At the 60th Annual RIMS Conference in Boston, Mass.–with every manner of English intonation and drawl—I am struck by the interconnectedness of the world.
It’s not simply that 10,000 risk managers from around the world gathered here to discuss the process and practicality of risk mitigation. Or that every U.S. domestic carrier, international insurer and MGA (including a few Canadian heavyweights) are at the largest trade show for risk management. Rather, I am struck by how many companies care about the Canadian market.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not subscribe to the notion that Canada is the red-headed stepchild in the North American/Western democratic family. Canada is a competitive economic market–if we could just get the rest of the world to stop grouping us under the catch-all “North American” category.
Still, a number of companies do identify Canada as a key international market. Arch Insurance Group, ACE, and Towers Watson are all eager to get in front of Canadians—particularly brokers—in an effort to grow business and develop network alliances.
While Canada is still favourable—in relation to insurance coverage and reciprocal tax agreements—there are advantages to working with local representatives. For example, one development ownership in the Alberta oil sands can include up to a dozen different corporate entities from around the world. The question international companies and carriers ask is whether or not their broker (regional or otherwise) can appreciate both the intricacies of the oil & gas business, as well as the unique exposure risks of a changing stream of oil sands developers.
This interconnectedness represents an advantage for brokers who can capitalize on their knowledge while developing global relationships. For local brokers, it means the ability to compete with large brokerages in the international market. The downside is this interest in Canada means increased capacity in the market, keeping it soft (and stable).
Still, in this increasingly global market, where regional expertise is just as important as global networks, brokers need to decide: Is it enough to be in this market for X number of years? Or do we develop a global competitive edge by developing local expertise?
I just spent a week listening to the world knock on Canada’s door. I wonder, who will answer?
Originally published in Canadian Insurance Business Magazine, May 2010