Insurance brokers CEO uses business breakfast to paint disagreement with MPI as David-and-Goliath battle
Axis Capital, Chubb and a handful of European insurers embrace a business shift to renewable energy insurance
The article was written By Rachel Koning Beals
Axis Capital Holdings Ltd AXS, +0.40% is the latest insurer to give up profit potential from coal and oil sands, a departure it says supports the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Axis said Wednesday it will not provide new insurance or facultative reinsurance for construction and infrastructure for new thermal coal plants or mines, nor for oil sands extraction and pipeline projects.
Specifically, Axis will not insure companies that generate 30% or more of their revenue from thermal coal mining or hold more than 20% of their reserves in oil sands. Renewals, however will be on a case-by-case basis.
“We believe insurers have an important role to play in mitigating climate risk and transitioning to a low-carbon economy,” said Axis President and CEO Albert Benchimol in a release. For oil sands production, oil is forced from sand at intense temperatures, using water and natural gas to separate out the extremely thick bitumen. Impure and too viscous to flow, it goes through an “upgrading” process before traveling via pipeline to an oil refinery.
“This policy is in line with our broader strategies such as reducing investments in lines that do not align with our long-term approach; investing in growth areas, such as renewable energy insurance, where we are a top five global player; and growing our corporate citizenship program, a core focus of which is creating a positive environmental impact,” Benchimol said.
The Unfriend Coal campaign said in a report last year that global losses tied to coal hit $337 billion in 2017, including insured losses of $144 billion.
“While Axis’s policy is a good step, it must eliminate the geographic loophole in its policy and stop insuring new coal projects everywhere today, especially in Southeast Asia where there are hundreds of proposed power plants. We call on insurers around the globe to step up and improve upon Axis’s policy,” said Brett Fleishman, head of global finance campaigns at advocacy group 350.org, in a tweet from Insure Our Future campaign, a consortium of activist groups.
The Bermuda-based insurer’s policy shift aligns with that of competitor Chubb Ltd CB, -1.05% , which in July became the first U.S. insurer to pledge to phase out its coal investments and insurance policies, saying then it will no longer sell new insurance policies to or invest in companies that make more than 30% of their revenue from coal mining. The company said for existing coal plants, insurance coverage for risks that exceed the 30% threshold will be phased out by 2022, and for utilities beginning in 2022.
Axis shares are down 2.6% over the past month, though up more than 22% in the year to date. Chubb shares are down 2.9% over the past month and up nearly 20% so far in 2019.
Germany’s Allianz and Italy’s Generali also pulled back some underwriting for coal companies in 2018, while the French firm Axa tightened its policy further, the Guardian reported. Lloyd’s of London agreed to exclude coal from its investment strategy beginning in April 2018. Reinsurance firms Swiss Re and Munich Re said last year they were limiting their underwriting for coal.
Climate activists at nonprofit RAN have called out other insurers including privately held Liberty Mutual for dropping coverage of corporate clients facing increased climate-linked risk while keeping up their own investment in fossil fuels and insuring coal and oil sands projects.
The Insure Our Future campaign highlighted the move’s potential significance beyond broad climate goals. It’s seen as at least a small victory for the First Nations Native American groups that have been fighting the oil sands industry for indigenous land rights.
Expansion will enable property and casualty insurance professionals to enter the digital world
We got e-scooters in Calgary this summer. They’re fun, but they go faster than you think. They also get left in the middle of the sidewalk, nobody wears a helmet and I’ve seen people get out of the bar and hop on them. I’m wondering what happens if one of them hits a pedestrian. Do they have insurance? – Ian, Calgary
If you hit somebody on a shared scooter, you might be left on your own to cover the damages.
“I think there’s no question that if you’re on a scooter and you injure somebody through your own negligence, you’ll be liable for that accident and that injury,” says Fred Litwiniuk, a Calgary-based personal injury lawyer.
Several Canadian cities, including Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal, are running pilots allowing dockless e-scooters – electric scooters that you rent by-the-minute through an app and leave them when you’re done – in public spaces. In Calgary alone, there have been more than 675,000 trips so far since the pilot started in July.
When it comes to insurance coverage, Bird Canada chief executive officer Stewart Lyons said that the company is “heavily insured.” Bird, along with Lime, are the two e-scooter companies taking part in the Calgary and Edmonton pilots.
“In Canadian cities, municipal insurance requirements are five times more than the typical U.S. city,” Lyons said in an e-mail. Calgary in particular requires a minimum of $10-million in commercial liability insurance for injury, death and liability.
But that insurance doesn’t necessarily cover riders if they hurt someone – just the company and the city.
“With respect to the rider, it’s no difference if they have an accident on their personal bicycle, while on a skateboard, or even while running,” Lyons said. “If the rider is negligent, then they are negligent – and that doesn’t change just because they are on a scooter.”
