Quarterly Review Summer 2023
By Dafna Izenberg | 15-minute read
In this issue we’re looking at how LINK Canada is driving inclusivity in the insurance industry and investing how MGAs play an important role in “fun”.
LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Insurance Industry
LINK Canada planned its “coming out” party for Pride Month in 2023. The group was formed by a steering committee comprised of insurance professionals from seven or eight different companies who identify as LGBTQ+ or as allies and is working to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people in the industry. LINK Canada officially launched in January of this year and Markel sponsored its first party, which was held at a restaurant in downtown Toronto on June 15. “First times” are always a bit nerve-wracking and the party organizers weren’t sure how many people would show up. But they needn’t have worried: Two hundred people reserved tickets as soon as they became available.
It was just the kind of event Ray Chaaya, AVP Employee Experience and Culture Manager at Zurich Canada, has been looking for. As a gay man working in the industry for 17 years, he has found few opportunities to network with other LGBTQ+ insurance professionals from outside his company. And these opportunities are important, says Chaaya, who is a member of LINK Canada’s steering committee, because so much networking happens when people from different companies meet. In particular, connections are often sparked “that can grow into potential mentorship and coaching opportunities in the future,” he says. Part of LINK Canada’s mandate is to ensure there are places where insurance professionals who are members of LGBTQ+ communities feel comfortable networking with others in their business.
There is increasing awareness throughout the insurance industry in Canada of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).
There is increasing awareness throughout the insurance industry in Canada of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Several of the bigger companies in the field have started employee resource groups (ERGs) that advocate for inclusion of LGBTQ+ and other communities. But smaller organizations don’t always have the resources for these initiatives, says Chaaya. Emily Morine, vice-president of London Markets at Crawford and Company and an ally-member of LINK Canada’s steering committee points out that an umbrella organization like LINK Canada is a vehicle for spreading support to employees at these companies. LINK Canada has recently partnered with a vendor to start providing inclusivity-related education and guidance to industry partners that are taking steps to improve DE&I for their staff, for example by setting up ERGs.
LINK Canada is part of a larger LINK network that took root in the U.K. about ten years ago. Erik Johnson, Active Underwriter of MIC Global Syndicate 5183 at Lloyd’s of London, has been part of LINK U.K. from the start. “I had been working at Deloitte, which had an LGBTQ+ network,” he says. “Coming into the London insurance market, there wasn’t really anything like that and I thought, ‘Okay, let’s see if we can create something.’” To gauge interest, he helped plan an open event that was sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright. The invitations were “all word of mouth,” Johnson says. Eighty people came—“way more than we thought,” he says.
But there were challenges. The group had some “strong partners,” but it was difficult to raise money even for a website or promotional material, Johnson remembers. “Our first LinkedIn was all private because people didn’t necessarily want to publicly be associated with the group,” he adds. Things are very different today. LINK is now supported by more than 40 insurance-related sponsors, with over 2,000 members from more than 300 different companies. It helps these partners coordinate their entries to London’s Pride Parade and jointly hosts LGBTQ+ events with sponsors. In past years, LINK has hosted fundraising events in which companies submitted entries in contests—in one case, for the best Pride T-shirt—and any money raised was donated to LGBTQ+ charities in the U.K. This year, Pride events in London’s insurance industry included multiple Drag Bingo events, movie screenings, educational sessions, and networking events. “There were almost too many Pride events in the insurance industry during Pride Month to even go to,” Johnson says. In 2019, LINK won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which Johnson explains is akin to the Order of Canada (it so happens that Johnson is Canadian). “The two co-chairs at the time got to go to Buckingham Palace for a garden party to get their award,” he says.
The voluntary nature of the work is another challenge. “We are all very busy individuals with full-time jobs,” says Chaaya. “I think we are all still in it because we are very passionate about it.” Perhaps the bigger hurdle, he says, is the fact that the insurance industry has for many generations been dominated by straight men. Part of LINK Canada’s mission is to draw more diverse talent; it has set for itself the goal of helping to make the insurance industry the employer of choice for LGBTQ+ communities. Some companies are more on board with this than others, says Chaaya. “Some have more exposure to LGBTQ+ communities than others,” he says. “I think those are the kinds of challenges we’re going to come across and I think that’s part of the fun of it all.”
“Our industry is aging, and we’re bringing in all this younger talent now. That younger talent has different demands and different expectations of the industry.”
LINK Canada’s efforts to make the insurance industry a more appealing place for LGBTQ+ professionals to work could prove to be critical. The Insurance Institute of Canada’s 2022 demographic analysis of the industry found that recruitment and retention are among insurance companies’ biggest concerns. When Chaaya and Morine recently went to a job fair, some of the students seemed surprised to see them there. “It was almost like, ‘Oh, we didn’t think we were gonna find you guys here talking about this,’” says Chaaya. “Our industry is aging, and we’re bringing in all this younger talent now. That younger talent has different demands and different expectations of the industry.”
