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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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