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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:, or get in contact with Rob at 403-542-2660 / email

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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Stampede Breakfast, Brexit Effect on Industry’s Economy, GIC Elections

Posted By Thom Young, July 14, 2016

Yahoo! Ride ’em Strong!

Our annual Stampede Breakfast event has come and gone again. Last Wednesday morning was cool with threatening skies all around our venue but, other than a wisp of some misty sprinkles, no rain appeared until after our event came to a conclusion. Attendance seemed to be a down slightly from previous years, perhaps because of the threatening weather. It certainly did not deter those who did come from having a good time.

World-champion chuck-wagon driver Kurt Bensmiller came down once again with his wagon, donated his time, and made the day for a long line up of young children with his attention. The cowgirls in attendance were all anxious for a selfie with him. Many took pictures and obtained autographs. His wagon sponsor once again this year was the Tsuut’ina (Tsuu T'ina) Nation who provided an elder who performed blessings and songs of his people to honour our gathering. Perhaps he contributed to our avoidance of the foul weather in the rest of the city that morning. I wonder if he also helped Kurt win his heat that night at the Rangeland Derby.

Allen Christie and his band once again put on a terrific show, straying often from his country music roots to give the crowd some unique rock-and-roll performances. You can tell an event is going well if the band is enjoying itself, and Allen played 20 minutes longer than he was contracted!

Some controversy arose about how long this event has been going on. Our poster announced the 23rd year, but I’m certain that the first one took place in in 1992, the year before the event’s co-sponsor Southland Registrations opened. I think we had less than a 100 people show up the first year. Now over a thousand come each year. A company regional VP told me that his July broker contacts are mostly covered at our event on the Wednesday of Stampede week, and that this was his 10th year there. Hope to see you there next year!

Brexit Revisited

This topic continues to be in the forefront of our industry news along with the current mess made of the political process in the UK. A new prime minister has taken over and is charting what may well prove to be a costly unpopular course for the country. The “leave” constituency is taking the place of the “stay” representatives of the same ruling party. This expression of the democratic process in parliamentary democracy is sometimes difficult to comprehend. A change in party leadership produces a new government without an election, and the direction of the body politic changes mid-term, not to suffer a public-confidence test until the next general election. As is increasingly becoming clear to most of the voters in the UK, the process of leaving the European Union will not be without at the least short-term negative factors. A day of political reckoning that will overturn the results of this last silly referendum may well be at hand. Strange times.

From an industry perspective, the uncertain economic factors have had immediate impact on the investment side of the insurance business. As everyone should know, the profitability of our business and its ability to meet its obligations are directly impacted by the return on the premiums managed until the claims are paid. Sometimes companies invest these monies in self-administered funds that are industry specific, such as mortgage funds and the like. To simplify, these funds also attract other investors who share in the wealth generated by them. Large commercial-property projects are often funded in this way. Acting almost like a mutual fund for institutions, successful returns on the money held make these funds very attractive to investors. However, concerns about the viability of the investments can stimulate investors to remove their money from these funds, even when the returns are good. When funds are withdrawn, liquidity can be a real issue. Investments in long-term mortgages and the like can’t be easily turned into cash, so all these funds have time limitations on redemptions. That time allows the fund administrators to find other investors who will provide the cash needed to pay back those who have jittery feelings and want out. According to Insurance Business, Aviva and Standard Life have suspended redemptions on billion-dollar UK property funds in order to protect the interests of their investors. As you might imagine, a lot of investment institutions now have to deal with the “jittery feelings” that Brexit has caused with the resulting uncertainty about the economic future.

Amid the shouts of “The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” even a promise of huge returns on share investments doesn’t seem to be having the desired bolstering effect on those values. As Insurance Business notes, the share values continue to slump.

As I write, some stability seems to be returning to these markets, but we’ll have to wait to see if stability will return soon. Nonetheless, the implications of the falling stocks in our global marketplace extend to our country and throughout the whole of our industry.

General Insurance Council Elections Are Here Again

I’m always amused by the stakeholders’ consultation meetings that the Alberta Insurance Council hosts for insurance licence holders each year. This year, I attended both the one in Edmonton and the one in Calgary. Around a couple of hundred people showed up at each and, after a brief report from the chair, the usual questions were raised. As usual, the Life guys complained about the price of the licence and their processes; then one of the General guys got up and complained about having to listen to the Life guys complain. This time, the idea was voiced that separate stakeholder meetings should be held for those in General and Life insurance—a silly idea as the discussions clearly didn’t warrant that kind of attention and the numbers represented at the meeting wouldn’t justify any ruling one way or the other. What distressed me, though, is that many of the weighty issues I’ve been dealing with as a member of the General Insurance Council for the past three years (and years earlier) weren’t really the main focus of the discussions. When I attend industry functions (meetings of IBAA or the Blue Goose and the like), someone invariably corners me to discuss one of these issues passionately. Where were they during these consultations? A mystery to me.

In Alberta, licensing and discipline of General insurance licence holders is administered by the General Insurance Council. This council is made up of 3 elected insurance brokers, 2 appointed public members, 2 direct-writer agents sent by CADRI (their industry association), and 1 General insurance-company employee sent by IBC (the General-insurance industry association). Each serves for a three-year term, and they can be re-elected or nominated for two consecutive terms. A call for nominations for the election of 2 insurance brokers has been emailed out to all brokers holding a licence. My term is up, and I have been nominated for election to a second term.

If you are a broker holding a general insurance license, you will soon receive an email with a link defined by your licence number that will allow you to vote for your representation on this council. Unfortunately, of the more than 6000 brokers who are eligible to vote, often less than 1000 actually make the effort. We fought long and hard to get a voice in the regulatory process, and that voice is often challenged as irrelevant or unrepresentative because of the lackluster participation in the selection process.

