Leroux leads quiet Desjardins Group expansion nearing end of her term

MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail

Desjardins Group is pushing ahead with a measured expansion strategy as it gears up for a change in leadership next spring.

The financial co-operative, Canada’s largest with total assets of $250-billion, currently generates about 35 per cent of its top-line revenue from business outside its home province. It is aiming to increase that to about 40 per cent over three to five years, said Desjardins chairwoman and chief executive Monique Leroux. Rather than a big flashy acquisition, which isn’t really Desjardins’s style, the group plans to broaden its relationship with current customers by offering them more products while remaining open to opportunistic asset purchases.

“Our footprint now is good but it cannot be the endgame, that’s for sure,” Ms. Leroux said in an interview Friday at Montreal’s Complexe Desjardins tower. “We have a lot to do in Quebec. We’ve got a lot to do in Canada. If we were to do things on an international basis, we would do it in partnership.”

Ms. Leroux is nearing the end of a second four-year term as head of Desjardins, Quebec’s largest private-sector employer. Members will elect her replacement next spring and she’ll stay on for three months to ensure a smooth transition. She’s scheduled to speak to the Montreal Board of Trade on Monday about the financial group’s response to the sweeping change brought about by digital computing and communications technology.

Reflecting on her priorities for the institution and what remains to be done, she said key focuses for Desjardins going forward include building more critical mass in its business lines and making sure it innovates. Last year’s acquisition of State Farm Life Insurance Co.’s Canadian arm for an estimated $1.35-billion made Desjardins Canada’s second-largest property and casualty insurer.

A deal with France-based mutual-savings bank Crédit Mutuel vaulted it into the top 10 for payment processing.

“It’s very much important to be among the top five in your industry if not the top three,” Ms. Leroux said of the financial-services sector. “You need to have a certain position to be pertinent and have the capacity to have good returns on your capital.”

Those returns under Ms. Leroux have been brag-worthy. Surplus earnings in the latest quarter were up $183-million to $629-million while operating income rose 9 per cent. It finished the quarter with a tier 1A capital ratio of 16 per cent, besting many rivals.

Desjardins has a commanding share of retail deposits in Quebec with a roughly 40-per-cent share and about 5 million member-clients. It has another 2 million clients outside the province, including those served at caisse branches in Ontario. In her first mandate as CEO, Ms. Leroux led the purchase of High River, Alta.-based insurer Western Financial Group for $440-million. The deal also gave Desjardins Western’s Bank West, which it relaunched as online depository Zag Bank.

“What [Desjardins is] trying to do is to leverage up their strength in Quebec and penetrate” farther into Canada, West of Quebec primarily, said Peter Routledge, an analyst at National Bank Financial. “That’s going to be hard for them because they’re going up against incumbents who don’t want to cede share.”

Mr. Routledge notes that the acquisitions Desjardins has done have been relatively small given its size. “They’re pursuing a fairly diligent expansion strategy where they’re trying to hit singles as opposed to hitting home runs. They’re not swinging for the fences in anything they’ve done. And that’s a pretty smart way to do it.”

Ms. Leroux is coy when asked about her plans after leaving Desjardins, but they will almost certainly include more work as a corporate director. Last week, she joined the board of convenience store chain Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., a company she holds up as a model of entrepreneurship and global growth ambition.

“As Canadians, we can do things that could make a difference, not only in this country but also more globally,” she says of Canadian firms. “We need to grow on the international scene.”

 

Chaos erupts at council meeting over dispute between Uber and taxi companies

Edmonton taxi drivers screamed, chanted and some stripped off their shirts during a contentious meeting of Edmonton city council on September 23, 2015.

At issue was a bylaw that would allow companies such as Uber to legally operate in the city.

Dozens of drivers in the audience began a noisy protest, prompting councillors to leave the chambers and call in the
police.

The United Cabbies Association president then urged calm from the crowd and told taxi drivers in the gallery that there were still options after council’s discussion had ended.

The meeting continued, with some amendments brought forward including the possibility of having lower licence fees for Uber drivers, with Uber paying fees as well.

Afterwards, officials said taxi drivers would plan a meeting in the coming days to discuss their response to decisions made by council, adding that a taxi strike hasn’t been ruled out.

Back in early September, officials said the proposed vehicle-for-hire bylaw would include: allowing companies that have mobile app dispatch services to operate, standardizing requirements for vehicle-for-hire class to include a mandatory criminal record check, proper class of provincial licence, insurance and annual mechanical inspections, and standardizing fees for licences of all classes of vehicles for hire.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta, issued a statement in response to the meeting.

