Success in the West
Company: Peace Hills Insurance
President and CEO: Diane Brickner
Year Founded: 1982
# of Employees: 190
Public or Private: Private
Annual Premium: $180 million
In the early 1980s, the Samson Cree Nation of Hobbema, Alta., was looking to invest its significant oil and gas royalties into a business venture with more long-term prospects. “They were looking for something to invest in that would be there for their grandchildren’s grandchildren,” explains Diane Brickner, president and CEO of Peace Hills. After hiring a business consultant, the band ultimately settled on investing in an insurance company. In 1982, Peace Hills Insurance was established in Edmonton, Alta.
Peace Hills has grown significantly since it wrote its first policies on July 16, 1982. “We wrote two [policies] that day. We wrote an auto policy and a property policy. The auto policy was for Mr. and Mrs. Irving,” Brickner recalls. “[And] our first personal property policy was with Marion and Terry Stewart.”
Reasons to Watch
Peace Hills recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and the Stewarts were two of the many guests that attended the gala celebration in Edmonton. “We are just a very solid, very stable consistent company. That’s unusual in our industry, today especially,” Brickner says of her company’s success. “There’s been so many acquisitions and mergers that I think it’s important in our industry to have markets that are very solid and stable.”
“We’ve had some good feedback on the portal and a lot of our brokers seem to think that we’ve done it the right way.” – Harvey Schaerer, vice president of information technology
Today, Peace Hills has offices in five Western Canadian cities and can write business in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut.
In April, Peace Hills launched its Oil & Gas Contractors Plus product for small to medium-sized oilfield contractors. The company also recently unveiled its new portal, Peace Hills Insurance Exchange (phiX). The portal allows brokers to initiate a new policy in their broker management system (BMS) and have the data automatically transferred to phiX.
If phiX finds any missing data that is necessary to complete the rating, the portal will open up to the broker and direct her to input what is missing. The transaction is then submitted from the portal to Peace Hills’ corporate underwriting system. “[Brokers] key in the data once and once only. There is no double entry, which is critical for them,” says Harvey Schaerer, vice president of information technology at Peace Hills. “They get an immediate rating back from our system. So they pass the data to us and within a matter of half a minute or a few seconds they are able to get all of the declaration sheet information back. So they’ll know what the premium is, they’ll know what the breakdown is.” Brokers can also access phiX directly and enter all new policies, including endorsements, through the portal.
At the moment, phiX can only be used for auto policies, but the company hopes to make the system compatible for property policies by early next year. The portal is currently available for Applied Systems’ TAM users, but Peace Hills is currently in beta testing with CSSI for its TBW system. “We’re excited about the product and we’re hoping the brokers continue to buy in. We’ve had some good feedback on it and a lot of our brokers seem to think that we’ve done it the right way,” says Schaerer.
“We face everyday challenges like every organization does,” says Brickner. Regulatory changes can be a challenge, she says, as can business concerns, such as making sure prices are correct and the company is underwriting the best business. But those challenges aren’t keeping Brickner up at night. “I have to tell you, I think Peace Hills has had a charmed life for the last 30 years. We have good people, we have good ownership, and we have great brokers. And when you have all of that, the day-to-day challenges aren’t difficult.”
#300, 10709 – Jasper Avenue
Copyright 2012 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the December 2012 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.