With the email linking you to the voting survey, you will also receive a necessarily brief bio of the individuals running for election. Make this review and election a top priority, and encourage your fellow brokers to do the same. The brokers who sit on this committee are the ones who review the misconduct investigations that are brought forward for discipline hearings. They should bring the very unique broker perspective of how the industry works and an understanding of the process through which a responsible broker deals fairly and ethically with the challenges that present themselves in our business. They should also have an interest in keeping the regulatory process simple, effective and, most importantly, fair: fair to the licence holders, fair to the companies, and fair to the public. Bureaucracies can often overtake the interests of its departments, and strong and effective leadership is often the only way to reign in their intrusion into the process of a self-regulating body. I know that you will choose the person you think will be the best for the job, if you in fact make a choice. Sadly, though, I also know from past experience that many will not even bother to open the email to participate in the process. Such apathy reduces the effectiveness of the process and, consequently, the results as well.

As your representative on the GIC, I’ve been working very hard on the licensing issues that brokers have been dealing with in Alberta. Getting people over the licensing hurdle and into our business has been difficult in the past few years. Hopefully, the many changes that have been made and those that are coming will produce positive results. If they don’t, we’ll be revisiting the issues to find out why and fix the problem. The proposal for equivalencies continues to sit on a desk somewhere in the process of government approval. Alberta remains the only province in Canada that doesn’t recognize the value of our industry’s professional designations and forces people who have already invested their own time and money into taking examinations that benefit no one. Perhaps the government considers other issues more pressing, but the broker who is trying to buy a business and can’t get past the level 3 licence examination would surely disagree. People with CAIB, CIP, and other advanced degrees such as MBAs are having difficulty with the process. This process is just wrong and should be fixed, shouldn’t it? If you choose to vote, I would be happy to receive your endorsement and will work hard for you over the next three years. If I’m successful, this will be my second term and likely my last “kick at the cat” because I will be long past my prime when I’m eligible to run again!

Many other issues are at stake as well. My email address is below and my phone still works if you’d like any more information. You can also read my profile on LinkedIn.

In Closing

Do you know how difficult it is to get the appropriate number of words into this essay during Stampede week? Well, the rest of my day is set: off to the rodeo and then to the Zac Brown Band concert tonight! Edmonton will get its own version of our Stampede in the coming weeks, and each small town will enjoy a summer celebration that honours our Western heritage! The good and honest values represented by these celebrations are the same ones shared by all decent human beings who believe in the strength of community, fellowship, and fair hard work! Get out and have fun. Don’t step in any political commentary that might have fallen out of the back of a farm animal!

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:  Allen Christie  Brexit  CAIB  designations  General Insurance Council  investment  Kurt Bensmiller  licensing  Stampede breakfast  Tsuut’ina (Tsuu T'ina) Nation 

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Ride-Sharing Policy, Brexit, Storms and Systems

Posted By Thom Young, July 5, 2016

SPF 9 for Ride-Sharing Companies

The Alberta headline for the week is all about the SPF 9. George Hodgson sent a memo on June 28th to all IBAA members outlining this new automobile form, how it works, and where it applies. I can’t add anything of substance beyond the very excellent explanation given, so I’ve simply reproduced it below:

Superintendent Approves SPF 9 for Ride-Sharing Companies & Their Drivers

Uber and other ride-sharing drivers experience a unique mixture of personal and commercial exposures. The new SPF 9, if purchased by the Transportation Network Company (TNC), is designed to function with the owner's personal policy and to kick in when commercial coverage is required. How does this coverage work and what does it mean to you as a broker?

The driver's risk is broken into 4 categories that reflect the personal/commercial exposure:

The personal owner's policy covers exposures until the driver logs into a TNC. Upon login, some coverage from the SPF 9 could be available if the owner's policy does not provide coverage and the SPF 9 will provide coverage when the driver has accepted a ride and is en route to pick up. The policy does not cover street-hailed passengers.

What the SPF 9 Means for Brokers

  • Transportation Network Companies would purchase this commercial policy. The standard application form SAF 9 for this policy is attached to the Superintendent's bulletin.
  • The following endorsements are approved for use with the SPF 9: SEF 44 (Family Protection), SEF 23 (Mortgage), SEF 21A and 21B (Blanket Basis Fleet), SEF 13D (Limited Glass), SEF 13H (Hail Deletion), SEF 20 (Loss of Use), and SEF 43 R&L (Limited Waiver of Depreciation).
  • Fleet rating programs may be used with the SPF 9.
  • Drivers for a TNC should disclose that they are a driver to their broker as this is a material change in risk. Brokers should record and rate the risk appropriately on the SPF 1 owner's policy. In some cases, this may mean re-rating the risk as a class 07.
  • Brokers should be able to explain to their clients when their owner's policy (SPF 1) will provide coverage and when the TNC's policy (SPF 9) would provide coverage.

For full information please read the attached Superintendent of Insurance Bulletin.

For further information, please contact Rikki McBride, Chief Operations Officer, IBAA, at / 1-800-318-0197 ext 101 / 1-780-702-3715.

The industry has taken up the opportunity offered for this coverage in the Alberta marketplace. I’m told that ING has effective coverage through a national brokerage firm for the Uber ride-sharing operations. The coverage works much like an umbrella policy by picking up the commercial exposure where it exists and leaving the personal exposure and rating in place. As IBAA later clarified, the all-comers rule will not apply to TNC driver’s personal insurance applications due to the partial commercial exposure. It will be interesting to see if the personal-lines underwriters will accept this policy as mitigating the extra exposures incurred, look to limit their participation somehow, or apply a limited-experience rating to the equation. All of us are closely following the industry response. As this new set of circumstances is only a week old as I write, I look forward to seeing how it may evolve in the marketplace. If anyone has any insights on this change in our marketplace and how smooth its implementation will be, I’d be very happy to hear from you!

Everyone Is Talking about England These Days

Headline story 1: The English have been beaten at their sport (football/soccer) by the Icelandic national team made up of mostly part-time players with few professional prospects (until now) and coached by a dentist who volunteers his time to help the boys out.

Headline story 2: The English have passed a referendum to withdraw from one of the largest and most successful trade packages ever put together.

