Sonia Baxendale tapped to lead the Global Risk Institute in Financial Services

The Global Risk Institute in Financial Services (GRI) announced Dec. 13 that Sonia Baxendale will be its new President and CEO, effective Jan. 7, 2019. Baxendale succeeds Richard Nesbitt who is retiring as an officer and a director.

Toronto-based GRI is a think tank for the management of risks in financial services. It is a non-profit, public and private partnership with 32 government and corporate members from asset management, banking, insurance and pension management.

“Sonia has experience at the highest levels of financial services and in many facets of the business that dominate the industry today,” said Tiff Macklem, Chair of the GRI Board of Directors. “Her financial services background combined with her experience as a corporate director will bring perspective and leadership to further grow GRI’s impact and build on our recent successes.”

Baxendale is a Director of Laurentian BankForesters FinancialSickKids Foundation, and Toronto Artscape Inc. She was previously the President of CIBC Retail Markets where she led the Retail and Wealth Management businesses from 2005 to 2011. From July 2017 to January 2018, Baxendale served as Co-Interim President and CEO of Foresters Financial. She was named one of the “Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada” for three years in a row and then joined the ranks of the Top 100 Hall of Fame in 2010.

An increasingly complex world of global risks

“I am excited to join GRI to continue the excellent work with world leading institutions, government, regulators and academia in ensuring Canada continues to leverage its risk capability as a competitive advantage,” said Baxendale. “Partnering in research and education will allow us to maintain a sound financial system in an increasingly complex world of global risks.”

On behalf of GRI’s Board, Tiff Macklem thanked Richard Nesbitt for his contribution to the organization’s development. “Under Richard’s leadership, the quantity, quality and reach of GRI’s applied research has grown substantially and its risk education extends from graduate university programs to boards of directors.”

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Alberta’s economy expected to slow in 2019

The RBC Economic Outlook Report released Dec. 12 projects Alberta’s growth to decline to 1.5 per cent in 2019, from 2.4 per cent this year. Oil production cuts related to pipeline constraints and volatile oil and gas revenues will contribute to this slowdown.

“The oil production cut could lower GDP growth in Alberta by as much as a percentage point relative to prior assumptions,” said Craig Wright, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist, RBC. “However, the impact will depend on how prices and inventories respond to the cuts.”

B.C. expected to thrive

British Columbia’s economy, however, is expected to grow 2.6 per cent in 2019, up from 1.9 per cent in the previous outlook, says RBC Economics. LNG Canada‘s $40 billion natural gas project will contribute to the province’s economic expansion.

“Given that LNG Canada has indicated that it will spend $18 billion in Canada in the first five-year phase, mostly in B.C, we expect this activity will provide a shot in the arm to the provincial economy,” said Wright. “However, this also has the potential to cause further strain on a tight labour market.”

Canadian economy

For the country’s economy as a whole, RBC Economics forecasts Canada’s GDP growth to decrease by 0.2 percentage points to 1.7 per cent in 2019. “Slumping oil prices and higher interest rates weighed heavily on Canada’s economy in the latter part of 2018 and should have a similar effect into next year. Regulatory changes and rising rates will weigh on household spending 2019,” says the outlook.

 

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The Co-operators gives group plan members access to online therapy

The Co-operators announced Dec. 13 that eligible group plan members will be able to access therapist-guided, internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) through their extended health care coverage as of January. The new service will be offered through The Co-operators by Morneau Shepell.

“We’re proud to be one of the first group benefits providers to offer iCBT in our extended health care coverage,” said Conor Quinn, vice president of Group Benefits with The Co‑operators. “This is just another way for us to help make the workplace a pathway to positive mental health.”

The Co-operators is also incorporating iCBT as part of its claim management protocols for some plan members on disability leave for mental health conditions.

“We know that iCBT helps remove barriers for people who need support, whether those barriers are related to geography, cost or specific challenges with anxiety or depression,” said Adam Kelly, senior vice president, health and productivity solutions, Morneau Shepell.

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CI Financial acquires WealthBar

CI Financial Corp. and WealthBar Financial Services Inc. announced Dec. 14 that they have reached an agreement under which CI Financial will acquire a majority stake in WealthBar, an online wealth management and financial planning platform.

