Canadian Underwriter

On the Rise

July 31, 2011   by Laura Kupcis

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An association is only as strong as its members. Knowing this, Greg Merrithew is committed to working towards increasing the Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association’s (CIAA) membership by five per cent. As the incoming CIAA president for the 2011-2012 year, Merrithew would like to increase the current member firm count from 125 to 132.

“Membership growth is important for any organization,” he says. “You are either growing or you are declining. It’s pretty rare for any organization to stay static.”
“If I can achieve a five per cent growth of membership firms, I will consider that to be a success in my term,” he adds.

Ideally, Merrithew would also like to see more than 50 per cent of the licensed independent adjusters in Canada be members of the CIAA. “If I could get the actual numbers of CIAA members to be 50 per cent or more of the actual licensed adjusters in Canada, I would definitely consider that a success,” he points out. In order to be a CIAA member, an individual must be employed with a company that has chosen to be a CIAA member firm. Aware that most mail-outs, handouts and e-blasts soliciting for new members often go unread, Merrithew will be employing the more effective in-person tactic. As president of the CIAA, Merrithew will be racking up the Air Miles attending a number of seminars and conferences across the country. During these visits to different cities and towns, he will be meeting with the proprietors of as many non-member firms as he possibly can.

Benefits of membership

Having been a CIAA member for much of his 31-year independent adjusting career, Merrithew has first-hand knowledge of the benefits of being a member. His initial reason for joining was simply to connect with other independent adjusters on a social and professional level. Being an independent adjuster in the Northwest Territories, Merrithew did not have a lot of contact with others in the field. Being a member afforded him the opportunity to attend seminars, meetings and conferences where he would not only meet colleagues – which he says is extremely important – but would be educated about new developments in the industry as well. The opportunity to send his staff for further education through seminars is paramount, he says.

Furthermore, the opportunity to cost effectively obtain errors and omissions insurance for his adjusting firm is worth the price of membership alone. “If anybody said to me, ‘Give me a reason why financially this organization is important to me as a member,’ you can’t beat our E&O program,” he says. “What it costs me for membership plus premium is less than the quotes that I was getting to just go out and get stand-alone E&O insurance.”

The road to president

Merrithew started his path to presidency as vice president of the Western Region in 2005. The region had been one of the strongest through the late 1980s and early 1990s, but by the early 2000s, the region had started lagging behind the rest. Even the annual joint conference with the Canadian Insurance Claims Managers’ Association had been cancelled. Membership had started to fall off, likely due to a perceived lack of benefits in the region. Committed to resurrecting the region to its previous glory, Merrithew stepped up as vice president. From there, he assumed the role of president. During that time, the CIAA/CICMA joint seminar was resurrected and new opportunities were created within the area, seeing an increase in membership once again.

From there, Merrithew was asked to stand for second vice president of the national executive, before becoming first vice president. In his role as second vice president, he would oversee all the internal committees that are under the auspice of the CIAA. As first vice president, his role was to look outward, focusing on external issues affecting or concerning the CIAA.

His name is currently up for election for president, a role he will assume at the CIAA’s Annual General Meeting in Muskoka at the end of August – provided nobody makes a last minute pitch to run against him, he laughs.

Creative strategic plan

As president, in addition to boosting the membership of the association, Merrithew will continue to work on the strategic plan that was launched by the CIAA in 2009. When the creative strategic plan (CSP) was launched, it was clear the mandate would take at least three to five years to implement. “We are still on track to do that,” he says. “That is still my main focus in my year as president.” During his tenure, he will focus on the educational portion of the CSP – a mandate to improve the availability of hands-on training for adjusters with the possibility of a designation for CIAA members.

Branding is also a huge issue for the CIAA. A survey conducted as part of the CSP showed that there was a lack of understanding or knowledge of the CIAA and what sets its members apart. Furthermore, the designations obtained by members, which are very difficult to achieve, were not well understood by the industry at large, Merrithew says. Once the educational component has been settled, and a designation program launched, Merrithew will focus on ensuring the industry is aware of member designations and what they entail.

Regional focus

Using his experience as regional president, Merrithew will also focus more heavily on the various regions across the country. In the past, the regions have worked somewhat independently without much input from the national executive. Going forward, Merrithew will be more directly involved with the regions, assisting the regions wherever possible.

As part of his regional work, Merrithew will be focusing on the Provincial Disaster Assistance Plans within the regions. This relationship between independent adjusters and the provincial Emergency Measures Offices is quite solid in the eastern provinces and in Manitoba. Merrithew would like to see this trend carried across the country. In the case of a non-insured event, the independent adjuster is available to help the provincial government handle claims from the public.

“These are ongoing issues that I am not initiating,” Merrithew says. “They are in the works already, so it is a continuing on of our process.”

Health and safety

Finally, Merrithew will be working to improve the safety of independent adjusters in the field. The health and safety of his staff is paramount to anything else.

“My goal is to ensure that the word gets out to member firms and individual members,” Merrithew says. “Look after your health, look after yourself, be safe.” 

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