Imagine. Over the past three hundred years, successive conquering armies have expended men and resources for the authority to control and govern the European continent, and none have been able to make a go of it. Tired of the waste from competition within the virtually identical genetic haplogroup, the people came together in the name of trade and commerce and formed an economic union that allowed each other to share in the strengths of their markets without interfering with their local traditions and rulers. Wow, was that an achievement, and without a drop of blood shed anywhere! Under the heading that you can’t make everyone happy, many argued the worth of the deal, but the benefits couldn’t be denied. Like the North American Free Trade Agreement, national interests were respected while the free flow of goods between the signatories was promoted to the advantage of everyone. Further, the European Union enabled the citizens of each country to move freely over each other’s borders to pursue education, residency, and employment on a level playing field. What a concept! The union seemed to be a win for everyone by every measurement, and particularly for the United Kingdom. With UK dominance in the financial services sector, its competitive advantage as the main player in these European Union markets brought it huge gains from its participation. Well, along comes political discussion and the economic considerations seem to become unimportant. To placate the body politic in England, the political leaders agreed to hold a referendum on remaining in the European Union and began campaigning vigorously for the “remain” side of the question. For all intents and purposes, winning the vote to "remain" seemed to have slam-dunk certainty but, as we are seeing in many political contests at the moment, the expected logic of the electorate doesn’t seem to apply anymore.

With seeming illogic, the “leave” side carried the day by a margin of less than 2%, and financial markets worldwide are still reeling in shock.  All the positive economic factors in play can’t seem to win an argument against a xenophobic rant that is rooted in the myth of ancient prejudices and promotes the fear of nationalistic failure. Sadly, the process of becoming something bigger and better—of adding the best of your own worth into the mix and of benefiting yourself and everyone else—is too often overtaken by promoting fear of change and fear of those who are different.

The real loser here will be the UK people. Their “United” Kingdom is showing further cracks in solidarity at the prospects of leaving the European Union, and their currency devaluation will hamper their ability to import raw materials for the competitive production and sale of their goods ("U.K. Businesses in Limbo Due to Brexit"). Their education will now be limited by political geography and increased costs. Getting a visa isn’t always easy. Their ability to draw on an elite work force through unfettered access to competitively priced labour markets will further interfere with their current market advantages ("U.K. Businesses in Limbo Due to Brexit"). While some will be happy to proclaim control of their own destiny, that control decreases when people and companies become uncompetitive and difficult to deal with in today’s global marketplace.

What will the future bring for the relationship between the UK and the EU? I believe the UK will soon see the error in its ways. In the process of disentangling themselves from this trade pact, the people will see that they’ve been sold a bill of goods by the “leave” side of this contest. While they were convinced of the positives, they will soon be willing to trade those for the benefits they had by staying. None of this process will be quick. The political turmoil will continue for several months, and the demand to revisit the discussion will dominate the next political contest. History is written from the perspective of those who win in the end, and I believe that those who promoted Brexit will not later be held in high esteem. We shall have to wait and see though. In today’s political environment, I’m increasingly less certain of how things will eventually turn out. Am I getting older and more confused, or has anyone else noticed this unpredictability?

Still, one thing seems certain: with the dominance our industry has in the European marketplace through the stepping stone of England, our industry will suffer if the UK leaves! As Autonomous Research reports, the insurance business is already struggling and will likely slow further with Brexit.

Summertime and the Living Is … Easy (?)

Watching the wild and wacky weather shaking itself out over our part of the prairies these days brings to mind many concerns about the continued discussions about overland water and sewer backup. When a whole community such as Woodlands in South Calgary is completely surrounded and cut off by water from a local storm, I question once again the engineering of our storm runoff systems. On the other hand, when nearly 200 centimeters of hail shut down the main north-south highway in the province for a whole afternoon, I find myself once again in awe of what Mother Nature can toss into the mix whenever she feels like it.

In Closing

I’m presently enjoying my grandchildren while camping out in front of the Ponoka Legion—our 10th year at the same location for the rodeo and chuck-wagon races, boondoggling on the grass. It’s fun to see the teenagers just as excited about the show now as they were 10 years ago. While we’re roughing it out here, the inevitable summer storms are rolling through and pounding us off and on with rain and wind. It’s tornado season. Thankfully the damage has been relatively minimal. Let’s hope it remains so. The prediction is for Canada to be sunny and warm. The flag is proudly flying off the back of our motor home! I hope all of you enjoyed the Canada Day weekend. I know we did.

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:  all-comers rule  Brexit  flood  hail  ride sharing coverage  sewer backup  SPF 9  TNC  Transportation Network Company  Uber  wind 

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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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Federal Lobby and National Insurance Education Standards—Strength in Unity

Posted By Thom Young, June 10, 2016

A Report from the Capital

This past week I participated for the first time in the annual Insurance Brokers Association of Canada lobbying efforts in our nation’s capital. Once again, we focused on maintaining the status quo in the upcoming parliamentary review of the Bank Act. Currently, banks are able to compete with brokers so long as they separate their insurance operations from their banking operations. Under the current regulations, they are restricted from offering insurance products out of their branches and restricted from advertising their banking products with their insurance products. The Bank Act comes up for review every five years, and the influence peddlers called lobbyists work very hard to convince the lawmakers to produce regulations that favour their competing business plans and interests.

This year, the task is particularly onerous for both sides of the argument. Last year’s election results produced the largest turnover of MPs in several decades, so many of them are receiving these messages for the first time. This freshness can be an advantage as these people are just as diverse as our population. While you may think that their political stripes set the baseline for their opinions, I have found in my years of talking with political representatives that most are willing to hear you out and listen to your thoughts on the topics. Granted, they may have preconceived opinions. Nonetheless, most are doing their best to learn about the issues while finding out what being a representative of the people is actually all about. Getting to talk with newly elected members of parliament is a golden opportunity to present a good case for your cause that will not only influence their perspectives but will also stimulate discussions and debate within their caucus. The challenge to get an effective message on behalf the insurance industry to these people is coordinated by IBAC and delivered by volunteers from insurance broker associations from all across our country.

This year, we had nine people on task from Alberta and were very well received by everyone we met. Our message was brief and concise: our concern continues to be that, if banks and other credit-granting institutions are allowed to retail insurance from their branches, the public will be unfairly coerced into the purchase of insurance products. If the products are offered at the same time a loan is granted, the inference that the loan is conditional on acceptance of other services deters consumers from assessing the comparative value of the product for their circumstances and puts the insurer at an unfair advantage. If the bank doesn’t directly sell the products required to mitigate its loan risk, then consumers (or their brokers) are more motivated to shop for the best product. Since 1991, the banks have been restricted from selling insurance products from their branches, and the evidence shows the consumers well served by a competitive insurance marketplace. We’d like to see that competition continue.