Canada is one of three new LINK branches, with other chapters having recently opened in the U.S. and Bermuda. Johnson says LINK Canada “smashed it” in terms of soliciting industry support; less than a year after launching, LINK Canada has several sponsors, both from the corporate and non-profit sectors. “They beat the U.K., they beat the U.S.,” says Johnson. “We look at them with a bit of envy because of how fast they were able to do it from zero.”
The IIC’s new demographic report found a drop in dissatisfaction among employees in the industry with respect to their companies’ DE&I efforts, from 20 per cent in 2017 to nine per cent in 2022. Meanwhile, satisfaction with employers’ DE&I efforts rose from 35 per cent in 2017 to 53 per cent in 2022. While this is encouraging, the report also found that most companies did not have data on the numbers of their employees who identify as LGBTQ+. Several of the companies that responded to the survey indicated that they didn’t collect this information because they didn’t find it helpful with recruitment. The report notes that “organizations will likely be forced to revisit this issue” as DE&I continues to be a priority “in competing industries like finance, consulting and professional services.” Knowing how many people in your company identify as LGBTQ+ means you can better support them; it is also a clear measure of whether you are attracting diverse talent.
LINK in the U.K. has partnered with brokers and insurers to create guidance that companies can follow related to employee benefits, inclusion, DE&I data collection, and recruitment that accommodate LGBTQ+ people and make the insurance industry “a place where you want to work,” Johnson says. “It’s as basic as, what is the language in your HR policy—does it talk about husband and wife, does it talk about male or female—with respect to adding your spouse to your health policy or pension?” This year, LINK in the U.K. partnered with Lloyd’s of London to create a mentoring program that matched junior and senior LGBTQ+ professionals. “There were probably 50 people involved,” says Johnson, including himself. LINK U.K. has held events that talk about LGBTQ+ rights internationally, encouraging insurance employers to think about what it might be like for LGBTQ+ employees when they go on work trips in other countries and what support they might need while abroad?
Raising these broader questions related to LGBTQ+ employees’ experience in the industry is part of LINK’s ongoing work. “We’re very aware that access does not mean inclusivity,” says Chaaya of LINK Canada. “We play a part with our sponsors to help them define what inclusivity means within their organizations. Attracting talent is one side of it, but it doesn’t end there.”
LINK Canada’s next big event is planned for September, at the annual CRIMS conference. Their LinkedIn page recently clocked 500 followers. (LINK U.K. is also throwing a big party in September, celebrating its tenth anniversary with a gala charity awards dinner.) LINK Canada is seeing interest from every corner of the industry, including law firms, risk engineers, and restoration companies. “It’s quite impactful,” says Chaaya. “We are a safe and inclusive destination for LGBTQ individuals in the industry. I mean, it sounds so simple, but there was nothing like this when I started.”
Fun & Sun
Pulling back the curtain on the insuring of the outdoor sporting events, music festivals and street parties we all love so much in the summer
Every summer, Canadians congregate in the thousands—sometimes the tens and even hundreds of thousands—to enjoy outdoor concerts, car races, baseball games, and street parties. But few of them give much thought to how these events are insured; if they did, it might make their heads spin. Because imagine the many risks against which the annual Toronto Pride parade—with more than 200,000 people marching through downtown Toronto, and some 2.4 million people watching—needs protection. Or the Montreal Jazz Festival, which stretches over four days with six outdoor stages. Some events consist of as many as 50 different components that require underwriting. How does it all come together?
The insurance of “fun” is something of a specialized field, requiring a diversity of knowledge. The three main areas for coverage tend to be liability, cancellation and equipment. But there is no one formula; every event has its own unique features. An outdoor music festival will require sound and lighting equipment and might include multiple independent vendors, of both food and merchandise; neighbourhood parties often mount beer tents and put up play areas for children. The location and capacity of each attraction also factor into risk; some insurers might look at the composition of a crowd—age range, for example, or differing team allegiances—and whether this implies risk of any kind.
The insurance of “fun” is something of a specialized field, requiring a diversity of knowledge.
This past May, Canadian news outlets reported that the annual Toronto Pride parade was at risk of being cancelled, in part due to a 300 percent increase in insurance premiums from the year before. One factor in this spike was the fact that incumbent insurers, which had traditionally been principal insurers of sports and entertainment events in Canada, decided not to continue providing options to Canadian risk. There aren’t many insurers in Canada who can properly insure an event like Pride, says Mark Woodall, former president of Special Risk Insurance Managers in Vancouver, B.C. He estimates there are up to 10 different kinds of coverages required. “You’ve got your liability coverage,” he says. “You have to protect all of the people coming to the event. You have to protect the patrons participating in the event. You have to protect the innocent third-party walking down the street. You’ve got auto exposure. You’ve got weather exposure. You’ve got terrorism exposure.” He also lists property coverage, professional liability, medical malpractice and abuse.
