Tannas and Fortress targeting niche areas

Scott Tannas, the founder of Western Financial Group and appointed senator from Alberta, is officially entering the insurance business again.

This time he is CEO of Fortress Insurance, previously owned by its sole client, the Alberta franchise holder for Budget Car Rental company.

“We’re approved now through the regulatory processes in all provinces except B.C.”

Fortress is awaiting the next meeting of the Financial Institutions Commission, soon to be the Financial Services Authority, hoping for B.C. approval. In the meantime, the company is underwriting policies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“Other than the auto policies — we have a big fleet policy with our partner, which is the folks that have the Budget Rent-A-Car franchise in Alberta — we’re writing subscriber (commercial) policies for the next two or three years.

“Our objective for the first number of years is trying to be useful by being a subscriber of policies where stronger, more sophisticated companies are leading and we are just providing extra capacity.”

There have been many changes in commercial insurance in recent years, particularly with the growth of cyber threats.

And that is an area that Mr. Tannas prefers to leave to bigger companies.

“Our plan is to try and find some very niche areas where we can make a difference and build some expertise — but that’s not out of the gate,” he said.

“Out of the gate we just want to build capacity, build understanding and get some volume underneath us that would allow us then to make some investments in special areas.

“But we have zero interest in becoming huge. We want to be a small, nimble regional player.”

Mr. Tannas’ former company, Western Financial Group, was sold to Desjardins Financial Corp. in 2011 and it is now owned by a subsidiary of Wawanesa Mutual Insurance. He founded Western Investment Co., a publicly traded private equity firm, in 2015. Until now it had invested in the areas of windshields, care homes, dairy products and consumer retail.

(For more independent coverage of Canadian p&c industry news, please choose the ‘Subscribe’ tab on our main page or email mpub@rogers.com).