Canadian Fire Crews Are Now Fighting the Australia Fires, Returning a Favour

Climate change means emergency responders need specialized, updated training according to wildfire expert

The excerpted article was written by Anne Gaviola |

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), eight specialists left for Victoria Monday night and another 21 arrived in New South Wales—the area hardest-hit—this weekend. Each round of deployments ranges from 31 to 38 days. A total of 95 Canadians are scheduled to help crews in Australia’s Rural Fire Service, which are mostly volunteers who have been stretched by bush fires fuelled by the country’s longest and driest year ever recorded.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry spokesperson Adrienne South said in an email, “This is the first time a multi-province Canadian crew is going to Australia.”

Even though Canada hasn’t dealt with bushfires as deadly as Australia’s, Canadian wildfire experts say our experience is valuable for fighting the fires now, and also for dealing with the aftermath.

Twenty-five people have been killed as well as an estimated 480 million animals. Millions of acres have been destroyed in fires that have been raging since September and their summer has only just begun. The Insurance Council of Australia estimated that insurance claims have already reached $485 million.

According to wildfire researcher Mike Flannigan, the types of blazes they’ll be dealing with are similar to very large, high-intensity fires that Canadians have seen recently, and more frequently, in British Columbia and Alberta. “These are erratic, hard to predict and dangerous. It has climate change fingerprints all over it,” said Flannigan.

The 2016 blaze in Fort McMurray, Alberta, brought an estimated $9 billion in damages and was the costliest disaster in Canadian history. The historic wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018 in British Columbia also saw large-scale devastation, which Australian crews helped battle. The two countries have a history of helping each other out and it helps that we have opposite seasons, though fire seasons in both countries have gotten longer in recent years.

The specialists from Canada won’t be frontline firefighters—Australia hasn’t asked us to send those, at least not yet. We’ve sent managers and people behind the scenes in charge of logistics, strategy, and tracking equipment and planes. There’s a lot more to fire response than putting out blazes and Canadian expertise can play an important role in dealing with the humans and the trauma that comes with this kind of extreme destruction.

READ MORE HERE: Canadian Fire Crews Are Now Fighting the Australia Fires, Returning a Favour

Cannabis Outlook 2020: Get more insights

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Why insurers aren’t yet high on cannabis

The excerpted article was written by By Robert Armstrong

Major insurance providers, including Berkshire Hathaway and Aon, have begun to offer coverage to American companies in the legal marijuana industry, which had long been off-limits due to regulatory or reputational reasons.

However, investors and executives say many insurers remain cautious in their approach, resulting in higher prices. They argue that more widely available coverage is badly needed.

“One of the most miserable things I have to deal with for my job is getting insurance,” says Tim Conder, chief operating officer of publicly traded Tilt Holdings, a Massachusetts-based group that owns a variety of cannabis-related companies and reported $46 million in revenues in the third quarter.

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Canada and 10 American states and is either decriminalized or approved for medical use in many others. Every part of the business — cultivation, lab testing, distribution and retail sales — requires insurance coverage, from general liability to property and workers’ compensation.

Reliable numbers on the size of the industry are hard to come by, but legal spending on cannabis in the United States was just under $10 billion last year, while cannabis companies attracted $14 billion in funding, according to BDS Analytics, an industry consulting firm.

Neil Hitchcock, CEO of Bermuda-based insurance broker Skyfront, estimates that the legal U.S. cannabis industry would pay about $1 billion in annual premiums were it insured to levels normal for other businesses. The demand means that Skyfront is “incredibly busy,” but “the problem is the limited capacity to take risk” on cannabis businesses in the insurance market, Hitchcock says.

He pointed to Lloyd’s of London, where members of the market are not permitted to write cannabis insurance in countries where the plant is not legal at a federal level — which rules out working with clients in the U.S. The insurance marketplace said last year that it would begin providing coverage to Canadian companies.

Five years ago, insurance was hardly available to the U.S. industry. Things are getting better, stresses Conder. Today, Tilt’s operating companies use insurance from both large providers such as Aon and small specialists such as Cannasure.

But others point to higher prices as a result of the restricted insurance supply. “If your business plan includes the word ‘cannabis,’ expect to pay more,” says Kyle Nichols, president of insurance broker Hugh Wood Canada. He adds that even in a country where cannabis is legal, companies in the industry can pay five to 10 times standard rates.

Kyle Kazan, founder of California Cannabis Enterprises, one of the largest cannabis companies in the U.S., also has extensive holdings in real estate and says his cultivation facilities in California pay double the insurance premiums required for his pecan farms in Georgia.

Kazan says it’s a challenge to find insurers who understand the industry. “You don’t want your local State Farm agent doing this,” he says. He uses insurers including Berkshire and Kinsale for property and workers’ compensation coverage.

Kazan says obtaining directors and officers (D&O) coverage, which provides liability cover for senior staff and executives, and auto insurance for his distribution operations was particularly challenging.

Erich Bublitz, who oversees cannabis underwriting at Admiral Insurance, a subsidiary of W.R. Berkley, says his company avoids writing D&O coverage for cannabis groups because of their complex and sometimes opaque ownership structures, as well as the tangle of state and federal regulations.

“We don’t think there are enough controls in place for us to feel comfortable [writing D&O policies],” Bublitz explains. On auto insurance, he says, “workers in the industry tend to be users of the product — I’m not saying everyone who is driving is high … but auto is hard anyway and you add in that factor and it becomes too hard.”

However, Bublitz does not think the rates charged to insurance companies are significantly higher than in other industries and he believes there is increasing competition for business. “But there are additional exposures [in cannabis],” he argues, noting that people rarely break into buildings to steal soybeans.

Berkshire Hathaway and Aon did not respond to requests for comment.