“WealthBar has developed a best-in-class digital advice platform with industry-leading tools and services and a superior client experience,” said Peter W. Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of CI Financial. “The addition of this technology and expertise will accelerate the development of CI’s comprehensive digital strategy, which is focused on innovation, operational efficiency, advisor productivity and client experience across all of our businesses in asset management and wealth management.”

Supporting advisors with a platform to engage investors

CI Financial says this acquisition will broaden the range of services and platforms it offers investors and advisors. “For example, we see great potential in providing advisors with the option of a digital platform to serve their clients,” Anderson said. “We firmly believe that investors benefit from advice provided by a professional financial advisor, and by supporting advisors with a platform to engage investors at all stages of their wealth management journey, we foster a relationship that grows as the investor’s need for advice grows.”

“We are delighted to enter this strategic partnership,” said Tea Nicola, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of WealthBar. “CI Financial is a strong company. Their independence and objectivity were important reasons for our decision to choose them as partners. WealthBar has achieved rapid growth since our launch in 2014 and CI Financial’s backing and resources will put us on a new growth trajectory as we build on our success in technology, client experience and products. We also see many exciting opportunities for the two firms to develop innovative new platforms and services throughout the CI Financial group.”

WealthBar will continue to operate as a stand-alone business under the leadership of Tea Nicola, Chris Nicola and Neville Joanes, all of whom are retaining an ownership interest in the firm.

The transaction is expected to close in January 2019. Terms were not disclosed.

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New product allows consumers to buy insurance through their smartphones

National Bank Insurance has teamed up with Canadian insurtech Breathe Life to provide consumers with the ability to buy a new term life insurance product online – even from their smartphones.

The new product features an integrated single-session quote creation and application process for up to $30,000 coverage in the event of a critical illness diagnosis and up to $750,000 coverage eligibility.

“For us, it’s fundamental to empower clients to choose how and when to purchase insurance, in a secure and effortless way, said Peter D. Thompson, senior vice president, insurance and president of National Bank Insurance. “And for clients who want support in the process, our seasoned team of agents is only a phone call away to provide guidance and advice.”

Untapped segment

Ian Jeffrey, co-founder and CEO of Breathe Life, said the life and health insurance area is a relatively untapped financial segment, especially in the online space.

“This partnership is the first of many more to come and we’re already looking ahead to introduce new breakthrough solutions in the coming months,” said Jeffrey.

Term-life insurance applications can be completed entirely online in a few minutes using a smartphone. In a statement, the bank said since its online launch, 70% of traffic and purchases originate from mobile devices, ensuring engagement with a new generation of online insurance clients.

Clients can schedule an appointment with an agent at any time, even after completing applications or after policy purchase. A fully licensed agent is always available to provide advice and answers as needed.

 

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Ten major acquisitions made in 2018

The Insurance Journal looks back at 10 major transactions that occurred over the last 12 months.


iA acquires an MGA

iA Financial Group acquired PPI Management, one of the largest managing general agencies supporting independent advisors in Canada. iA stated it is committed to preserving the independence of PPI as a marketing organization representing and promoting the products of all major Canadian insurers.

To learn more:

iA Financial Group acquires PPI


Knowledge First Financial becomes the largest RESP provider in Canada

Knowledge First Financial announced Jan. 3 that it acquired Heritage Education Funds. The deal created the largest RESP provider in Canada with approximately $6.2 billion in assets under management.

To learn more:

Knowledge First Financial to acquire Heritage Education Funds


An American company acquired an Ottawa-based group benefits broker

NFP, a U.S. insurance broker, announced Feb. 5 its acquisition of Ottawa-based Capital Benefit Financial Group. The transaction closed on Dec. 14, 2017.

To learn more:

NFP acquires Capital Benefit Financial Group


An MGA acquires another MGA

Managing General Agency Financial Horizons Group acquired ABEX Central Financial Services, an MGA based in Barrie, Ontario. In an announcement issued Feb. 1, John Hamilton, founder and CEO of Financial Horizons, stated that the acquisition is “another step in the strategic growth” of the company. “

To learn more:

Financial Horizons buys ABEX


Equisoft buys a digital provider

Equisoft, a provider of digital business solutions for the insurance and wealth industries, announced April 11 its acquisition of Kronos Technologies, a company that develops web and mobile applications for the investment and insurance sectors.

