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Industry Adapts To ‘Sharing Economy’


BCBusiness + The Insurance Institute of British Columbia

From Airbnb to cars, insurance is rapidly changing


There are probably few people who are oblivious to the rise of Airbnb and its effect on the hotel industry. Ditto for Uber and its impact on the taxi trade. Such practices can be easily underestimated because they’ve been enabled purely because of technology and, as such, most would presume that they are likely to remain niche markets.

But the Canadian insurance industry thinks otherwise, and a 55-page report recently released by the Insurance Institute of Canada (IIC) posits that Airbnb, Uber and other alternatives to traditional services will continue to swell in both size and influence—not only because of our mobile lifestyle, but because such sharing of resources appeals to consumers on economic and social levels.

Margaret Parent, Director, Professionals’ Division, for the IIC, points out: “Uber and Airbnb are only two examples of this new economy. Car sharing via Zipcar and other companies is on the rise, and we’re witnessing everything from office and staff sharing to retail outlet sharing. There’s even the sharing of utilities, pets, and food—with each example requiring new levels of coverage for transactions, liability, and products.”

Parent is not surprised by how quickly the movement has permeated society. “Take car sharing as an example. Yes, technology facilitated its growth, but it’s really a result of the movement towards urbanization, density, the expense of owning a car, and the desire to save money—as well as a desire for greater variety.”

The Insurance Institute compiled the report to give its membership of 40,000 across Canada an idea of the potential scope of the sharing economy, as well as to alert them to the need for product and service innovation. “The sharing economy is here to stay and we have to embrace it,” says Parent.

Jim Tarasuk, Director, Commercial Insurance, ICBC, agrees. “Technology has enabled people with things they want to share to connect with people who want to use them. With regards to car sharing, there are now about 3,000 vehicles in B.C. used for this purpose, compared to only 300 a decade ago.”

Tarasuk explains further: “There’s no limit to what other forms of sharing transactions we’ll see next. Definitely, new ownership and use paradigms are a challenge in terms of understanding and addressing the insurance risks.”

If Parent and Tarasuk have a message to those in the insurance industry, it is that sharing is paving the way for new business opportunities. “Intact Insurance and Aviva Canada Inc. have discovered this to their advantage, as they are the first insurers in the country to formulate comprehensive coverage for Uber,” says Parent. “Developing product for something like Airbnb will be somewhat easier, perhaps requiring an adjustment of existing policies, depending on the provider.”

Tarasuk says ICBC is committed to serving the shared economy as it further evolves: “We’ll ensure that our products fully recognize the insurance risks of the different ventures, as well as user needs.”

The IIC report has key recommendations for Canadian insurers to better serve sharing platforms and providers, from working with regulators to address the needs of the providers, and partnering with other stakeholders, to including governments and tracking the growth of the sharing economy.

Parent concludes: “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re a forward-thinking sector, and I’m looking forward to seeing what solutions we come up with.”

To read the Emerging Issues Research Report Sharing Economy: Implications for the Insurance Industry, visit

To learn more about the Insurance Institute and its Chartered Insurance Professional designation, visit

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with The Insurance Institute of British Columbia