Another risk that insurers mention is the prevalence of cash-based transactions when people buy cannabis products, resulting in significant sums having to be carried by delivery people or held at retail outlets.

Cynthia Cleveland, president of California cannabis company Vertical Brands, points out that this risk would decline with the passage of the SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Banking Act, a bill currently in Congress. If passed, the SAFE Act would make it explicit that federally regulated banks are permitted to work with cannabis companies in states where marijuana is legal.

“Our business welcomes regulation,” says Cleveland.

Source: OZY 

Chubb Announces Leadership Appointments for its North America Commercial Insurance Division

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J., Dec. 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Chubb announced today leadership appointments for North America Commercial Insurance, the company’s $5.8 billion retail commercial property and casualty (P&C) insurance division that serves middle market and small businesses through 48 offices in the United States and Canada.

Ben Rockwell, currently Executive Vice President and Chief Underwriting Officer of North America Commercial Insurance, has been appointed Vice President, Chubb Group and will serve as Division President, Chubb Middle MarketJames Williamson, currently Vice President, Chubb Group and Division President, North America Small Commercial Insurance, will serve as Division President, Chubb Small Business, which includes the company’s product and service offerings for small and lower middle market companies.

Mr. Williamson and Mr. Rockwell will report to Paul Krump, Executive Vice President, Chubb Group and President, North America Commercial and Personal Insurance.  The appointments are effective immediately.  They succeed C. Scott Gunter, who is leaving the company.

“I want to thank Scott for his service to the company over the past three decades and wish him and his family well,” said Mr. Krump.

“It’s a great pleasure to appoint Jim to lead our exciting and fast-growing small commercial and lower middle market business.  This is a high-volume, high-tech segment where efficiency and ease of doing business is the name of the game, and Jim is a proven insurance executive and business-builder in this space.  He understands the importance of offering a 100% digital experience for our agents and is the right executive to lead our efforts as we continue to penetrate the $100 billion U.S. small commercial market.

“I am equally delighted to appoint Ben to lead our middle market business, which is a core Chubb franchise.  Ben is an experienced and seasoned underwriting executive.  His expertise and leadership skills will be instrumental as we execute our ambitious growth strategies and provide the industry’s leading product and service capabilities for middle market companies across North America in more than 25 industry practices, each supported by a team of underwriting, claims and risk engineering professionals.”

The company also announced that Alex Wells, Executive Vice President and Commercial Insurance Regional Manager, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions, has been named Chief Underwriting Officer for North America Commercial Insurance, succeeding Mr. Rockwell.  Mr. Wells will report to Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Williamson.

Ben Rockwell began his career with Chubb in 1997 as a Casualty Claims Representative. In 1999, he joined the company’s casualty department as an underwriter. Throughout his career, he has held a variety of field and home office underwriting positions, such as Commercial Underwriting Manager, multi-line Executive Field Underwriter, Excess Casualty Manager, and Commercial Insurance Primary Casualty Leader for North America.  In 2018, he was appointed Chief Underwriting Officer of North America Commercial Insurance.  Mr. Rockwell has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from North Central College.

James Williamson began his career with ACE in 2013.  Prior to ACE’s acquisition of Chubb in January 2016, Mr. Williamson was Division President of ACE Private Risk Services.  He has also served as Senior Vice President, Chief Operations Officer of ACE’s Global Personal and Small Business insurance business, and as Chief Operating Officer for ACE’s International Accident & Health insurance business.  He was named Division President, North America Small Commercial in 2015.  Before joining ACE, Mr. Williamson served at The Hartford from 2005 to 2013 in a variety of senior underwriting, sales and strategic planning roles. Prior to The Hartford, he served at Bain & Co. as a consultant. Mr. Williamson received an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Bryant College.

Alex Wells joined the company in 1992 as an inland marine underwriting trainee.  Throughout his career, which spanned both Chubb and ACE, Mr. Wells has held a variety of field and home office underwriting positions, including Senior Underwriter, Mid-Atlantic Zone Excess Casualty Leader; Chief Operating Officer, Westchester Excess Casualty; Specialty Casualty and Construction Leader, North America Commercial Insurance; and, since 2017, Commercial Insurance Regional Manager, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.  Mr. Wells holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from American University.

About Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company. With operations in 54 countries and territories, Chubb provides commercial and personal property and casualty insurance, personal accident and supplemental health insurance, reinsurance and life insurance to a diverse group of clients. As an underwriting company, we assess, assume and manage risk with insight and discipline. We service and pay our claims fairly and promptly. The company is also defined by its extensive product and service offerings, broad distribution capabilities, exceptional financial strength and local operations globally. Parent company Chubb Limited is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: CB) and is a component of the S&P 500 index. Chubb maintains executive offices in Zurich, New York, London, Paris and other locations, and employs more than 30,000 people worldwide. Additional information can be found at:


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Chubb to buy stake in China’s Huatai Insurance for $1.53 bln

Insurer Chubb Ltd said on Monday it could buy an additional 22.4% stake in Chinese insurer Huatai Insurance Group Co Ltd for 10.8 billion yuan ($1.53 billion).

Chubb, which already holds nearly 27% stake in Huatai, said it would first buy 15.1% and then an additional 7.1% stake based on the completion of the first contingent.

In March, Chubb raised its stake in Huatai to 26.2%, following approval from China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.

“We are committed to supporting Huatai as a long-term strategic shareholder and we have great confidence in the long-term potential of the Chinese insurance market,” said Evan Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer of Chubb.

Chubb will buy Huatai shares from its shareholder’s Chinese chemicals maker Inner Mongolia Junzheng Energy and Chemical Group Co Ltd and one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries.

($1 = 7.0389 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Edited for ILSTV

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