Are insurance companies ready to handle a major disaster?

By Cindy White

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – What would happen to insurance companies if Canada is hit by a major catastrophe?

While the Calgary floods of 2013 and the Fort McMurray wildfire hit insurance companies hard, a report from the University of Calgary warns larger disasters could lead to the financial collapse of the industry.

Risk Management Professor Anne Klefner said when you have a multi-billion dollar event, it could see some firms crumble.

“For any insurer that becomes insolvent, the rest of the insurance industry then is assessed in order to pay the liabilities of the now insolvent insurers. It’s that which ultimately creates this domino effect.”

Flefner believes as many as 18 insurance companies could go bankrupt following major disasters, leaving property owners in the lurch or governments having to pick up the tab for recovery.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates about $3.7 billion in insured damages came from the Fort McMurray fires, making it the costliest disaster in Canadian history.

The southern Alberta floods cost insurance companies $1.6 billion.

In 2017, the IBC said losses due to natural disasters have increased dramatically over the last ten years.

Klefner said an earthquake in places like Vancouver or Montreal, could cause $35 billion in damages.

“We’re talking about events much, much larger than what we’ve seen to date. Much bigger than Fort McMurray, for example. The idea is there is limited capacity, so although it’s high, it’s not unlimited.”

Canada is the only G7 nation that doesn’t have a federal government plan to help the insurance industry as a whole deal with mega catastrophes.

Insurance brokerage Hub bulking up Canadian benefits business with acquisition spree

The biggest insurance brokerage in Canada has been on a dealmaking blitz that may only be about halfway done, according to the company’s Ontario chairman.

Chicago-based Hub International Ltd. sells insurance, but it has also spent the past year expanding the Canadian side of its business, which advises companies on their employee benefits, such as health or retirement plans. It has been doing so in part by acquiring a number of boutique firms.

On Tuesday, Hub said it acquired for an undisclosed sum Toronto’s PDF Financial Group Inc., an independent brokerage that helps a company’s human-resources department manage employee programs. The acquisition was one of five such deals Hub has announced to date in October, involving three companies in Canada and two in the United States.

Hub is Canada’s biggest property and casualty insurance broker by a “healthy margin,” but it had heard back from some clients wanting advice about benefits and pensions as well, according to Gregory Belton, the executive chairman of Hub Ontario.

“We’re not only getting larger and filling out a geographic footprint, but we’re developing services for what we think is the under-served middle market of Canadian business,” Belton said in an interview with the Financial Post.

After announcing its Canadian benefit strategy in July 2018, Hub noted at the beginning of this year that it had already acquired 13 Canadian employee-benefit and pension brokerages since 2018, increased fee revenue to more than $50 million and opened seven new offices. Hub wants to earn more than $100 million in commission fees by 2021, and said it expected to open an additional 10 offices.

“I would say that we’re about halfway done in our acquisition strategy,” Belton said. “We have a fairly robust pipeline across the country, and you’ll see further acquisitions being closed in the coming months.”

Mike Berris, a partner at accounting firm Smythe LLP who specializes in valuations and M&A consulting in the Canadian P&C insurance industry, said he expects more activity in the benefits space — although not all brokers may be able to pull it off.

Even though it’s a risk-based product, you really have to have scale and expertise to do it properly.

Mike Berris, partner, Smythe LLP

“There’s a lot of desire, but there’s only so many people who are capable of doing that,” Berris said. “Even though it’s a risk-based product, you really have to have scale and expertise to do it properly.”

Hub has been scaling up since it formed in 1998 with the merger of 11 Canadian brokerages. It went public soon after, expanded into the U.S. and in 2007 was bought by private-equity firm Apax Partners and investment bank Morgan Stanley.

In 2013 Hub announced it was being acquired by funds advised by another private-equity firm, Hellman & Friedman LLC, in a deal that valued the brokerage at around US$4.4 billion.

Hub then said in October 2018 that it had agreed to a deal involving “a substantial minority investment” from funds managed by Toronto-based investment firm Altas Partners. The agreement implied a total enterprise value for Hub of more than $10 billion.

