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Provincial insurers form CLHIA Quebec

By Alain Thériault | October 22 2015 07:00AM

Denis Berthiaume, Senior Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Desjardins Insurance

In order to speak with a common voice, the insurers represented by the Regroupement des assureurs à charte du Québec (RACQ), and the Quebec arm of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) have merged their operations into an independent entity that officially will be called CLHIA Quebec.

CLHIA Quebec means to increase the amount of influence that Quebec insurers and reinsurers have within the CLHIA, as well as at provincial, federal, and even international levels. Denis Berthiaume, the CEO of Desjardins Insurance, became chairman of the insurers’ committee at CLHIA Quebec in June when this new body was still being formed. He will serve for a term of two years and his mandate is renewable. He took over the role from René Hamel, who was president of RACQ before he retired from his position of CEO at SSQ Financial Group. The current CEO of RACQ, Jean La Couture, will remain with CLHIA Quebec and act as an advisor on health and drug related issues.

In an interview with The Insurance and Investment Journal, Berthiaume revealed that the idea of CLHIA Quebec began to take shape a few years ago when key players in RACQ and the Quebec section of CLHIA frequently found themselves defending the same interests at the same forums. Both organizations ended up making a joint submission to Quebec’s Committee on Public Finance in January, as part of its consultation on balancing the provincial budget. It was twenty years ago that insurers chartered to do business in Quebec resigned from CLHIA, and they have now buried the hatchet.

“Over time, the differences were ironed out. In recent years, RACQ members have once again become members of the CLHIA. Both associations have maintained a close relationship, but we presented ourselves under two names, with two voices,” says Berthiaume. “We were disappointed with the amount of influence that Quebec players were able to exert on government authorities. We spent a lot of time coming to an agreement before expressing our views. We concluded that creating a new body for Quebec would give us better leverage.”

When CLHIA’s senior vice president for Quebec, Yves Millette, retired in July, that also accelerated things. Berthiaume says it was at this point that the CLHIA began looking for a replacement who will become the permanent head of CLHIA Quebec. “CLHIA Quebec will keep a low profile until this position is filled,” he says. This future president will be the voice through which CLHIA Quebec will speak.

As for the committee chaired by Denis Berthiaume, it includes a number of insurers and reinsurers incorporated in Quebec as well as three federally chartered insurers who are members of the CLHIA, namely Sun Life Financial, Great-West Life, and Manulife. “It is the Quebec chartered companies that will be the driving forces of this new group and they will be able to operate freely in order to deal with the challenges facing the industry in Quebec,” he explains.

Berthiaume notes that CLHIA Quebec members believe they will have influence not only at home, but also globally. “Discussions on issues such as the new International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are held not only in Quebec and Canada, but also internationally. Dividing our forces within Quebec was not the right way to go about things,” he comments.

Besides IFRS, CLHIA Quebec’s priority projects will be capital standards, consultations on revisions to Quebec’s distribution legislation, and the CRM2 disclosure requirements for mutual fund costs and how they may eventually be harmonized with the rules governing segregated funds.

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