Because covering a big outdoor event is at once a wide-ranging and case-by-case enterprise, insurance companies often engage managing general agents, commonly known as MGAs, to do some or all of the underwriting in these cases. Ideally, says Woodall who ran an MGA for 26 years, all the different coverages required for an event would be rolled into one policy. MGAs have access to many different insurance companies with many different underwriting appetites. Specific insurance companies typically have a focus and limited expertise, lacking the ability to provide “all things to all people,” says Woodall. This is where MGAs with expertise in insuring big sporting and entertainment events can come into play. The MGAs will strike contracts with insurance companies that give them access to money and policies, allow them to work under the bigger insurers’ licenses, essentially, in order to underwrite risk that is less familiar to the companies. This setup affords the companies a share of the business and limits their costs as they only pay a commission when the business is written. It can also make for a smoother experience for clients. “If they come to me as a trained MGA, I would assemble the policy together and find different insurers for all the different aspects of it,” Woodall says.
“If someone drops ice cream on the floor, and it’s left there for a half-an-hour, you could have multiple injuries”
Ultimately, the Toronto Pride parade went ahead this past June, likely thanks to negotiation, says Woodall. He speculates that this came down the implementing of safety and risk protection and risk reduction techniques. “It could have been the number of police officers,” he says. “It could have been how they blocked the streets off. It could have been the number of participants.”
Safety is perhaps the most obvious and immediate risk that needs addressing in the mounting of large events. Mark Woodall was one of a few insurers willing to underwrite UFC events when they first came to Canada in the early 2000s, and one of his conditions was that 1,000 police officers be stationed within five to six blocks of the venue. “Put it into perspective,” he says. “You have 20,000 people in an arena. You’re feeding them alcohol for two and a half, three hours. Your last event is your most hyped event. And then you turn them out on the street as soon as that concludes. Where do you think that testosterone level is? Where do you think the excitement level is? And all you need is one fight. One brawl, one guy walking in front of a car to take the entire event, bring it to its knees.” In the end, he agreed to 700 police officers. “We had no issues,” he says.
Woodall underwrote the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, a massive undertaking. More than 6,000 athletes competed in 364 events at 30 locations over 20 days. Woodall spent more than 60 hours assessing risk management issues ahead of time, looking at the capacity for medical care at competition venues, considering the implications of a huge influx of people with international licenses driving cars in Ontario, making sure organizers had information on each of the athletes and coaches participating in the Games. He evaluated the efficiency of cleaning protocols. “If someone drops ice cream on the floor, and it’s left there for a half-an-hour, you could have multiple injuries,” he says.
When deciding whether to underwrite an event, Woodall would also take a close look at the operators. “What was their commitment? What was their level of knowledge?” he says. “What was their desired intent? If a promoter’s No. 1 question is how much money can I make, I’d run for the hills.” As the insurer of something so complex and multi-faceted, knowing that the person running it is invested in safety, both of participants and of spectators, is critical. “You’re going to have claims, there’s no question about it,” says Woodall. “But you’ve got to make sure that the claims are minimized.”
Toronto-based broker Alan Hollingsworth is Sales Officer and Entertainment Practice Leader for Ontario at HUB International; he has specialized in providing insurance to the sports and entertainment industry for 25 years. A self-described “concert guy,” he has helped arrange coverage for many music festivals, each of which brings its own particular set of risks. One thing they all have in common is performers. “We always highly recommend that they consider event cancellation insurance, including non-appearance of key artists,” he says. “If the headliner can’t make it, some people will want their money back. They’ll say, ‘The opening acts were nice, but that’s not why I was here.’”
Converting a wide-open field into a live-music venue means setting up temporary infrastructure—security, cordoned-off “bars,” bathrooms. Every piece of equipment has to be insured, as they can be damaged or stolen. “A few years ago, somebody actually stole a portlet,” says Hollingsworth. Concerts have their own ecosystems; a host of businesses are always involved. “Sound companies, lighting companies, staging companies, fencing companies,” says Hollingsworth. Every vendor that sets up shop has to present its own certificate of insurance. If a table or display collapses and an injury results, the promoter needs to be protected in the event of a lawsuit. “The organizer could get pulled in just because the injury took place at their event,” he says.
Hollingsworth has noticed that many events are expanding in the hopes of drawing more customers. Canadian summers are short; outdoor fun tends to get quite clustered on the calendar, having to squeeze into 10 or 12 weekends. Often, people have to choose between events. To compete, promoters have to “raise the bar on what the offerings are,” says Hollingsworth. Maybe they bring in new amusements for kids or add square footage to a beer tent. With each new attraction comes additional risk. Another challenge Hollingsworth has noted of late is staffing. During the pandemic, many people left the industry, taking with them a knowledge base that needs to be built back up again.
The vast majority of events go really well, says Hollingsworth. But a heightened focus on security over the past five to ten years has made it more challenging for organizers to put on outdoor events. It has also made insuring them more complicated. At a street festival this past summer, he noticed that, in addition to the main road being closed, metal barriers had been stood up to prevent cars from driving on side roads and into the throngs. “Somebody’s footing the bill for that,” Hollingsworth says. But there were no issues at all with this event, even with several thousand people passing through over several days. “It was great. It was awesome,” he says. Hollingsworth enjoys the opportunity, as an insurance broker, to play a role in running an event where organizers and promoters are bringing a large group of people together for short time, especially for live music. “Magical moments come out of what’s witnessed on stage,” he says. “A week ago, this field had pigeons or geese roaming around and then a week later, you’ve got people there to see their favourite bands.”