Canadian Underwriter

New Found Claim

January 2, 2017   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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After almost 40 years of involvement with the Canadian Insurance Claims Managers Association (CICMA), Alex Lethbridge’s goals include raising its profile and encouraging companies to use its inter-company arbitration agreement.

With the Canadian Inter-Company Arbitration Agreement, “we could curtail the legal costs considerably for our member companies,” explains Lethbridge, who was elected CICMA national president, for a one year term, at the association’s annual general meeting this past September.

CICMA has chapters across Canada. CICMA’s Ontario chapter – in conjunction with the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association – is scheduled to host January 30 the 50th annual joint conference in Toronto.

Alex Lethbridge, President, Canadian Insurance Claims Managers Association; claims specialist, Intact Insurance

Scheduled to speak at this year’s joint conference is Giselle Kovary, co-author of Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations. Also scheduled to appear is comedian Erica Sigurdson.

Lethbridge was born and raised in Paradise River, Labrador. By day, he works in St. John’s, Newfoundland as a claims specialist for Intact Insurance.

The inter-company arbitration agreement is intended to provide an informal alternative to litigation when there are subrogation claims between insurance companies.

“That agreement is used daily” at his company, notes Lethbridge.

“We do plan – and the chapters would probably be spearheading this – to send letters to executives at big companies, reminding them of our arbitration process and our capabilities there,” says Lethbridge, who originally got involved in CICMA during the late-1970s.

“The arbitration process applies to most any type of claim,” he notes of the inter-company arbitration agreement. “There are exceptions, but even the exceptions can be sent to arbitration with special agreement by both sides,” Lethbridge adds.

Most times, he suggests, insurers “confer with each other and, most times, they can reach an agreement between themselves, but if they can’t, it needs to go to arbitration and that’s where the CICMA comes in.”

Alex Lethbridge, President, Canadian Insurance Claims Managers Association; claims specialist, Intact Insurance

With the arbitration agreement, insurers would take the report of a dispute to a panel, have it arbitrated “and report the decision back to the companies,” Lethbridge explains.

Before joining Lethbridge Adjusting Ltd. in the early 1970s – at the time, a St. John’s-based family firm – Lethbridge reports he spent a year working as a substitute teacher.

“That was the only other job I did besides insurance,” reports Lethbridge. “I started quite early.” The family firm has since been sold.

After a short stint with the family business, he worked for St. John’s brokerage Crosbie Insurance from 1972 through 1975.

“After the two years I worked as a trainee adjuster, I went to work for an insurance broker, so I was into selling for a while, but I also did claims work when I was with the broker,” says Lethbridge.

“It was general claims, automobile, property and some specialties as well,” he adds.

Lethbridge’s next employer – for whom he started working in February 1976 – was Insurance Corporation of Newfoundland Limited. That firm was acquired about 20 years ago by AXA Group. In 2011, Intact Financial Corporation announced that it had agreed to acquire the Canadian operations of AXA Group.

“I am technically still here because Insurance Corporation of Newfoundland was bought by AXA,” Lethbridge points out.

“It was ironic, because I started working for one of the smallest companies in the country and ended up with one of the largest companies in the country.”

Within a few years of joining Insurance Corporation of Newfoundland, Lethbridge became active with CICMA.

Initially, he joined the Nova Scotia chapter, with which he spent about a year.

“After a couple of years, myself and a couple of other claims managers here worked together to get a Newfoundland chapter” for CICMA, he relays. “That’s where I became most involved, was helping to get a chapter for Newfoundland – before it was called Newfoundland and Labrador even,” he quips.

Before his election September 19, Lethbridge had been vice president of CICMA.

“The year before I served as vice president, I did a term as treasurer,” Lethbridge reports. “Before that, I did a year as secretary.”

CICMA’s activities include funding awards for students with the highest marks – in courses such as the Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) and Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional (FCIP) programs at the Insurance Institute of Canada.

“Most times we support the highest overall achiever and, of course, we encourage claims courses as well,” says Lethbridge.

“I find the organization is in very good shape with a lot of good people involved,” he says. “We are making some small improvements to help it run more efficiently. The goal is to help out the chapters and to make them run more efficiently.”

Lethbridge says he does not “expect any major changes,” but, rather, there would be small “housekeeping” changes, such as making the reporting back and forth from the chapters to the national office “more efficient.”

Noting that CICMA has “a new website that was only developed last year,” Lethbridge says “there are still improvements being made there as well.”

Another goal is to “make more people aware of the organization and the benefits of it,” he adds.

At Intact, Lethbridge handles both commercial and personal claims.

“I do a bit of everything at this stage,” he reports, adding he handles some “large complicated claims.”

When he is not working as a claims specialist or volunteering with CICMA, Lethbridge enjoys both saltwater and fresh-water fishing.

“I have a great love for the outdoors,” he says. “I love hunting and fishing.”

Other hobbies include carpentry and music.

After more than 40 years in the insurance industry, Lethbridge finds one of the challenges facing claims professionals is weather-related natural disasters.

“Down east, you have the hurricanes that blow in, and you get flooding sometimes too from storms,” Lethbridge notes.

“Natural disasters are becoming quite a challenge I find for the industry as a whole,” he observes. “Each one that happens will uniquely have its own challenges. We are seeing more of them than we ever saw before.”

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