My personal observations of the process were very positive. I’ve been to the Hill more than a dozen times in my life: as a child, a student, a soldier, and often just as a tourist. I recall a visit with my grandfather when I was very young. He was good friend of John Diefenbaker, and I was given what I thought of then as a very boring tour of the place by these two old fellows. I still recall some significant insights imparted to me then that remain in my mind today, especially the point that this is the people’s house and no part of it should ever be unavailable to the people. While some of our freedoms have been necessarily impeded as a result of the need for security (as evidenced by the bullet holes in parts of the building), parliament remains a very open place available to anyone willing to suffer the indignities of the countless security check points. I’m not really complaining about security though. The only downside of the lobbying was the amount of walking needed get to the appointments. It seemed we would just finish a meeting in the Justice building on the west side of the Hill and the next one would be at the East Block and then back to Justice. The timing and location was dictated by the people we were meeting with and not scheduled with our convenience in mind. Accordingly some 14 or more kilometers were recorded in the process by my group.

I found all of the MPs we met with to be interested and glad for the information we imparted. I was most impressed with the Senators we met. As to the issues and our concerns, they very much aware of the discussions and asked the most intelligent questions. Perhaps I’ll have to rethink my opinion of this institution as it does appear that good work is done by many of them regardless of the aberrations that we constantly hear about in the media. Recent changes to the manner in which the Senate works were also explained to me, and I was genuinely convinced that these people want to fulfill their constitutional obligations. Now they are freed from the yoke of political affiliation, they may well able to live up to their intent. Perhaps that’s a topic for a future issue.

Outside of our issues, many of the MPs we met with enlightened us with the concerns of their constituents. I was asked many questions about the impact of the assisted-dying legislation on the life-insurance business. Of topical concern, of course, were the recent fire losses in Fort McMurray. Most of the people we were talking with are following the media coverage. Expiry of the mass evacuation coverage was mentioned several times, as was the industry’s response to the proposed rezoning that would restrict rebuilding in certain areas in order to secure a proper fire break. We able to answer most of the questions, although they showed that much confusion still exists. Flood coverage was raised in almost every encounter we had. Many wanted to discuss the challenges in coverage variances and availability where it’s needed. These discussions left little doubt that our industry and what we do is very important to these people!

Hill Day was a great experience and, if you ever get a chance to go, don’t miss it. The strength and power of participating in a national association is an awesome thing to experience. Meeting with other brokers and discussing the common issues that concern us bonds us with a purpose. While we all compete with each other as we sell insurance, we also face the same disrupters to our business. As a group, our voice is loud and clear. Individually, we have only local influence that won’t protect us from the national challenges we share.

On the Topic of National Standards, What about Education?

Insurance is insurance is insurance, right? I think I could walk into an office in any country in Europe, build on the knowledge I have obtained in my years as an insurance professional, and find myself in very short order apprised of the small differences in the wordings or intent of the coverage offered to the public. I know I can read an insurance policy from England or the U.S. and interpret the coverages and limitations provided by it. In my career, I have completed the review of a number of different wordings originating in other countries that have become available in our Canadian market. I know I can determine in short order the differences in automobile coverage between all the Canadian jurisdictions and provide an overview to clients that would be sufficient for their understanding, albeit limited by the short notice. Where I don’t know the differences in coverage between Alberta and anywhere else, I can find them out quickly and report them accurately. I know I’m not special or different from many other insurance professionals who have not only acquired the body of knowledge needed to answer questions but also acquired the ability to learn and report on topics about our craft. We are always learning and, even without the regulatory requirement to demonstrate an effort each year, those of us who wish to remain competitive spend much more time learning to respond to our markets’ need for answers to questions than we are ever accredited with CE credits.

For a couple of years now, as a member of the General Insurance Council of Alberta (GIC), I’ve been working on educational issues and reviews of educational materials. It was determined a number of years ago that the licensing examinations had fallen behind and were not testing on changes in forms and coverages in use in our industry and that, with the regulatory changes in Alberta providing for three different levels of licenses, new examinations had to be prepared to address the expected Level 2 and Level 3 hierarchy of knowledge. The consequent changes proved to disrupt the process of getting people licensed as Level 1 agents and advancing them to Level 2. As a result, industry pressure on the regulator saw both the materials used to study for the exams and the questions used in the exams reviewed, reworked, and adjusted. The process is a long one involving competing educational interests and the mandate of the regulator to ensure the public is well served by intelligent and proficient general insurance brokers. The issue was not just that the exams were too hard. The study material has also been challenged as perhaps inadequate.

The process of reviewing the material used to study for the exams, preparing curriculum design documents, and preparing new exam questions that match the new curriculum has been underway for quite some time. The educators are still adjusting their course material so their students are well prepared for the exams. The process isn’t over yet but is well underway. My intent here is not to focus on this progress but to comment on the standards and, in particular, the criticism that the standards set by the Insurance Institute courses and the CAIB program are not relevant.

For quite some time now I’ve been trying to track down the origin of these challenges, and I’m distressed to learn that most of it seems to be coming from our sister association members of IBAC who have their own educational programs and who apparently see themselves as competing with the national program. They believe that the national program is lacking in content and in need of an update. Granted, our GIC committee’s very thorough content review of both the CAIB program and the CIP program did find a number of parts in need of updating, but we also found in both programs that the material referenced in the curriculum design documents (the content informing the examination questions for the license levels) was all adequately covered, with the exception of the specifics of automobile insurance in Alberta.

This discontent with the national education programs concerns me greatly. The influence it has with regulators in other provinces filters into our communication with our and other regulators through the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators and, in particular, into our communication with the Western Provinces Council of Insurance Regulators. The view that the national programs in place are lacking and insufficient both to learn from and measure equivalencies to the licensing standards has created havoc. As you may remember from a blog many months ago, our committee presented its work on equivalencies to the GIC, which recommended to our government that CIP and CAIB designation holders be granted equivalencies for each level of licensing in Alberta. The response from our regulator has been to tell us it may take a year or more before the government will address this issue. Reasons for the delay include the change in government, among other similar issues, but I have also been informed that the validity of the equivalencies is being questioned at the interprovincial meetings of the regulators.