To learn more:

Equisoft acquires Kronos Technologies


The APRIL group enters the benefits market

The APRIL group announced April 23 its acquisition of Benecaid, a Toronto-based managing general underwriter and third party administrator specializing in group health insurance for SMEs.

To learn more:

APRIL group acquires Benecaid


Scotiabank acquired a leading independent investment firm

Scotiabank announced May 1 the completion of its acquisition of Jarislowsky, Fraser Limited, a leading independent investment firm.

Jarislowsky Fraser brought approximately $40 billion in assets under management to Scotiabank’s Canadian Asset Management business.

To learn more:

Scotiabank announces completion of Jarislowsky Fraser acquisition


Dialogue expanded its virtual healthcare platform

Dialogue Technologies, a virtual healthcare platform, acquired DXA, a company that has developed an AI-driven medical technology platform. In a Nov. 9 announcement, Dialogue stated that the acquisition will enable it to improve the efficiency of its services and explore partnership opportunities with healthcare providers and insurers.

To learn more:

Dialogue Technologies acquires DXA


CI Financial acquires digital advice platform

CI Financial Corp. announced Dec. 14 that it has acquired a majority stake in WealthBar, an online wealth management and financial planning platform. The aim of this acquisition is to accelerate the development of CI’s digital strategy,

To learn more:

CI Financial acquires Wealthbar


Hub pursues its acquisition strategy

Hub International made more than 20 acquisitions in Canada during 2018. Hub completed a total of 50 acquisitions internationally. Many of the Canadian acquisitions were in the employee benefits space. During the year, the company announced its corporate strategy “to aggressively assemble best-in-class capabilities and entrepreneurial talent across Canada to develop a complete employee benefits solution.”

 

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Hub acquires Rise People’s employee benefits practice

Hub International announced Dec. 17 that it has acquired the employee benefits practice of Vancouver-based Rise People Inc. (Rise).

Hub also announced that it will collaborate with Rise People to bring Rise’s human resources, time tracking, payroll and benefits administration solution to Hub’s employee benefits clients in Canada.

Rise decided to sell its employee benefits practice to Hub and focus on accelerating the development of its integrated platform for simplifying administration and increasing employee engagement.

Hub says acquiring Rise’s employee benefits practice is aligned with its strategy to “assemble best-in-class capabilities and entrepreneurial talent across Canada.”

Jesse McNeil, Director of Group Benefits at Rise People, will join Hub TOS reporting to Faizal Mitha, Chief Innovation Officer of Canadian Employee Benefits at Hub.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed

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PMAC says pooled funds should not be treated like retail funds

The association representing portfolio managers in Canada is asking the Canadian Securities Administrators(CSA) not to lump funds sold to sophisticated investors with those sold to average investors.

In a submission to the CSA on its request for comment on proposed amendments to National Instrument 81-105, the Portfolio Management Association of Canada (PMAC) says it stands for the highest standard of unbiased portfolio management for investors and for advancing standards.

But PMAC says the use of pooled funds, generally used for sophisticated, high-net-worth clients, fundamentally differs from retail mutual funds “and they should not be treated similarly.”

Unintended consequences

“PMAC is concerned that increased costs and regulatory burden on pooled funds could have unintended consequences on the continued ability to offer investors the unique benefits of pooled funds in a cost effective manner. Investor access to pooled funds should not be compromised as a result of an increased regulatory burden in the absence of specific policy concerns.”

PMAC says clients of portfolio managers already benefit from a number of protections, pointing to investment management arrangements, as well as registrants who manage a discretionary portfolio in accordance with other rules and regulations. It says this contrasts with NI 81-102 funds that can be sold to retail investors by members of the Mutual Fund Dealers Association (MFDA) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada(IIROC).

Know-your-product provisions

PMAC said it also has concerns about some of the enhanced conflicts of interest and know-your-product (KYP) provisions. It has asked the CSA to exempt pooled funds from the application of some of these conflicts and KYP requirements.

“Despite our concerns, PMAC believes that the more general proposed amendments to the conflicts of interest framework with an increased focus on the analysis, mitigation/avoidance and disclosure obligations would still adequately address any regulatory concerns regarding conflicts of interest for pooled funds, without necessitating the regulatory burden of compliance with sales practices in NI 81-105.

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Strategic and commercial approach with issues

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