The National Insurance Conference of Canada (NICC) – Where Industry Leaders Meet, kicks off again this week in Montreal, Quebec. This year’s event will feature discussions on everything from cyber-attacks, severe weather and climate change, auto insurance, and flood insurance programs.

With New Brunswick a hub of insurance sector activity, Opportunities NB (ONB) thought it would be a good idea to catch up with Don Forgeron, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s (IBC) President and CEO, to get his insights on the state of the industry.

ONB: Can you tell us a bit about the Insurance Bureau of Canada?

Forgeron: The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association for private insurers in Canada that provide home, car and business insurance. We work to inform sound public policy on issues such as sustainable car insurance, severe weather adaptation, and earthquake preparedness. We play a critical role in ensuring that our competitive environment serves the needs of consumers.

ONB: What do you currently see as the biggest issues and challenges for the industry in Canada both now and five years down the road? What is the industry currently doing to manage these challenges?

Forgeron: Helping Canadians adapt to climate change and prepare for natural catastrophes is a major issue for our industry. Insured losses from severe weather events have jumped to $1 billion annually. This has made insurers all-too-familiar with the economic and human costs of severe weather, and floods, in particular. Our role, which we take very seriously, is to help people manage their risk and to recover when they face a disaster. Helping Canadians prepare for a major earthquake is another key priority for our industry. Certain regions of our country are at risk. We are working hard to make Canadians aware of their earthquake risk and to help them be ready physically and financially.

Lastly, technological innovation is reshaping our industry. It’s quickly changing how we interact with consumers, how we deliver our products and services, what business models we use. It’s even changing how we are regulated. The place where technology and regulation intersect is now a new frontier for our industry where many opportunities exist for insurers and regulators to try fresh approaches.

ONB: What are the biggest areas of growth potential for the industry right now?

Forgeron: By harnessing major technological advances, especially around how we use data, insurers are creating new products such as user-based auto insurance. As well, our industry is taking innovative approaches to the new risks posed by the shared economy. Airbnb and UberX present new challenges and opportunities for many industries, including ours.

ONB: What advice would you give to any young Canadians considering a career in your industry? 

Forgeron: Dare I say it? The P&C insurance industry is an exciting place. For actuaries, underwriters and accountants, our industry offers the chance to delve into highly technical, complex issues. For many others, our industry offers the opportunity to work directly with Canadians to make their lives better, whether it’s by helping someone recover from a collision or flooded basement. And as our industry evolves to meet changing technologies and the new shared economy, our industry offers anyone involved the opportunity to think outside the box.

ONB: You’ll be moderating a panel on Flood Insurance Programs at the event. Care to give us a sneak peek at that conversation?

Forgeron: I’m very pleased to take part in this year’s National Insurance Conference of Canada. This event is an important opportunity for industry leaders to share information and new ideas. For example, the panel on flood insurance programs will include presentations from UK and German representatives who will each explain their country’s unique approach to flood insurance. As panel moderator, I will encourage participants to explore these international experiences to better understand what options exist for a made-in-Canada solution.

This is important because each time a flood occurs, families are displaced, homes are damaged, and businesses are affected. A flood is also an unplanned drain on government resources, transportation lines and an overall drag on economic activity.

ONB: Finally, if we could work in a quick plug for New Brunswick, why is this province a great place to do business?

Forgeron: As an Atlantic Canadian, I admit to being a little biased, but New Brunswick is certainly one of the great places in Canada to do business. Over the past 20 years, I have spent considerable time in New Brunswick and know it as a fine place to raise a family. It has safe communities and genuine, hardworking people.

The province also has the business advantage of having low business costs and being a hotspot for sustainable growth industries. Our industry recognizes New Brunswick as a great place to do business – there are 118 P&C insurance companies providing home, car and business insurance in the province, employing thousands of people and paying millions of dollars in taxes.

Cover image via IBC.