than not means getting it wrong first.

The best advice is to associate yourself with successful people and pay attention. I’ve rarely met anyone who has achieved any degree of success who isn’t generous with time and willing to help you address issues you face. Following people who are successful has been a favourite pastime of mine since I first learned how to read, and paying attention to the key turning points that contributed to their success is where you should be making notes. Whether reading Homer or Plato, or the biography of Henry Ford or Winston Churchill, there are as important lessons to learn as in following Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or Bill Gates.

Speaking of Bill Gates, I have a copy of his original book The Road Ahead, which I bought the day it came out. It was a hard read at the time. Mr. Gates is a much better computer programmer than an entertaining writer, but his perspective on things is interesting to note. Unlike Steve Jobs, who was an innovator, Gates developed standard equipment that dominated the marketplace, and his ideas about what the road ahead would look like certainly weren’t as exciting to me as understanding how he’d managed to create this empire that continues to dominate the business-machine marketplace. He knocked old mechanical standards off the shelves, leaped over the competition, and introduced subscription-based software advances that are now the norm in an industry that barely existed when he started. He did this with what many would describe as a mediocre product that fell far behind the capabilities of his main competitors’ offerings. In doing so, he became the richest man in the world—all from a standing start in a garage in 1975. Quite the story of success. Now Bill Gates and his wife Melinda run a charitable foundation that lets him manage the tremendous amount of wealth he’s accumulated toward the improvement of others in the world. The idea of a foundation bettering others and funded by a single individual is not new. The Carnegie Foundation has probably produced more positive advancement in education than any government organized enterprise. However, the global outreach by a single person is truly new and, in my view, the success of such an endeavour will have a serious positive effect on the further advancement of our species.

Late last month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put forth a progress report on their efforts to improve the lot of humanity. It was done with both a look at the results they are able to measure on significant markers and predictions of what the future improvements will be fifteen years from now. It is an interesting read and I’m privileged to be able to share it with you:

Fifteen years ago, the two of us made a bet.

We started our foundation in 2000 with the idea that by backing innovative work in health and education, we could help billions of people improve their lives. The progress we've seen so far is so exciting that we are doubling down on the bet we made 15 years ago.

Here's our bet: The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. We're putting our credibility, time and money behind this bet because we think there has never been a better time to accelerate progress and have a big impact around the world.

Here are four big breakthroughs we see coming by 2030:

First, child deaths will go down by half. In 1990, one in 10 children in the world died before age 5. Today, it's one in 20. By 2030, it will be one in 40. Almost all countries will include vaccines for diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the biggest killers of children, in their immunization programs. Better sanitation will cut the spread of disease dramatically. And we're learning how to help more mothers adopt practices such as proper breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with their babies that prevent newborns from dying in the first month after they're born.

Second, Africa will be able to feed itself. Today, the continent has to rely on imports and food aid to feed its people, even though seven out of ten people in sub-Saharan Africa are farmers. Part of the problem is that African farmers get just a fraction of the yields that American farmers get. In the next 15 years, however, innovations in farming will erase these brutal ironies. With better fertilizer and hardier crops, African farmers will be able to grow a greater variety of food and sell their surpluses to supplement their family's diet with vegetables, eggs, milk, and meat.

Even as climate change makes farmers' job more difficult, we can get them enough innovation and information to increase productivity by 50% for the continent overall. Countries like Ghana are also building better roads and adopting policies that make it easier to move food to the places where it's most needed. In 15 years, Africa will still import food when it makes sense to do so, but it will also export much more, eventually achieving a net positive trade balance.

Third, mobile banking will help the poor radically transform their lives. Today, some 2.5 billion people don't have access to cheap and easy financial services—a problem that makes it much more difficult to be poor. If your savings is in the form of jewelry or livestock, for example, you can't very well chip off tiny pieces to cover routine daily expenses.

But in the next 15 years, digital banking will give the poor more control over their assets. The key will be mobile phones. Already, in developing countries with the right regulatory framework—such as Bangladesh—people are using their phones to store money digitally and make purchases. By 2030, 8% of the adults without bank accounts today will be doing the same.

And by then, mobile money providers will be offering the full range of financial services, from interest-bearing savings accounts to credit to insurance.

Fourth, as high-speed cell networks grow and smartphones become as cheap as today's voice-only phones, online education will flourish. Before a child even starts primary school, she will be able to use her mom's smartphone to learn her numbers and letters. Software will be able to see when she's having trouble with the material and adjust for her pace. Of course, software will never replace teachers. But by allowing teachers to do things like upload videos of themselves and get feedback from their peers, it can connect them in new ways.

What will it take to make sure life really does improve faster for the poor? We need advances in technology and we need to deliver them to the people who need them most. We also need to close the gender gap. Countries where girls don't go to school or women can't open a business will be left behind.

Another crucial factor will be people who care about helping those in the world's poorest places improve their lives. We're aiming to recruit millions of new advocates—we're calling them global citizens—to urge world leaders to be ambitious when they meet in September to adopt a new set of goals that will guide the world's efforts to tackle disease, poverty, and climate change for the next 15 years.

Beyond 2015, we hope these global citizens will hold governments and other decision-makers accountable for meeting those goals.

You can show your support by signing up at, where you can learn how to get engaged and connect with other organizations working to make 2015 a historic year. We believe that informed, passionate people can work together to make the world a more equitable place. In fact, we're betting on it.


In The Road Ahead, Bill Gates makes many predictions of improvements in human development as a result of technological advancements, but clearly the ones that will level the social condition are the ones on which he’s making the best progress.

A Turning Point in the Canadian Insurance Marketplace?

Reading in the industry press this week and hearing from a couple of little birdies attending a conference in Houston Texas, there would seem to me to be on the horizon the biggest change in our Canadian insurance market in my life time. The word is that Aviva is about to launch (effective June 2015) the availability of a water damage endorsement to the standard IBC homeowners wordings that includes coverage for overland water damage. This form will be initially available in Ontario and Alberta. Details are very sketchy, and, try as I have in the past several days, I’ve not yet been able to get any more information than that about this.

Many questions are being asked about this policy. We are all anxious to know what the sub-limits might be, what the exclusions are, and how pricing compares to the residual market. I, like many of you, am holding my breath in anticipation of this information, but it is absolutely refreshing to see this positive development for our clients. The competitive marketplace is already buzzing about this, and no doubt some anxious reviews are being undertaken by senior underwriting and actuarial managers in all of the companies competing for personal-lines property clients. Brokers should be enthused that this new desirable product is being introduced first through a broker company and not a direct writer. I will predict that the introduction will begin with a limited form that will be substantially increased over time as loss experience is developed and in response to competitive pressures. This policy is long overdue and will quickly become a marketing touch point with your customers and your insurers. If you’re not talking with them about this yet, you should be!

I am following this closely and promise to report further in my future columns as the information becomes available. A great big “well done” goes to Sharon Ludlow, President, Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, and her team for leading the way on this. I note that Sharon is well positioned as a director on the Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction as well, which no doubt has provided factual insights into the viability of such a program. I’ve been often quoted as a believer in the viability of this type of product in Canada and am absolutely ecstatic about its development.

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:  Aviva overland flood policy  Bill and Melinda Gates 

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