“While some clauses would prevent ridesharing from continuing in Edmonton, Uber remains committed to working with staff and council to build trust and find a path forward.”

The first part of a new vehicle-for-hire bylaw is expected to go to a vote in November, with part two coming in the spring of 2016.

canada-press

 

Wide range of supplemental insurance options for those without employer benefits

The period of time between graduating from school to landing a full-time job with benefits can stretch on for months or years for young Canadians, meaning they lack extended health and dental benefits since they’re too old to be covered by their parents’ plans.

And with the growing use of contract employees who don’t receive benefits, that means young Canadians must fend for themselves and buy their own supplemental health and dental insurance.

Provincial health insurance doesn’t cover everything. Whether it’s a prescription for penicillin, a crown that needs to be replaced or an ambulance ride to the hospital, if you don’t have insurance, you’ll end up paying out of pocket.

Loretta Kulchycki, vice-president of group marketing at Great-West Life, suggests consumers start their hunt for health and dental benefits by deciding how much coverage they’re going to need and researching their options online.

“If you are young, you will tend to be healthier, and in that case would probably have lower premiums than somebody who, say, is planning for a retiree product,” she said.

Insurance companies generally offer a choice of the level of coverage, from bare bones plans that provide basic prescription drug coverage and dental checkups to comprehensive options with higher limits and a broader range of coverage.

How much you want to spend will depend on your budget and what you expect your needs to be since costs can quickly escalate depending on how much coverage you’re looking to buy.

“It is really about taking a look at: ‘What do I think I’ll actually use?’ as a starting point,” Kulchycki said.

How often do you think you’ll go to the dentist? Do you wear glasses? Do you think you’ll need the services of a physiotherapist? Those are all questions you should ask yourself when considering coverage.

Laurel Pedersen, assistant vice-president of health insurance product development at Sun Life, says if you have a pre-existing health condition, you have some choices.

A “guaranteed issue” plan may be more expensive, but will cover a pre-existing condition, while a fully underwritten plan may be cheaper, but exclude costs connected with your outstanding health issues.

Pedersen says an adviser can walk you through your options, and will understand what the different plans will cost, how they work and what might be in your best interest.

“They’re exactly there to walk them through their broader budget considerations,” she said.

Sue Reibel, senior vice-president of consumer solutions at Manulife, says if you’re coming off your parents’ group plan or another insurance plan, time is of the essence. You generally have about 60 days when you can roll yourself into an individual plan without going through underwriting.

“You’ve got an opportunity to get a preferential purchase,” she said. “If you pass that time frame, then you’re buying (while) taking all of your individual circumstances into account and it may affect your price.”

Reibel noted that when insurance shoppers consider what they need, it’s important to understand what other coverage they already have and what they need so they don’t end up paying for non-essential items or lacking insurance for something they could have anticipated.

“It is understanding where your personal gaps are,” she said. “It takes some time to really think about your personal situation and reflect. It is not a big investment of time, we’re talking about half an hour of thinking that can save you a lot of money.”

canada-press

 

SGI says it might make training for ATV user mandatory; group says more needed

REGINA _ Saskatchewan Government Insurance is looking at mandatory training for all-terrain vehicle drivers, but some are calling for stricter regulations to reduce ATV-related injuries and deaths.

The latest statistics from SGI show more than three dozen ATV-related collisions were reported in the province in 2013.

Now, the Crown corporation is mulling the possibility of making ATV training mandatory.

But John Meed of the Saskatchewan All Terrain Vehicle Association says mandatory training won’t be enough.

By Meed’s count, eight people have died in ATV accidents this year alone in Saskatchewan.

In one case, the driver was too young to legally drive an ATV. Alcohol was a factor in half of the deaths and, in all cases, someone was not wearing a helmet.

“Be it through training; be it through not drinking and riding; not speeding; not stunting every last one of those fatalities could have been prevented,” Meed said.

He said Saskatchewan should require ATVs to be registered and licensed, like snowmobiles.

However, SGI said it has no plans to move toward licensing ATVs, and that plans to make training mandatory are still far from finalized.

“What we want to do now is look to see what other jurisdictions are doing,” said SGI spokesperson Kelley Brinkworth.

“If they have a requirement for mandatory training, has that actually been effective at reducing injuries and fatalities?”

canada-press

Economic impact research shows the co-op sector contributes over $50B to the Canadian economy

OTTAWA, Sept. 16, 2015 /CNW/ – Recent research on the economic impact of the co-operative sector in Canada show that its activity contributes over $50 Billion dollars to the Canadian economy and supports over 600,000 jobs.

