January 1, 1999 by Canadian Underwriter
Last month Howard Moran, in his capacity as board chairman of the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO), announced the resignation of Len Ashby as the organization’s president.
Although an outspoken critic of the political dabbling of both companies and brokers in the industry’s various technology initiatives (namely Synchron), Ashby is seen to having been the driving force behind the need for cooperation between the different companies on the technology front. As such, his resignation will likely be a major setback to further partnership initiatives, marketwatchers say.
In an interview, Ashby says, “it became apparent that significant elements existed among both companies and brokers that moving ahead [in terms of industry technology] at this time is not in their strategic interests. It’s obvious that some groups have not kept up EDI and don’t want the industry to move even further ahead. As the situation currently stands, I don’t see how the CSIO can serve all of its member interests.”
Further stalling on industry technology advancement is leaving the door open to outside competitors, Ashby warns. He points out, however, that the CSIO has survived past management shakeups. “I hope its resilience will persevere, but I fear that the organization may be broken down. Ashby’s resignation from the CSIO became effective in mid-November. He plans on starting a technology consultancy firm outside of the insurance industry.
The CSIO announced that Alan Boyes of the Insurance Information Centre of Canada (IICC) will take over as the organization’s acting president until a permanent successor for Ashby is found.
ICC AGM outlines core strategies
Prominent issues on the Insurance Council of Canada’s (ICC) agenda for next year include catastrophic loss reduction, potential Y2K exposures, consumer education and — heading the list — responding to the legislative deregulation processes remolding Canada’s financial services sector, says George Anderson, president of the ICC at the recently held annual general meeting.
The ICC was well prepared for the release of the MacKay Task Force report which suggested some radical measures allowing banks greater power to operate within the insurance industry, he notes. “Since that time we have been very active across the country … The task force made a significant misjudgment in relying too heavily on government intervention in the areas of privacy and tied selling to solve consumer concerns with respect to financial services. We have been making a case which demonstrates that the task force paid insufficient attention to the additional issues of sector domination by the banks and the subsequent dislocation and job loss that would occur if the banks were granted the additional powers they are lobbying for.”
Anderson says the government does have a justifiable role to play in three critical areas affecting the financial services landscape: competitive balance, consumer protection and job creation. These themes will form the backbone of the ICC’s lobbying activities in the months ahead, he says.
On weather losses, Anderson says the rising trend and cost inflicted on the industry is becoming a growing concern. “Some of the large sums of money spent on disaster relief could be spent to good affect on disaster prevention.” He referred to the success of the Alberta Hail Suppression Project which is in its third year as an industry pilot project.
In addition, Anderson notes, “last year I stated our intention to move quickly to establish the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and this year I am pleased to report that good progress has been made. We have conducted meetings across Canada to get feedback on the priorities for the institute.”
On the consumer education front, Anderson notes that it was a year ago that the ICC launched its “Consumer Education Program” to gage consumer needs and enhance public understanding of insurance. “Our first year proved to be successful and we were recently awarded a medal at the International Radio Advertising Festival in New York in the category of `Best Consumer Education’ series.”
New consumer initiatives this year include partnering with MPs to hold constituency forums on insurance, engaging future consumers through high school programs, the launch of a consumer “check list” in buying insurance, and the production of an audio-tape for blind and visually impaired consumers.
The Y2K problem will continue to generate speculation as the date draws closer, Anderson observes. The ICC has responded on several fronts in this regard, internally, within the industry, and by preparing the insured public for the eventuality. This included distributing more than 140,000 information pamphlets to the public over recent months. At its upcoming March meeting, the ICC will address other possible steps the industry could take in the final run up to the new millennium.
The other major policy project the ICC plans to focus on in the year ahead is privatization and harmonization. “Our privatization efforts will continue to focus on the federal review of export credit, workers’ compensation in Alberta, and creating a competitive auto insurance market in British Columbia. Our harmonization efforts will concentrate on the themes of efficiency and harmonization of government regulatory regimes … to create viable approaches to self-assessment in our industry, a trend already well established for the banks,” Anderson comments.