By contrast, Lime said that riders and anyone they hit would be covered by its insurance, although the company also declined to comment further on the details of the policy or the amount of coverage included. The company said that anyone wanting to make a claim would have to call Lime customer service.
Lime’s user agreement, however, states: “You are responsible for any harm you cause to other people or property (unless something we did or didn’t do was the actual cause of such harm).”
So, you could be on the hook if you hit somebody, they’re badly injured and it can be proved that you were at fault.
“It’s probably going to take some legal actions in the court to figure out who’s paying for these accidents,” Litwiniuk says. “If somebody can’t work for a period of time or has a rehabilitating brain or spinal injury and you can’t pay, then they could be left in the cold.”
HOME (INSURANCE) ADVANTAGE?
If your homeowner’s insurance includes liability, you may be covered if you hit someone on an e-scooter. It’s a good idea to check with your insurance company to see whether you’re covered before taking a scooter out.
In the three months since the pilot launched in Calgary, there have been 541 emergency room visits involving e-scooters.
The “overwhelming” majority of those were riders and not bystanders, says Dr. Eddy Lang, a Calgary emergency-room doctor.
“We’re seeing the whole gamut of things: fractures, lacerations, head trauma,” Lang says. “It’s kind of like what we used to see when roller-blading was popular.”
Ten per cent of the injuries were serious enough to require an ambulance, Lang says.
The e-scooters have a top speed of 20-25 kilometres an hour. In Calgary, they’re allowed on sidewalks. In the other Canadian cities, they’re not. Helmets are not legally required. But e-scooters do count as motor vehicles under Canada’s Criminal Code, so you could face impaired driving charges if you’re caught riding one with a blood alcohol level above .08.
While there have been pilots on private property in Waterloo and Toronto, neither are on the scale of the proposed a five-year pilot in Ontario, which would allow e-scooters to go everywhere bikes are allowed.
But before that happens, the questions around liability need to be clearly answered, says Nick Smith, a personal injury lawyer with Oatley Vigmond in Toronto.
“Some cities are eager to get these things on the road without understanding what the fallout will be,” Smith says. “Regulations need to be in place and clearly delineated.”
The Canadian Press
In the wake of data breaches at both of Canada’s credit monitoring agencies, some experts say the problem isn’t theft of social insurance numbers and other information, but rather our approach to proving who we are.
As social insurance numbers (SINs) continue to flow into the hands of hackers, industry players and consumers are increasingly on the hunt for an overhaul to how we identify ourselves in the digital age.
Over a lifetime, Canadians hand out their SINs left and right — to landlords, credit agencies, credit card companies, car rental firms, colleges and universities. In none of those cases are they required to do so, although a SIN is often requested.
Federal rules require citizens to provide their SIN only to certain government agencies as well as employers and — if the account earns interest — to financial institutions.
Starting in 1964, SINs originally served as client numbers tied to employment insurance programs and the Canada Pension Plan. Its current use as a kind of ultimate identity marker has far outgrown its original intent, providing effective proof of who you are when matched up with another personal document or piece of information such as a driver’s license or date of birth.
However, if criminals gets a hold of more than one of those ID verifiers, they could use them to file a fake tax return or apply for a loan or mortgage in your name, with consequences that could last decades.
Until the digital age, computer hacking hardly posed a risk to people’s data. Nor were there large databases that stored millions of SINs, outside of government institutions and banks, says Rich Mogull, CEO of Phoenix-based security firm Securosis.
“Earlier, even in my lifetime — I’m only in my 40s — everything was more local. We went into our local bank, even credit cards were generally issued from a local bank,” he said.
“But we started moving toward large-scale regional and national banking…and we started applying for things like loans online” — boosting the need for unique identifiers that could be presented remotely and recognized by a computer.
Increasingly, credit monitoring agencies, utilities companies and credit card vendors began to use social insurance numbers — or social security numbers in the United States — as key identifiers to keep track of clients.
“Everybody is relying on one number, and it’s not a secret,” Mogull said.
“When I went to university my student ID number was my social security number,” he recalled, shaking his head. “Once that number’s out there and exposed, there’s no taking it back. And it can be used for all sorts of fraud.”
The problem drove Quebec resident Pierre Langlois to launch an online petition calling on Ottawa to replace social insurance numbers compromised by identity theft.
Moved to action last summer after a breach at Desjardins Group scooped up data from nearly 2.9 million members — including their social insurance numbers, names and addresses — Langlois posted a second petition asking the government to propose a “quick solution to this security problem.”
With more than 147,000 signatories, the petition shied away from a more specific demand for two reasons, Langlois said: the difficulty of changing your SIN — proof of fraudulent use must be shown — and the dubious benefit of that tactic in the first place, since those newly assigned citizens could be just as susceptible to data breaches down the line.