I find it very strange that any provincial entity would want to undermine the validity of a national program provided by its parent association. Certainly, provincial qualification and licensing courses that meet the burden of content for passing a provincial examination are valuable, but the value of a professional designation that has national recognition can’t be discounted. Do we want to see the letters showing our professional achievements suffixed in brackets with our provincial abbreviation? I don’t. Where a provincial association sees a part of the national program in need of review or update, the inclination should be to fix it and to see the nominal cost of that fix as a contribution to betterment of the profession, not an inconvenience caused by the national organization’s failure to get it done in as quick a fashion as desired. For the record, the CIP and CAIB programs are constantly under review, and volunteers like me are actively involved in rewriting the parts that need updating. Don’t let anyone tell you that process isn’t ongoing—it is!

In Closing

I may be stepping on a few toes with this issue. It’s been a while since I took on as controversial a topic as this, but I am saddened to see our lack of unity. It devalues the status of those of us who have put in the time and effort to get a professional designation that, through the national efforts of IBAC, is recognized from Vancouver to St. John’s as a standard of excellence in the delivery of General insurance! We also look like a bunch of kids arguing in a candy store when the regulators meet to deal with our issues.

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:  assisted-dying legislation  Bank Act  building codes  CAIB  Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators  credit-granting institutions  evacuation coverage  flood  Fort McMurray fire  General Insurance Council  Hill Day  IBAC designations  licensing courses and exams  Licensing Level 1  Licensing Level 2  Licensing Level 3  life insurance  property coverage  Senate reform  Western Provinces Council of Insurance Regulators  zoning bylaws 

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IBAA Convention—Highlights and Benefits

Posted By Thom Young, May 30, 2016

Another Convention Come and Gone

Attending your industry association’s convention is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your own enterprise. While this rule applies to those who pursue a vocation in any industry, it is especially true in the General insurance business. As we compete for the same customers, the ensuing competitive environment provides the public with a better outcome on price and service. Knowing who your competition is and what they’re doing is a very important part of the process and, in a complicated business such as ours, being aware of what’s new and developing is critical to remaining competitive.

Attending convention lets you study the issues affecting your market to determine why you’re losing clients to someone else. It also provides information about ways to react to changing markets and conditions ahead of your competitors—and we all know that change in our industry is inevitable. Peeking into the future at a convention helps you prepare for it. No matter what industry publications you follow, nothing gives you a better firsthand look at what’s available than walking around the industry trade show. Anyone with a solution for your problems is there vying for your business—insurers, Broker Management System suppliers, claims-response companies, adjusters, contractors, special-risk markets, education suppliers, human-resource companies, you name it. With their competitors nearby, you can quickly and easily compare their products and prices. Talk about getting a competitive advantage!

Beyond the trade show, the convention offers many opportunities for networking and information gathering. Seminars offer insights into the evolution of the business, with the added bonus of obtaining those much needed Continuing Education credits just before your licenses are due for renewal. Even better are the meetings and the gatherings hosted by the companies you deal with (or don’t) in informal, comfortable settings. Getting one-on-one time with the heads of Canadian insurance companies provides interesting insights into the problems our business is facing and how to mitigate them. Advance notice on the roll out of new products or, even more important, changes to existing ones is often timed to coincide with these gatherings so the senior managers can gauge the enthusiasm for their planned changes and adjust them if necessary prior to release. You can’t put a price on this investment of time and resources.

If you haven’t attended convention because you’re not sure that there’s a cost benefit to the time or the money spent, I think you’re making a mistake. If you can’t be away for the whole 3+ days, attend at least a day or so. IBAA provides attractive pricing for these options. If you’re interested in finding out what your association is doing for you and the direction its advocacy group is leaning into the political winds, the Annual General Meeting is a must. It's free for all members to attend and to ask questions. You might also be so inclined to get further involved in the process and put your name forward when the calls for nomination are sent from local councils and the IBAA executive and board of directors. If you get involved as a regional representative or board member, you could actually have a say in the direction of the association and make the policy. Your ideas are as good as anyone’s, so get them out there.

Did you know that this year was Larry Heron’s 53rd time attending the AGM? He was president of the organization in 1981 (Insurance West). When his record of attendance was announced, someone poked me and jokingly asked how many more years until I catch up with him. I had never really given any thought to the number of times I’d attended. Working backwards with a failing memory, I believe this year was my 27th consecutive AGM. I credit a lot of my success in this business with my involvement in IBAA. From the contacts I’ve made to the help I’ve received with issues throughout the years, any costs I’ve incurred have been repaid many times over. I certainly recommend that you attend as often as you can.

For those of you who didn’t attend the convention, one of the high points was (and frequently is) the CEO panel. A group of willing insurer CEOs assembles to express their views on current events, postulate on the challenges, and opine on the future of the insurance industry. Here are my takeaway from the discussions:

