Canadian Underwriter

A Wild Encounter

September 25, 2013  

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When a brokerage gets involved in a bear encounter, it’s usually because of the damage caused to a cottage or a car. But a recent brokerage-bear encounter was all about supporting Bear With Us—a local organization with a winning idea in the Aviva Community Fund competition.

“Winning a share of the Aviva Community Fund will help sustain our operations and deliver on our mission in several ways,” says Mike McIntosh, president of Bear With Us. “We can now expand our educational program and deliver more presentations to community groups and schools; upgrade our equipment and build a new enclosure to rehabilitate injured or orphaned bears, which will be completed this September (2013).”

“Mike is a customer of ours, so when he called to ask if we’d like to get behind his idea we didn’t hesitate,” says Adam Caswell, owner and president at Hutcheson, Reynolds and Caswell Insurance Brokers, located in Huntsville, Ont. “Our staff is always keen to get involved in local initiatives, especially when it’s a real benefit to the community.”

When McIntosh speaks about bears, it’s with an enormous amount of respect and admiration—no doubt the result of his more than 20 years of experience dedicated to promoting peaceful co-existence with these misunderstood giants of the woods.

Bear With Us has special authorization from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, to rehabilitate and release orphaned bear cubs as well as live-trap and relocate perceived nuisance bears into the wild.

The Bear With Us website provides extensive information about coexisting with bears and devotes an entire section to helping home and cottage owners prevent damage by a bear to their property, which can help reduce this type of insurance claim.

McIntosh believes there’s significant value in reaching more young people through the educational programs he facilitates. “For years bears have been misunderstood – deemed either dangerous or a nuisance. It’s important to educate people about bear behaviour so we can both live peacefully together. Young people are more open to new ways of thinking, which is why they’re such great advocates when it comes to preservation.”

“Full-blown attacks by black bears are rare,” McIntosh, continues. “Bears have the power to inflict great damage but for some reason they exhibit tremendous restraint when dealing with people and usually retreat before people are even aware of them.”

When asked for advice about entering the Aviva Community Fund, he replies: “The idea has to be ‘do-able’ with a long-term vision.”

He adds, “social media tools like Facebook are also really important – people have to know about your idea as soon as possible so you can get votes because if the awareness isn’t there, your idea doesn’t have a chance – you need the votes to get you to the final round – which is why it’s also a good idea to hook up with a brokerage.”

Adam Caswell also recognizes the benefits of supporting a local idea: “Our brokerage got great exposure without the traditional marketing costs, by being associated with this idea and the strong buzz it created within our community—people were talking about Bear with Us and other local Aviva Community Fund ideas in coffee shops, grocery stores and on social media sites.”

Caswell identifies another benefit, “We had the opportunity to talk to more people, which can lead to new business the next time they’re buying insurance.”

It’s not too early to start thinking about creating or sponsoring your own Aviva Community Fund idea; the 2013 competition launches September 23, with the first round of voting starting September 30.

“We’re definitely interested in supporting an idea in the next Aviva Community Fund competition,” says Caswell enthusiastically. “Aviva’s found an amazing way to donate to communities and worthwhile causes, through such a unique, interactive platform.”


Copyright 2013 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the July 2013 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine. 


This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.