Although there have only been four insolvencies in the life insurance industry in Canada, Assuris has built a reputation for working in partnership with others to support policyholders and contain losses. Shortly after Assuris came into being in 1990, we were called upon to deal with the three insolvencies between 1992 and 1994. In addition to financial support, Assuris quickly developed expertise to resolve the unique, and largely unprecedented, issues in a life insurance company insolvency affecting Canadian policyholders. In those cases, all the Canadian policies were transferred to solvent life insurance companies. In February 2012, the fourth insolvency occurred when Union of Canada Life Insurance was declared insolvent.
On January 3, 1992, Les Coopérants, headquartered in Montreal, was ordered into liquidation under the Winding-up Act. At the time Les Coopérants was declared insolvent, it had individual insurance contracts with 222,000 policyholders and group insurance certificate holders numbering 600,000. As the first life insurance company insolvency in Canada, the liquidation of Les Coopérants posed a steep learning curve. To protect policyholder interests, Assuris successfully established the precedent that policyholders should receive priority in the liquidation of a life company. Assuris’ support also included guaranteeing that all policyholder benefits would be fully protected. Our final accounting of costs indicates that $180 million was required to provide this support.
On January 18, 1993, a Winding-up order was granted against Sovereign Life, based in Calgary. At the time, Sovereign Life had 249,000 policyholders, 96% of whom were 100% protected by Assuris coverage. Of the remaining 4%, who incurred some losses, all retained at least 90% of their benefits. To facilitate transferring adjusted policy benefits to solvent life insurers, Assuris introduced the concept of proportional reinsurance. Assuris also established a life insurance company subsidiary to reinsure policy liabilities and maximize recoveries from the residual assets of Sovereign Life. Our developing insolvency experience helped to achieve a final cost of only $20 million.
On August 11, 1994, the liquidation of Confederation Life began. With operations in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, Confederation Life was an internationally complex liquidation. In Canada alone it had obligations to 260,000 individual policyholders and another 1.5 million people who participated in group insurance plans. In the end, Assuris partnered with the regulator and the liquidator to leverage lessons learned in previous insolvencies. The result was full recovery for policyholders and a final cost to Assuris, for expenses incurred of only $5 million.
Union of Canada Life
On February 2, 2012, Union of Canada Life Insurance sought court protection under the Winding-up and Restructuring Act (WURA). Assuris worked closely with the court-appointed liquidator, Grant Thornton Limited, to ensure policyholders were transferred to another life insurance company. Union of Canada Life Insurance had approximately 22,000 policies, 99% of which were fully covered by Assuris. Of the remaining 1% of policyholders who incurred some losses, all retained at least 95% of their benefits. Through this most recent insolvency, Assuris acquired additional experience in identifying risks and protecting life insurance policyholders.
By all measures, Assuris has had an enviable record protecting Canadian policyholders’ benefits. Through the four insolvencies, Assuris’ coverage has protected almost three million people representing over 10 % of Canadians.