Weddings, Parties, Anything
Companies to Watch - December 2011
Company: PAL Insurance Brokers Canada
CEO: Bob Morrison
Year Founded: 1989
# of Employees: 20
Public or Private: Private
Premiums in 2010: $5 million
In 1989, serendipity combined with a great idea gave Bob Morrison the opportunity to launch a company designed to fill a niche. At the time, Morrison was a broker for Pafco, with 28 years experience in the insurance industry. Morrison saw a gap in the market for small event liability, which would allow individuals or small corporations to purchase general liability coverage for events, including weddings, parties, and other functions. He presented the idea to his insurers and they agreed to back his venture. Wholesaler PAL Insurance Brokers Canada was born.
“We wanted to provide an affordable, one-off product for normal people holding family events or community events, which really didn’t exist at the time,” explains Morrison.
Morrison felt the alternative—commercial policies—were too expensive and out of reach to most people.
“PAL stands for party alcohol liability,” says Morrison, who co-owns the firm with his wife, Gilberta. “Essentially, it provides a complete general liability package for events – regardless of whether or not there’s alcohol on the premises.”
“We really take the time and invest the money and interest in attending broker events, listening to brokers, and working with them to develop new products to offer niche solutions for their clients.”
Reasons to Watch
Last year, PAL, which has offices in Calgary, Alta., and Simcoe, Ont., wrote more than 20,000 policies, with annual premiums of $5 million. Now backed by Lloyd’s of London, PAL has been able to develop a number of new products in the last few years to respond to diverse needs in the market.
Prize indemnity has long been an area of growth in the Canadian market, but Morrison again saw that brokers operating outside of the highly-specialized entertainment insurance market required access to a cost-effective program. PAL created a policy suited to events and prizes of all sizes. The company recently sponsored a $50,000 guess-the-number-combination competition at the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) Convention to market the product.
“Our products meet the kinds of needs and requests brokers don’t get in their offices every day,” says Morrison. “But we know our broker partners are always looking to expand their product lines. We market directly to them because we want them to know this coverage is available, so when the time comes, they will think to offer it to their clients.”
Two other areas of growth for PAL include stand-alone personal liability and a storage program, which allows individuals to get coverage independent of their homeowner’s insurance, or as an add-on.
“Depending on the homeowner policy, it may not extend to goods individuals keep in storage,” says Morrison. “Or, as we’re starting to see more often, there are individuals that don’t have homeowner or tenant policies in place. Brokers were asking us to create something that would give their clients the option to cover their personal liabilities, or to extend their coverage on property, and we responded by creating these products.”
With the lingering effects of the recession, Morrison says there has been a noticeable lack of growth in the small events insurance market this year.
“We are constantly having to market our product because there are very few renewals in this line of business,” says Morrison. “And the thing is, these policies are really labour-intensive because we have to review every application, and you have to sell a lot of them to make a business out of it.”
Two years ago, PAL invested in the development of an online broker portal. The portal allows brokers to get information on programs, including ratings, and to underwrite policies online.
“We’re trying to offer a service to brokers, who are often looking to get these policies quickly,” says Morrison. “With underwriting and ratings available online, the turnaround time is a lot faster.”
Headquarters: #400 – 1400 1st Street S.W., Calgary, Alberta T2R 0V8
Telephone: 403-261-3900, (toll free) 1-800-661-1608
Copyright 2011 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the December 2011 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.