  • This year, eight CEO attended: Greg Somerville from Aviva, Karen Gavan from Economical, Jean-François Blais from Intact, Gene Paulsen from Peace Hills, Bob Tisdale from Pembridge, Rowan Saunders from RSA, Duane Sanders from Travelers, and Jeff Goy from Wawanesa.  Front and centre was the Fort McMurray wildfire, evacuation, and tremendous losses the people have suffered. All company representatives discussed the need to help these folks through the claims process as quickly as reasonably possible.
  • The consensus at the AGM on supporting market distribution through digital access was resoundingly echoed by the CEOs. All the insurers are moving in this direction. While the digital market could be a disrupter, we’ve been dealing with it for a decade now. Further, making the product easier to buy does not change the dynamics of customer service formulae. The real test for service in our business arises when the client has a loss. As yet, no digital interface successfully deals with the needs of clients when they have a claim. Personal contact is still critical to keeping the client happy.
  • We now have a UBI product available through Pembridge. Others are soon to follow.
  • Several panellists spoke to the need for brokers to “catch up” on the tech side of things.
  • As a broker who remains frustrated with the inability of the companies to get their database systems to allow a Single Entry Multiple Company Interface on any line of business, it amuses me when insurers say brokers are behind on technology. For 20 years we’ve heard excuses such as security, connectivity, and legacy systems, yet I believe a cooperative and workable solution to this problem doesn’t exist because the companies see database management as a competitive advantage, rather than as a tool of process. The Canadian Banking system moves much more data than insurance companies do over a network built cooperatively through the Canadian Payment association. The banking system not only provides a secure platform for customers and members but also meets the need for customization to each bank’s processes. You can use your bank card at any ATM, regardless of provider. In the insurance world, we’re still arguing about which line numbers of the database have what data in them and cannot come up with a consistent way of sending and receiving data. Please don’t tell brokers they need to catch up on technology when insurers cannot provide a viable digital solution. “If you build it, we will come!”
  • Quite a bit of discussion focused on the continued need to both prevent and mitigate claims through all means possible. Referencing Fort McMurray and other fire losses that may become more serious due to climate change, separating communities from the boreal forests in Canadian communities should be a priority. Enhancing building codes and introducing bylaws that require all roofs to be constructed of non-combustible material was suggested as a responsible approach, much like similar undertakings recommended to mitigate flood losses.

I always enjoy the enlightening and informative perspectives of the CEOs who agree to participate. Where I have unanswered questions at these events, I am often fortunate enough to be able to ask the individuals directly at the many social functions at convention (although I don’t always get an answer). Had I had the opportunity to ask the panel directly, I would have questioned the wisdom of competing with their own distribution channels under the same name. A separate entity creates a level playing field for broker competition. Oh, well, I know the question has been asked and answered!

In Closing

I enjoyed seeing many old friends and colleagues in Banff last week and was encouraged to hear that the work I put into this blog is appreciated. Even more inspiring, I heard from many new people who look forward to this little essay and value the perspectives I try to present. Of course, they do not agree with everything I write, but stimulating discussion and debate on issues that affect us is really the aim of an editorial opinion, isn’t it? While I don’t often get accused of being timid with the issues, I go to great lengths to be respectful and fair to both sides of the debate. That perspective is often a challenge, particularly when I find myself passionate about a topic. So far, reader support seems to indicate that I am meeting that goal.

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:  CEO panel  Fort McMurray  IBAA board involvement  IBAA convention  Single Entry Multiple Company Interface  technology  wildfire 

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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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Climate Effects on Insurance Stability, Distracted Driving Continues, National Tissue and Organ Donation, Canadian Senate Tragedy

Posted By Thom Young (Full first name: Thomas Clifford John), April 27, 2016

Climate Change Effects on Insurance Stability

In my recent musings through the industry press, I came across an interesting article on climate change entitled “The Earth’s Temperature Has Just Shattered the Thermometer.” Why the insurance industry in particular hasn’t gotten on board with the current flavour of the debate on global warming or, as we’ve come to hear it called now, climate change has always been a mystery to me.

I occasionally hear a smidgen of concern from underwriting gurus and the odd senior executive for the belief that climate change is going have a huge impact on the earth, but there really hasn’t been a full-blown united expression of belief that dire consequences will come about if action isn’t taken immediately to reverse the effects of human influence on the earth’s climate. In my private discussions with a number of senior people in our industry, a nagging doubt persists about the causal relation of human beings to climate change. Often the science of climate change itself is doubted. Some point out that the historic and geological records display wide swings in climate around our globe and that archeological records during human habitation show long periods of cooling and warming in unidentifiable cycles with indeterminable causes. With little consensus on what actually happened, scientists themselves speculate on what caused the last ice age to occur and what caused it to end.

The insurance perspective is unique. In our business, predictive cycles are critical to the success of our enterprise. We share and mitigate loss risks. Actuarial analysis is a predictive science. Assumptions about future events are based on historical data, and those predictions are adjusted by applying variables such as changes in climate, demographics, or even chance. The insurance analysis can get very complicated and inexact, for example, integrating variables such as ethnicity, cultural behaviour, DNA analysis, and the now-mapped human genome. Definitive conclusions are not necessary in actuarial analysis to allow for their possibility and calculate the mathematical probability. (Thinking about such calculations, I’m glad I decided to be a broker, rather than an actuary. Several times in my insurance career, I’ve listened to actuaries debate the validity of their calculations. I have always come away from those meetings with a great degree of confusion—and a throbbing headache.) Thus the divergent views on climate change may be irrelevant to an insurance-based risk analysis.

Regardless, I take exception to the claim in the above article that the effects of global warming may bankrupt our business. Hogwash! Long before our well-capitalized and reserved guarantees would not be honoured, the whole financial sector would need to have collapsed. If anyone is concerned about such a potential collapse, I’ll bet I could find some insurance executives to support increased rate surcharges to build special reserves for that purpose. The thing is, though, the surcharge would have to be shared by all market participants, so the regulator would have to mandate it. In the political realm, I think the science needs to be a little more exact.

As I am finishing up this piece, my morning newsfeeds contain this dire warning:

UN Calls for Long-Term Climate Stability
The world faces even greater catastrophic weather incidents unless leaders vow to go further to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction is today (Apr. 21) calling for signatories of the Paris Agreement to go beyond existing commitments.

“It is clear that weather and climate are implicated in 90% of major disaster events attributed to natural hazards. Droughts, floods, storms, and heatwaves have the potential to undermine many developing states’ efforts to eradicate poverty. Climate change is adding to pre-existing levels of risk fuelled by exposure and socio-economic vulnerability,” Robert Glasser said.

He called for the more than 160 countries that have signed the Paris Agreement to “scale up the level of ambition” to cut emissions or face the “real danger of being overtaken by the rapid pace of global warming.” (Insurance Business)

Let the political discussions begin.

Distracted Driving Continues Unabated

According to Sgt. Glenn Bangs, the number of distracted-driving tickets issued in Edmonton seems to increase year over year. Police in Edmonton say that “the worst offenders are people 33 to 44 years old.” In 2012, 4597 distracted driving tickets were issued in Edmonton, jumping to 5197 tickets in 2013, 5285 tickets in 2014, and 5928 tickets in 2015.

