2018 Holiday Letter from MIABC Chair

To My Fellow MIABC Members,

As 2018 draws to a close, and I complete my first year as Chair of the MIABC Board after 24 years as a Board member, I thought it seemed appropriate to send you each my best wishes for the holiday season. I also want to share with you, my colleagues and fellow MIABC Members, some of my reflections which were captured in my speech at this year’s Annual General Meeting.

When I took over as Board Chair at the end of last year, the MIABC was just completing its 30th full year in operation. When you reach a milestone like this, you can’t help but reflect on your origin story.

Let me set the scene. It’s 1985. Think big hair and shoulder pads. Mulroney. Madonna. MTV. An insurance crisis is looming in the US, front-page news across the country. Here in Canada, the Supreme Court has just decided, after five years of hard-fought litigation, that a city can be held liable for failing to enforce a building bylaw. Insurance companies are taking note. Local governments like yours are looking for liability insurance coverage. They are finding it is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

Enter the UBCM. A task force was struck to consider alternatives to the private insurance market. Ultimately, that task force recommended that the municipalities of BC establish a self-insurance pooling program. On November 26, 1987, the MIABC was created, with 144 local governments joining as members.

The rest is history, right? Not so. Today, I’d like to remind you that our story continues, and it is a compelling one.

Our story’s got everything.

Our story’s got transformation.

As a board member for the past 24 years, I’ve been a witness to that transformation. When I started in 1994, we had a staff of five or six. They worked out of a small office in an industrial complex. We struggled to maintain financial viability without vastly increasing our rates. For board meetings, we met at an airport hotel.

Today, we have almost $90 million in equity and 24 full-time employees. Our board meetings take place at the MIABC’s modern offices in a building that we own. Far from the fledgling organization I encountered in ‘94, we are now recognized by our peers as one of the highest functioning risk pools in North America.

Our story’s got suspense.

No good story is without some intrigue, and ours is no exception.

In the early 2000s, the ravages of the leaky condo crisis threatened to disintegrate the MIABC. Leaky condo claims affected only a small portion of our members, but it was estimated that it would cost tens of millions to resolve them all. Due to lack of reinsurance, our members voted to withdraw coverage. For us, it was an existential crisis; we prided ourselves on extending the most expansive coverage, not withholding it. But we weathered the storm. It turned out to be a defining moment for the MIABC. And in 2017, you voted to reinstate water infiltration coverage.

Our story’s got growth.

In a good story, the protagonist demonstrates growth. Over the years we have seen rapid growth and we have seen sluggish growth. Today, our growth is strong and steady.

The Property Insurance Program completed its fourth full year of operation in 2018 and the results were impressive. The City of Kelowna joined last year, and its enrollment added depth and scale to the program’s reach. We achieved our volume, income, and geographic diversity goals at a prudent and sustainable pace. The MIABC now undoubtedly provides property insurance to more local governments in BC than any other insurer.

From a financial point of view, 2018 is shaping up to be another successful year. We have been successful at keeping claims expenses at the anticipated level and premiums stable. We also voted to return dividends to our members for the 10th straight year.

Our story’s got a great supporting cast.

I have long believed that our greatest asset is our staff. This highly competent group of individuals possesses a knowledge of local government insurance that is unmatched anywhere in our province.

I would be remiss if I did not recognize the considerable leadership abilities of our CEO, Tom Barnes, and applaud him for assembling this talented team of professionals.

Our story’s got a compelling theme.

They say the theme is the “why” of a story. We at the MIABC are very clear on our “why”.

The MIABC began with a simple goal of delivering liability insurance at stable rates. Today, we achieve that and much more, supporting each other and offering levels of service that no one member could find on its own. We have, in short, turned a commodity into a community. I am honoured to have been a part of the MIABC community for much of the past three decades. It has been a privilege to watch the organization grow and to grow with it.

A lot has changed since 1985. Fortunately, the big hair and shoulder pads are gone. What hasn’t changed is our commitment to giving our members the dependable support they need to keep their communities vibrant and alive. Without our members, we would not exist. We often say that we are greater than the sum of our parts, but every single member is equally important to the collective health of this organization.

As Board Chair, I would like to thank you, our members, for the part you have played in our story and wish you the best for the holiday season.

Yours truly,

Charles Hamilton

Municipal Insurance Association of BC Board Chair