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MPI revokes broker's licence

MANITOBA Public Insurance has taken the unusual step of revoking the licence of a broker, Essex Insurance, that has four high-profile locations in Superstores throughout the city.

Earlier this month, MPI mailed letters to 40,000 people who had been customers of Essex at one time or another telling them the brokerage is no longer doing business with MPI.

It added, "You will not be able to visit Essex to conduct any Autopac-related business in the future."

Neither MPI nor the CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba (IBAM) would say exactly what Essex did to warrant such a drastic measure, but both said due process was exercised.

"This is not common for us to do something like this," said Brian Smiley, spokesman for MPI. "I can assure you there was careful due diligence before the decision was made."

MPI has a rigorous set of protocols brokers must adhere to, but Dave Schioler, the chief executive officer of IBAM said he cannot recall any other instance of the provincial auto insurer taking such action.

Essex continues to offer property and casualty insurance and travel-agency services at the Superstore location on McPhillips Street.

The principals of Essex could not be reached for comment.

The president of one insurance brokerage in the city, who asked that his name not be used, said MPI can be sticklers for details but does give brokers the chance to fix things that are being improperly done.

Although he would not say exactly what the transgressions were, Schioler confirmed Essex had been given a number of opportunities to right the ship.

"After an initial indication, then further investigation and meetings and consultation and audit (it was found) that there were substantial breaches with respect to MPI protocol and processes," Schioler said. "It was evident that there was enough there that MPI took the more drastic action that it did."

While there is no information being released about the details of the problems, customers have been assured they will not be affected by the action.

"I won't give any details," Smiley said. "It is an issue between us and Essex.

The Insurance Council of Manitoba is the regulatory body for agents and brokers in the province. When that body takes disciplinary action, it becomes a matter of public record, but no such notices have been posted regarding Essex.

Schioler said it might be debatable as to whether or not the Essex breaches could be considered "profound" but he said the problem was breaches were being repeated.

Both Smiley and Schioler said the fact such withdrawal of service is so unusual is an indication service levels throughout the province are typically high.

"Quite frankly, from the perspective of our association and insurance brokers in Manitoba, we want to see top-notch professionalism from our brokers," Schioler said. "That is by far and away what you do see and what customers experience."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

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