Since the deal, Hub’s website shows it has made more than 50 acquisition-related announcements. Currently, the brokerage has more than 11,000 employees, with more than 250 offices in the U.S. and about 200 in Canada, a spokesperson said.

“Like a lot of private-equity-owned brokerages, they have been very, very aggressive and they’re very, very effective in growing through acquisitions,” Berris said.

Belton said most Canadian businesses fit the mid-market mold, but that there is no “dominant player” in that section of the market right now for the sort of benefits business Hub is expanding. Even so, he said there has been “very robust competition” for the types of companies Hub is buying.

“Our aspiration is to become the dominant player, just as we are in the property-casualty side of the business,” Belton said.

Big insurance-price jumps for out-of-province drivers

The excerpredted article was written by Andrew Duffy | Times Colonist

Some part-time B.C. residents are in for sticker shock when they go to renew their vehicle insurance, thanks to new regulations brought into force in September.

Under the new rules, aimed at helping Insurance Corp. of B.C. to improve its finances, part-time B.C. residents who hold a driver’s licence from another jurisdiction will no longer qualify for driver-experience discounts.

Some part-time B.C. residents are in for sticker shock when they go to renew their vehicle insurance, thanks to new regulations brought into force in September.

Under the new rules, aimed at helping Insurance Corp. of B.C. to improve its finances, part-time B.C. residents who hold a driver’s licence from another jurisdiction will no longer qualify for driver-experience discounts.

MacLeod, who splits his time between his home in Hamilton, Ont., and the Salt Spring home he bought in 2007, said the provincial government is taking a run at those not considered B.C. residents.

“This is simply another whack at the people who did not take the hint with the speculation tax that the Horgan government does not want anyone in B.C. who is not a full-time resident,” he said. “I was absolutely horrified by this [increase], and even the $1,008 I paid last year was an increase of about 20 per cent.”

MacLeod dodged the speculation tax when, after criticism that the tax unfairly hit B.C. residents, Finance Minister Carole James announced it would be changed to exclude areas such as the Gulf Islands and Parksville-Qualicum.

But he couldn’t dodge the insurance changes. At 72, MacLeod, who has been driving since 1963, was told he would no longer be eligible to claim an experienced driver discount and would face a hike.

He paid his insurance bill, but increased his deductible to $2,500, from $500, which dropped his bill to $2,312.

“But now I am assuming $2,000 in liability I didn’t have last year,” he said, adding he is now paying more for insurance for a used Subaru than he does for his Corvette convertible back in Ontario, despite a clean driving record and no tickets.

Despite repeated requests, no one from ICBC or the Attorney General’s Ministry was made available to comment.

The changes stem from ICBC’s switch from a vehicle-based insurance model to a driver-based one. Without holding a B.C. driver’s licence, non-residents used to be able to benefit from discounts based on how long they had insured their vehicles in B.C., but ICBC is now using a driver-based model that relies on driving experience in B.C.

In hopes of having ICBC review the situation, MacLeod signed a disclosure agreement waiving his privacy rights, which allowed ICBC to comment on his policy rate.

But it’s unclear why an experienced driver from another jurisdiction in Canada wouldn’t be able to provide a provincial record or abstract to be able to claim an experience discount, or how many drivers could be affected by the change.

Drivers such as MacLeod have been advised, instead, to purchase a storage policy for when the vehicle isn’t in use and purchase short-term policies for when it is.

MacLeod said he and his wife spend about three months a year in B.C., and intend to continue to do so. “The smart thing is to sell the place and go and buy a place in Muskoka I guess, but I don’t want to do that.

“We like it here. We have friends here and are part of a community.”

Victim of negligent Toronto lawyer wins partial compensation after years of court battles

A man who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of a negligent Toronto lawyer has finally received partial compensation, years after winning a court judgment that has proven unenforceable.

The $150,000 payout to Nalliah Balachandran late last month came after The Canadian Press reported in December on a glaring gap in the insurance system designed to protect victims of unscrupulous or incompetent Ontario lawyers.

“This money will help,” Mr. Balachandran said. “At least I can pay off some debts.”

