Canadian Underwriter

Who’s heading Fairfax’s effort to improve opportunities for the Black community

November 5, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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Craig Pinnock, chief financial officer of Toronto-based Northbridge Insurance, is heading the Black Initiatives Action Committee for Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., Northbridge’s corporate parent.

The Black Initiatives Action Committee has one representative of the Black community from each of the seven Fairfax-owned companies in North America and Britain, Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa said Oct. 30 during a conference call announcing Fairfax’s third-quarter financial results.

In addition to Northbridge, Toronto-based Fairfax also owns several global insurers including Odyssey Group, Allied World, Brit PLC and Crum & Forster.

One reason Fairfax formed the Black Initiatives Action Committee is to create more opportunities for people from the Black community and for minorities, said Watsa, who founded Fairfax in 1985.

During the Fairfax Q2 earnings call July 31, Watsa said he has joined the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism, which formed The BlackNorth Initiative.

Watsa announced Pinnock’s appointment Oct. 30.

Before his appointment as Northbridge CFO in 2008, Pinnock held various roles at other insurers, including CFO of Liberty Mutual Group’s Canadian branches and as global head of reinsurance accounting and administration for Liberty International Underwriters. Pinnock is a chartered accountant and holds a commerce and economics degree from The University of Toronto.

“Having worked with several insurance companies in Canada, I have seen nurturing, sponsoring and mentorship programs,” said Chris Cornell, KPMG Canada’s national sector leader for insurance, in an earlier interview. Cornell was not commenting specifically on Northbridge or Fairfax, but in general on diversity and inclusion in the P&C industry.

“The concept of bringing your whole self to work and feeling comfortable in doing that is important for anyone in order to move up through the ranks and get a management position or an executive position. Without that comfort, it’s very challenging for people do be able to do so,” said Cornell.

P&C executives have told Canadian Underwriter the industry has more work to do in ensuring those at the senior management level reflect the diversity of the general population.

“When [visible minority employees] don’t see people who look like them within the leadership ranks, that is somewhat of a tell in terms of, ‘Am I going to be able to reach my aspirations in this organization if they are not hiring leaders that look like me or have similar backgrounds?” said Michael Thompson, associate vice president and co-chair of the Black Employee Network at TD Insurance, in an earlier interview.

“The horrible situation down in the U.S. certainly elevated the importance of eliminating racism,” said Mary Lou Maher, Toronto-based global head of inclusion and diversity for KPMG, in an earlier interview with Canadian Underwriter.

Maher was not asked about Fairfax specifically but in general about diversity and inclusion in the P&C industry.

“I do think the most recent events have really shone a light on the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) communities. There is work to be done in the BIPOC area,” Maher said, alluding to protests earlier this year in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd after he was arrested in Minneapolis.

“We need to do a little bit more in looking at our processes and looking at our decisions, which may not be as bias free as we would like,” said Maher.

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