Statistics, damned statistics. Were exactly the same efforts made by the Edmonton police force each year? Likely not, but the statistics make a good angle for a story, don’t they?

Regardless, the anecdotal evidence on distracted driving finds most in agreement that the activity is not abating anywhere in any way. Either the increasingly severe penalties and increased efforts at enforcement seem not to deter the activity, or not enough time has been factored into assessing the result. Since January 1st, 2016, fines for this infraction in Alberta have increased to $287 and, more importantly, add three demerit points on the driver’s license. These demerits brings the activity into our realm, and now insurers are able to select against and charge for the increased risk that these people present. A whole calendar year or more will pass before the deterrent effect of these costs will be measurable.

I’ve always been on the fence on this subject, and I’m still looking for the statistical link between the activity and increased claims costs. So far, I’ve yet to see any unbiased assessment that supports such a claim. I’m not arguing that the activity is safe or that it should be allowed, just wryly observing that incidence of loss overall doesn’t support the conclusions of many.

Technology is available to limit the use of cell phones in automobiles. Perhaps, as with seat belts, such controls should be mandatory. Someone with three distracted-driving tickets in Alberta would owe nearly $1000 in fines and incur 9 demerit points, leaving the Facility as the only carrier willing to insure such a driver. The extra cost of installing limiting technology in such a person’s vehicle would look like a bargain in comparison.

Clearly, this debate must continue before a resolution to the problem will present itself. When I was a young lad, the largest distraction while operating a motor vehicle was drinking and driving. The rules weren’t very severe or enforced. Many didn’t believe it was a problem, and people who pronounced their proficiency at operating a motor vehicle after consuming considerable amounts of alcohol were unchallenged by the majority. Statistics and science proved them wrong, and the social rules that allowed for drinking and driving started to change. The seriousness of the act and the carnage it produced became a significant social issue that produced stronger and more effective penalties and intolerance for the activity to the extent that effective enforcement is now the norm and the results life changing. We will continue to monitor this issue closely.

National Tissue and Organ Donor Week

If you attended an Alberta Registry Office last week, you may have noticed that the clerks were wearing a lanyard to bring attention to the need for organ and tissue donors in Canada. The Alberta Registry Association has undertaken this cause to promote donor registration in the Alberta. The voluntary process for collecting the permission of Albertans to donate their organs and tissues is woefully inadequate to the need. Currently, 120,000 people are on waiting lists for transplants, and that number seems only to be rising. The simple act of registering to make this huge humanitarian contribution takes only a minute and can end up giving the gift of a healthy life to someone living on the edge of finality or with the limitations of an easily corrected disability. Please make this a topic for discussion in your household. It costs you nothing and improves the community around you. When you next visit a Registry Office for any service, consider asking for assistance in registering yourself for this donation. You can even do it now yourself at

I believe that donation consent should be implied, meaning that approval is implied unless someone registers to opt out. People would then be required to make an effort to register their objection and to think about the donation. Tens of thousands of people would be removed from waiting lists and receive the simple procedures that would improve their lives. In a perfect world, everything would be perfect, wouldn’t it? Do have this discussion. It is important!

The Senseless Tragedy of the Canadian Senate

One of the most controversial articles I’ve written, as measured by the reader response, was my observations on the Duffy trials and tribulations. My point regarding the unnecessary existence of the Red Chamber in the workings of our Canadian parliamentary system brought a number of comments about the sober second thought envisioned by Sir John A. MacDonald, the need for an unbiased review to restrain the mob of democracy, and the belief that an august group of esteemed Canadians could bring some influence upon political realities. I responded to these writers by observing that the current structure of our senate meets none of the desires envisioned for it and that, without any political will to fix the problem, perhaps the senate could be done away with by a consensus. Well, that demolition is not likely in my lifetime.

The declaration by the judiciary that senator Mike Duffy has been found innocent of all charges brought against him is not a declaration that his actions were moral, just, or even wrong, but one that reinforces the wanton abandon of accountability to the people of all the senators in our Canadian senate.

I predicted that Mike Duffy would not be convicted of the charges brought against him. Political pandering and media circus aside, there was never any inkling of any rules broken or laws broken. The legal review affirmed that no expense rules existed to begin with. Mr. Duffy can now expect to be reinstated in good standing to his position and fully reimbursed for any holdbacks on his compensation and expenses. Likely a jig will be danced, particularly by those who were waiting to see if any charges might be brought against them for similar claims. In the end, the shame of it all is that the cost of all of these proceedings, including Mr. Duffy’s defence costs, will be borne by the Canadian taxpayer. No doubt though, the shame will neither be great enough nor the cost absurd enough to stimulate any action to correct the deficiencies!

In Closing

Once again, with the wonderful spring we’re having, watch for the two-wheelers on our roads and highways. Look twice. The most common accident between a car and a motorcycle occurs when the car turns in front of the biker. The first thing car drivers always say is that they didn’t see the biker. The truth is that they weren’t looking for them.

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:  actuarial analysis  catastrophic risk  climate change  distracted driving  organ and tissue donation  regulation risk management  senate reform  senator Mike Duffy 

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Motor Vehicle Renewal Notice Changes, Self-Driving Cars, Crazy Laws

Posted By Thom Young (Full first name: Thomas Clifford John), April 12, 2016

Changes in the Way the Government Communicates with Us

It’s funny how bureaucrats think. The resolution of a problem often seems to ignore the effect of the action that resolves it. Political considerations seem to be reviewed with a self-induced euphoria about the positive effects the action will have. When the change turns out to be unpopular or unworkable, it’s rare for anyone to own the reason for it.The changes to motor vehicle license renewal seem to be a case in point.