Mr. Balachandran, 64, now of Calgary, had been unable to collect on $188,646 in damages an Ontario Superior Court justice awarded him in 2012 against lawyer Michael (Mike) J. Webster, who was disbarred after an avalanche of complaints.

Other cases The Canadian Press reviewed turned up several people who had lost out on compensation for car-crash injuries or ended up in jail because lawyers failed to do their jobs. None was able to collect on court-ordered damages, even though all members of Ontario’s legal profession must carry liability coverage through the insurance company known as LawPro.

Despite judicial criticism of the situation, LawPro denies coverage when lawyers fail to report a client’s claim against them or refuse to help defend the action. The result is usually disbarment – and clients left without access to compensation.

Several lawyers trying to help hapless clients expressed dismay that LawPro, owned by the 50,000-member Law Society of Ontario and with assets of close to $735-million, would take that position.

“It’s very unfair and unfortunate – and to my mind shocking,” one lawyer, Ava Hillier, said last year. “People need to know that they’ve got nothing if their lawyer just decides not to pick up the phone.”

What lawyers involved in such cases said they had never heard of is a policy the law society adopted in 1997. It provides victims of lawyers access to an internal compensation fund when LawPro declines coverage. The fund can reimburse victims up to $500,000.

Days after an interview with its treasurer last November, the law society updated its website to explicitly refer to the obscure policy. Five claims, including Mr. Balachandran’s, have since been made against the fund, one quarter of all claims in 1997. Two have been settled.

A spokeswoman said that over the past 20 years, the fund has paid out a total of $552,565 for 14 claims involving 13 lawyers – a fraction of the $100-million LawPro lays out for claims annually.

“Our focus as the regulator is on protecting the public, and, as per our policy, the Law Society’s compensation fund will consider claims where LawPro coverage is denied in special circumstances – where a lawyer fails to report a claim to the professional liability insurer or fails to co-operate with the insurer,” Susan Tonkin said.

Mr. Balachandran, who works for Alberta Health Services, received his cheque for the maximum amount in effect at the time of his initial claim. A timely payout, he said, would have spared him and his wife years of stress and tens of thousands of dollars in interest on mounting debts he still can’t pay off.

He also faulted the society for its previous failure to make the compensation fund widely known, potentially saving him from a fruitless battle to collect the almost $200,000 Mr. Webster now owes him and which the law society will try to recover.

As important, he said, is the law society’s move to transparency about the 1997 policy.

“It’s going to help not just me but the whole community,” Mr. Balachandran said.

LawPro, which has been subject to several lawsuits over its refusal to cover such cases, has called such situations rare. It has defended the mandatory insurance program as being in the best interests of the public and Ontario lawyers.

Manitoba Public Insurance survey finds drivers shout, make rude gestures or commit ‘extreme actions’

Read more

Hub International Acquires Ontario-based PDF Financial Group Inc.

Chicago, October 8, 2019Hub International Limited (Hub), a leading global insurance brokerage, announced today that it has acquired PDF Financial Group Inc. (PDF). Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, PDF is an independent brokerage offering consulting and outsourcing services for employee benefit programs, human resources, and related financial advice. Peter Demangos, Founder and President of PDF, will join Hub International Ontario Limited (Hub Ontario).

The move continues to reinforce Hub’s ongoing Canadian employee benefits growth and services strategy to expand its best-in-class employee benefits and retirement solution, addressing the challenges clients are facing, including in benefits communication, health and wellness, and retirement.

About Hub’s M&A Activities
Hub International Limited is committed to growing organically and through acquisitions to expand its geographic footprint and strengthen industry and product expertise. For more information on the Hub M&A experience, visit WeAreHub.com.

About Hub International
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Hub International Limited is a leading full-service global insurance broker providing property and casualty, life and health, employee benefits, investment and risk management products and services. With more than 11,000 employees in offices located throughout North America, Hub’s vast network of specialists provides peace of mind on what matters most by protecting clients through unrelenting advocacy and tailored insurance solutions. For more information, please visit www.hubinternational.com.

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