“The government is asking us to give it to every employer you’ve ever worked for. Do you think the small restaurant where you worked has higher security than a bank?” Langlois asked in a phone interview.
The solution, says Mogull, lies in local transactions or encrypted SIN storage that would make data theft harder.
Cryptographic keys comprise a long string of random numbers that can be used to unlock personal data, but Greg Wolfond, chief executive at Toronto-based SecureKey Technologies, is skeptical of cryptographic identifiers as the answer.
“I fear that the bad folks are still going to be able to take this data and use AI and put it together in smart ways to try to become you to get a loan, to file a fake tax return in your name,” Wolfond said.
He wants to get away from the “static information” model that underpins ID confirmation and motivates data hacks. Instead, Wolfond is advocating something called real-time verification as the best way to show that you are, in fact, you.
His company’s product, dubbed Verified.Me, allows customers to provide proof of their identity using information they’ve already given their financial institutions. The Verified.Me smartphone app connects with participating financial institutions and removes many of the steps currently required to establish a person’s identity.
Though only a few financial products are available through the app, Verified.Me counts Desjardins and the Big Five banks as Canadian partners.
In the long run, the approach could include applying for a mortgage, renting an apartment or obtaining a driver’s licence, Wolfond said.
In the past three years, millions of consumers have been affected by hacks against a panoply of companies including Canadian-based cheaters’ website Ashley Madison as well as British Airways, Uber, Deloitte and Walmart.
TransUnion revealed Wednesday that the personal information of 37,000 Canadians may have been compromised this past summer, leaving both of Canada’s credit monitoring agencies with data blemishes on their record.
Equifax announced in 2017 that a massive data breach compromised the personal information and credit card details of 143 million Americans and about 19,000 Canadians.
QUEBEC CITY, Oct. 10, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – SSQ Insurance is proud to partner up with Le Pôle Santé – HEC Montréal to study the link between health and wellness management practices in the workplace and the most common insurance claims made by employees. By participating in such a project, the insurer hopes more will be learned about the impact that corporate practices have on the health of individuals, and help participating companies apply the findings to improve the health and wellness of their employees.
For this study, SSQ Insurance will be soliciting some of its group insurance planholders. Data gathered on a voluntary and confidential basis will be used to identify promising health and wellness workplace management strategies. These will be based on each sector’s context, in an effort to curb financial, human and social costs, improve quality of life at work as well as bolster performance and productivity. Companies who participate in the study and follow its recommendations could reap significant benefits.
The climate that Canadian companies find themselves in confirms the need for such a study. Currently, several millions of Canadians are living with a chronic illness, making it the most common category of illness. Of all chronic illnesses, mental disorders will be the number one cause of disability in high-income countries by 2030. The loss in productivity caused by mental disorders will cost Canadian companies $198 billion by 2041 – the current cost of Canada’s public health insurance plan1.
“Health problems at work and professional burnouts plague all sectors. We are very proud to partner up with Le Pôle Santé – HEC Montréal in order to help companies fight mental health issues and take concrete action for the health and wellness of their employees. This initiative is a testament to SSQ Insurance’s concern for its customers’ health,” said Geneviève Fortier, Senior Vice-President – Sales and Distribution, SSQ Insurance.
This research project, conducted with the Le Pôle Santé – HEC Montréal, is an extension of SSQ Insurance’s HealthInSight program and the initiatives spearheaded by its Innovation Team. Designed as an incentive for developing healthy habits in insureds, the Health InSight Program instills and fosters awareness by applying tangible solutions adapted to each workplace.
For more information about Le Pôle Santé – HEC Montréal, please visit polesante.hec.ca (French only).
About SSQ Insurance
Founded in 1944, SSQ Insurance is a mutualist company that puts community at the heart of insurance. With assets under management of $12 billion, SSQ Insurance is one of the largest companies in the industry. Working for a community of over three million customers, SSQ Insurance employs over 2,000 people. Leader in group insurance, the company also sets itself apart through its expertise in individual life and health insurance, general insurance and the investment sector. For more information, please visit ssq.ca.
Mathers, C.D. and Loncar, D., Projections of Global Mortality and Burden of Disease From 2002 to 2030, PLoS Medicine, vol. 3, no 11 (2006), p. e442.
Roberts, G. and Grimes, K. (2011), Return on investment: mental health promotion and mental illness prevention, Canadian Policy Network at the University of Western Ontario, March, 67 pp.
Smetanin, P., Stiff, D., Briante, C., Adair, C.E., Ahmad, S. and Khan, M. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011 to 2041. RiskAnalytica on behalf of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
SOURCE SSQ Insurance