Canada’s ‘Pot of Gold’ Doesn’t Tempt This Cannabis-Shy Insurer

(Bloomberg) -- Don’t expect Intact Financial Corp., Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer, to insure the recreational-cannabis industry anytime soon.

“It’s not seen as the pot of gold that we should chase after," Chief Financial Officer Louis Marcotte said Tuesday at the Bloomberg Canadian Fixed Income Conference in New York. “We’re cautious on every front with this legalization at this point in time.”

Recreational pot is set for legalization in Canada on Oct. 17.

Medical marijuana seems to present less of a problem. Manulife Financial Corp. said in July it would launch the nation’s first such program with Loblaw Cos.’ Shoppers Drug Mart, allowing the drugstore chain’s pharmacists to support Manulife customers approved for medical-pot coverage.

“We’re grappling with the idea of should we insure” recreational-cannabis producers, Marcotte said, adding that the Toronto-based insurer has in the past covered legal medicinal producers.

Intact prefers to make early bets on technology, such as its role providing ride-sharing insurance policies for Uber Technologies Inc., he said. Intact is the exclusive insurer of Uber in Canada, a position the company took a couple of years ago that Marcotte said is “paying off.”

“We like the sharing economy, being a first mover, but not on cannabis,” he said. “It’s a big social change, and so these are maybe issues where you want to be careful and not go too quickly.”

In other areas, Marcotte said, he’s bracing for disruption from nontraditional entrants in the insurance industry.

“The fear of having a player like Google, Amazon, enter the market is one that we’re focused on,” he said. “We’re investing a substantial amount into developing our own web presence, our own customer experiences such that we can hold our own should a player like that enter the market.”

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