Researchers George Karaphillis, Fiona Duguid and Alicia Lake from the Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network (MCDRN) conducted economic impact analyses on the co-operative sector for the years 2009 and 2010. The results showed that co-operatives, credit unions, and co-operative insurance enterprises had a direct economic impact (GDP) of $22 Billion in 2010 – and, through indirect and induced spin-offs, this impact multiplies to over $54 Billion. This represented 3.4% of the total economic activity inCanada in 2010.

Further, nearly 270,000 full-time jobs were created in the sector and through spin-off effects, this activity supported over 614,000 jobs in many sectors throughout the country. Co-operatives between 2009 and 2010 also created jobs at nearly five times the rate of the broader economy.

The study was conducted based on the latest data available from Industry Canada’s annual co-operative survey, data on financial co-operatives via Statistics Canada, and the annual reports of the six main co‑operative insurance companies. A summary of the study is available on the project’s website and the papers are expected to be published in academic journals in the winter of 2015.

Denyse Guy, Executive Director of Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada (CMC), who is also the co-chair of the MCDRN, pointed out that the data was from a very important period where economic instability had a major effect on confidence and growth. “This is the first time that co-operative economic impacts have been calculated the same way as other sectors. The ability to compare this data during that time period is important.” stated Ms. Guy. “We are confident that with the right policy supports and strategies going forward, co-operative enterprises will continue to create jobs, prosperity and good social outcomes in Canadian communities.”

CMC is currently lobbying for Federal Government participation in a National Co-op Development Strategy that would substantially increase the economic impacts reported in the study. The co-operative sector is also investing in a capital fund that will make appropriate financing accessible to co-ops, a key solution to capitalizing new co-ops and expanding established ones.

About MCDRN: The Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network is a five-year Community -University Research Alliance (CURA), supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of CanadaThe MCDRN research alliance ends in 2015.

About CMC: Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada is the national, bilingual association for co-operatives and mutuals in Canada. CMC’s members come from many sectors of the economy, including finance, insurance, agri-food and supply, wholesale and retail, housing, health sector, forestry resources, education, funeral services, public utilities and community development. CMC provides leadership to support, promote, and develop the co-operative economy in Canada.

 

SOURCE Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada

 

New MPI car seat policy puts kids at risk, says Winnipeg mom

CBC News

A Winnipeg mother says Manitoba Public Insurance’s new policy around car seats is putting children’s safety at risk.

The auto insurer will no longer replace all car seats involved in collisions. The quiet policy change that came in May 1 means coverage is now determined on a case-by-case basis.

“I feel like that’s inappropriate. These are children’s lives on the lines here,” Whitney Joubert told CBC News.

Joubert learned the new policy the hard way when she went to replace the car seats that were in a vehicle rammed in a hit-and-run.

Her children were not in the chairs at the time, but MPI told her to replace the seats and she would be reimbursed, she said.

“I was told by MPI to go ahead and drop off the old seats as well as the receipts for the new ones,” she said.

But before Joubert could do that, she received a message that there had been a mistake. The policy that covered the replacement of child seats in any collision ended May 1, 2015, prior to her claim.

The new policy only insures child seats involved in “moderate” to “severe” collisions.

“I was very upset,” said Joubert. “I started researching it … and the Transport Canada website clearly states that any car seat involved in any crash should be replaced whether children are in them or not, because they do not guarantee safety.

“I feel like they’re gambling with children’s lives. Not every family can afford to go out and purchase new seats.”

MPI defends new policy

MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley said the policy was changed primarily to bring it in line with other agencies and provinces, including Saskatchewan.

“Child safety is a major priority of ours. This isn’t just strictly a dollars and cents decision,” he said.

“As we began to dig into [it] a little bit deeper, we realized there were other safety organizations and insurers that had this policy in place … looking at the circumstances of the crash …”

Prior to the policy change, MPI replaced as many as 5,000 car seats every year, not all of which needed to be replaced, Smiley said.

“Many of those child car seats, and I had personally looked at them, and they were involved in a collision of five to 10 km/h — very very minor damage to a vehicle — but we were replacing those seats,” he said.

Under the new policy, adjusters will look at various aspects of the crash to determine whether the seat needs replacing, Smiley said.

If anyone has questions about the integrity of a child seat, it can be taken to one of seven Winnipeg fire halls or a certified car seat technician for inspection.

Joubert said she’s still not confident car seats involved in any collisions are safe.

“We’re talking about very young children and parents who are at the mercy of the insurance company.”

*

Corrections

  • Car seats should be taken to one of seven Winnipeg fire halls or a certified car seat technician for inspection, not to St. John’s Ambulance as originally reported. MPI initially supplied incorrect information.

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