The folks who make the policy at Service Alberta (that’s the department that manages things like motor vehicle license registrations and renewals) have determined that they will save postage and handling costs if they stop mailing renewal notices to the public for their license plate renewals, and the public will be so much happier to receive their renewal notice via email instead of by mail. Now, if I was introducing a service like this to my customers, I think I’d have a plan in place to advise them of this change on their last renewal, give them the opportunity to update an email contact listing, and require them to visit an interactive website in order to open such an account with me. Then I’d send out a confirmation reminder via email perhaps 90 days or so before the expiry requesting confirmation of the new arrangement. If I didn’t get a reply, I’d send them the old paper-style renewal again and remind them of the need to register their email address before the next renewal. After several cycles that way, then I’d actually call them to get things organized or determine that they don’t have the capability of communicating this way and put them in a special category for paper communication on the next renewal. In our business, we’re interested in keeping these people happy with the way we are dealing with them so they don’t seek better service from our competitors. The government doesn’t really have any competitors, so the incentive to care isn’t so great.

Failing to care is a sure-fire recipe for annoying everyone. There’s really no one to complain to about this change in service either. You can go yell at your registry agents, but they don’t have anything to do with setting the policy and, in fact, have already fought with the bureaucrats to get a workable system in place for these renewals. Those in charge think it’s all going to work out fine. I have my doubts.

As insurance brokers, our services to our customers often do not coincide with the motor vehicle license renewal cycle. People who move to our province need to get insurance before they can register their vehicles. Their policies are effective on their first registration. Since the motor vehicle license renewal cycle is based on alphabetized names, it will not likely coincide with the insurance renewal. Nonetheless, we could provide a helpful service to our clients by letting them know about this new government policy. Here’s the nuts and bolts of it:

Effective April 1, 2016 (no joke here), renewal notices will no longer be processed by regular mail. If you haven’t registered for an email advisory with the government directly or with one of the registry agents that offer this service (not all do), then you’d better make a calendar reminder somewhere to ensure that you renew your vehicle registration prior to its expiry. There is an exception: if you are over 70 years of age or have a disability, you will receive a mailed renewal notice until next April when everyone will be treated the same. I’m not sure how they are tracking disabled people, but they do have a way to track age. If you don’t fall into either of the aforementioned categories and don’t feel a calendar reminder will be effective, sign up for an email reminder using one of the following three methods.

The latter allows you to choose email, text, or both email and text messages.

Time will tell if this new “service” brought to you by the Government of Alberta is a success or if it fails to meet the needs of the Alberta public. No doubt the government will save a substantial amount on postage, but those who fail to renew their registration on time will produce additional general revenues for the government. The fine for driving a vehicle with an expired license plate tag is $230 dollars. Worse still, the officer has discretion to impound your car until you produce the valid registration for it. In addition to being stranded on the side of the road, the cost does not stop at the fine. Depending on where you are, about $200 more could be added to the cost for the tow and impound fees plus the taxi ride to the registry and the impound lot. It’s not small potatoes when you add it all up. If you are caught with expired registration while getting a ticket for something else, you can find yourself quickly having a $1000-day with zero entertainment value.

One of my favourite quotations is “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you!” Good luck with that!

Self-Driving Cars

I keep hearing all these reports about the challenges of insuring self-driving automobiles. What’s the fuss about? The owner of the automobile is responsible to ensure the vehicle and its operation regardless of who the driver is. The SPF 1 anticipates that the driver will hold a “license,” or specifically, that the owner believes the driver does when care and custody of the vehicle is given over. The driver is also expected to have a “legal capacity” and not be impaired. The only challenges to insure vehicles driven by computers, then, seem to be that the computer must have a license and the insurer must be willing to assume the risk. Licensing is mostly a regulatory issue. The experience of the computer programs that will be driving these cars could be easily determined from the computer records of these programs in operation. In general, I think that experience will show the computers are much safer drivers with reduced losses, but I might be having a bout of wishful thinking here.

If the computers produce the substantially better loss experience they are predicted to, then the end result will be much lower payouts for insured losses that will have a positive effect on the business, won’t it? If overall claims decline, then everyone benefits.

Still I’m confused about all the hype about how to insure these risks. I’m quite certain that insurers will lineup to participate in that pool.

Some Crazy Laws

In Florida, if you tie your elephant up at a parking meter, you have to put money in the meter or you’ll be fined. Here are some other crazy rules and regulations that actually are laws on the books:

16 crazy rules
  1. In England all Hackney vehicles (taxi cabs) must have a bale of hay and a bag of oats with them at all times.
  2. All Danish vehicle operators must check under the car before they start it to be sure there’s no one underneath.
  3. Eating or drinking anything while driving a motor vehicle in Cyprus is against the law!
  4. In Luxembourg all vehicles must have windshield wipers even if they don’t have a windshield.
  5. In Russia you can be fined for driving a dirty car!
  6. In Germany it is illegal to run out of gas while driving on an autobahn!
  7. In Spain you are required to have an extra pair of glasses in your car if you wear glasses!
  8. In some cities in Spain you can only park on the odd numbered side of the road on odd days and the even side of the road on even days. Failure to comply will see your car towed.
  9. In Scandinavian countries you are required to have headlights on at all times.
  10. In Estonia it is required that you have two wheel chocks in your automobile at all times.
  11. In Turkey you are required to have a safety kit in your car that has a fire extinguisher, reflective triangle and first aid kit, you must show this to the police when stopped or you will be fined.
  12. In France all vehicle have to have a Breathalyzer in them and there is a fine of 11 euros if you can’t show it to the police when asked.
  13. All cars on the road in Serbia must have a tow bar and a 3 meter tow rope.
  14. In Manilla you are not allowed to drive on Mondays if your license plate ends in 1 or 2.
  15. In Japan if you splash a pedestrian driving through a puddle you will be fined $65.
  16. In Singapore it’s against the law for a driver to come within 50 meters of a pedestrian but pedestrians aren’t allowed to walk on the roads either.

Never underestimate the ability of legislators to come up with silly rules and regulations to “protect” you. Remember my favourite quotation, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

In Closing

I trust everyone is enjoying this unseasonal weather. It seems too early to declare that spring has sprung, but tell that to the trees that are budding out and tulips pushing through the garden. All the same, don’t count Mother Nature out. She’s sure to toss another winter storm at us before summer comes. As you’re out enjoying this balmy weather, please look twice for motorcycles. The life you save may be mine!

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:  autonomous cars  motor vehicle license renewal  motorcycle  self-driving cars  Service Alberta  SPF 1  vehicle registration 

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