A Tribute to former President and CEO Byron Treves

The Straight Line Newsletter — Issue #11

Message from the President

At my first meeting with Byron, over breakfast in a small Toronto diner, it was obvious he is a man who knows his stuff. A nice man, a kind man – truly, a gentleman – but not one to be bluffed when it comes to professional liability and the defence of architects.

In this issue of The Straight Line, you will discover my observation is not unique. Whether in the reinsurance capitals of the world or within our own profession, Byron is recognized as a leading authority on architectural liability.

Pro-Demnity, the product of Byron’s prodigious efforts and undaunted vision, is both more and less than a
typical insurance company.“More,” because Pro-Demnity defends architects from acts of the past while helping to protect them from risks of the future, providing information, guidance and assistance in handling risks associated with being an architect. “Less,” due to the singular emphatic focus on professional liability insurance.

Byron not only led this delicate balance for 34 years, he created it. To me the most important part of Byron is not his business acumen, but his humanity. Byron cares. About his team, about architects, about doing the right thing. His creation is not merely an insurance company – there are plenty of those – but a team that passionately, enthusiastically seeks to serve architects.

We will miss Byron. His legacy – to be a trusted ally to architectural practices, to protect and defend architects – will live on. This is our duty to architects, our promise to him.

Byron Treves retires after 34 years of service

Photo: Tony Shi

“If it weren’t for Byron leading us through the minefield of risk management, reinsurance, actuaries and their reports, claims reserves, surplus earnings, plan credits, the regulator of financial institutions etc., God knows where we would be.”
– Lesley D. Watson, OAA, FRAIC1

If you’re one of that small, exceptional, but increasingly crotchety group of older Ontario architects who have been in practice for several decades, much of the following will be familiar to you. If you’re not part of that group, you may be schooled, entertained, and possibly amazed by the story of how a few architects took on the job of keeping the rest of their colleagues out of trouble, and how a young insurance professional named Byron Treves got the whole thing started.

The year is 1978. The movie Plague has been released – a preposterous sci-fi thriller in which a pandemic kills millions of people around the world. Bell telephone system begins testing an Advanced Mobile Phone (later called a “cell phone”). A young architect named Frank Gehry builds an unusual house in Santa Monica.

In the same year, a talented and enthusiastic young insurance professional, with 15 years’ insurance brokerage experience in London and South Africa, arrives in Toronto with his wife Tina. Replete with a Bachelor of Accounting Science Degree, designation as an Associate in Risk Management of the American Insurance Institute and

“I had the privilege of meeting Byron in 1986, as chair of the Professional Liability Task Force of the OAA, when the committee was interviewing candidates for the position of general manager of the OAA Indemnity Plan. It was a courageous decision to create a mandatory program, and it was Byron who led the way.”
– J.E. Sievenpiper, B.Arch., OAA, FRAIC

Byron and Tina Treves, May, 2019
Photo: Tony Shi

Fellowship in the Chartered Insurance Institute of England, he plans to start a fresh career. He has no inkling that one year later, an unrelated profession – Ontario’s architects – will begin a discussion that will ultimately consume his professional life, as well as preserving the professional livelihoods of thousands of architects.

Still enthusiastic, but slightly older now, that young professional, Byron Treves, has retired this year, after 34 years of dedicated service to Ontario architects. He will be greatly missed by all who had the opportunity to work with him, and by those architectural practices that have enjoyed the unique benefits of the insurance company that he kickstarted and nurtured.

In the late ‘70s, an increase in the number of claims against architects was feeding an unsettling escalation in the cost of insurance premiums, and a reduced availability. Recognizing this dangerous trend, the OAA, in late 1979, started a serious examination of professional liability insurance (PLI). If insurance costs continued to rise, and availability remained uncertain, architectural practice would suffer greatly.

In the years that followed, the Ontario government introduced legislation requiring compulsory PLI, for all professionals. In the interests of both the public and the profession, architects viewed this as a positive move, but the negative consequences soon became apparent. With the “liability crisis” of 1984, insurance providers withdrew from the market, leaving a sole provider, with the opportunity and willingness to charge whatever premiums it deemed appropriate, and to deny insurance to any practices that it chose to. In essence, an insurance company, and not the OAA, would, from then on, have the privilege and responsibility of deciding who could practise architecture in Ontario.

This being clearly unwise and unacceptable, the OAA sought and, surprisingly, obtained exemption from the provisions of the Ontario Insurance Act, paving the way for a “self-insurance program.” On a fortuitous recommendation, the OAA Insurance Committee interviewed Byron Treves for the management position. In 1986 he accepted the challenge of helping to create and direct the new OAA Indemnity Plan – the first of its kind in Canada.

A few years later, in the 1990s, the “leaky condo” calamity struck the City of Vancouver. As a result of this catastrophe, most British Columbia insurers withdrew from the liability insurance market and the New Homes Warranty program in that province collapsed. It was a disaster for British Columbia architects, but a forewarning to architects in Ontario.

Byron recognized the vulnerability of a self-insured liability program, and spearheaded the transformation of the Indemnity Plan to Pro-Demnity Insurance Company, a limited liability corporation, at arm’s length from the OAA, protecting the Association and individual Ontario practices from potential catastrophic losses, for which all members could have been liable.

In January 2003, the Pro-Demnity Insurance Company was born, with Byron as President and CEO.

Seventeen years later, the OAA is still the shareholder of an insurance company dedicated to our interests and governed by the Insurance Act: a for-profit corporation operating on a not-for-profit basis for the mandatory plan that, under Byron’s guidance, guarantees coverage to every practice, on the same basis, while keeping premiums at a manageable level.

The importance of Byron’s exceptionally high standing with underwriters at Lloyd’s, the world’s leading specialist insurance market, cannot be overstated. In April 2005, building on this relationship, Pro-Demnity was tribunalised2 by Lloyd’s of London for coverholder status.

The distinction of coverholder status, with a binding authority, allows Pro-Demnity to issue PLI policies, through a licensed insurance broker, on behalf of certain Lloyd’s syndicates, to entities and persons engaged in the construction industry, including, of course, architects. It also allows Pro-Demnity to provide Ontario practices with limits of liability above that offered by its increased limits reinsurance program, currently up to $10,250,000 per claim.

Without any doubt, Pro-Demnity’s coverholder status combined with Byron’s recognized skill, experience and credibility with Lloyd’s, allowed him to pursue his vision to broaden and improve the coverage available to Ontario architects, enhance the insurance company’s revenue, and improve its ability to address extraordinary losses, for the benefit and protection of all – the public, Ontario architects and the Association. This has resulted in coverage for Ontario architects, not available elsewhere from the insurance market, that is the envy of knowledgeable practices across Canada and the USA. As recently as this year, Pro-Demnity’s status allowed it to achieve its premium objectives, in an extremely hard market, avoiding the sizeable premium increases of many other insurers.

Under Byron’s direction, Pro-Demnity’s services now include a growing educational program and a practice advice service that helps individual architects assess risks in their own practices. Whenever the opportunity has arisen, he has been quick to point out that Pro-Demnity’s mission is to serve architects…not the insurance business.

“Through Byron’s vigilance, astute management and strategic alliance with Lloyd’s of London, our self-insurance program has grown in resources to such an extent that most members can now get all their required coverage from our own insurance plan.”
– Blandford Gates, B.Arch., OAA, FRAIC

“The decision to change the structure of the Indemnity Plan into Pro-Demnity Insurance was part of Byron’s concern that architects and the OAA be protected against any possibility of an unexpected catastrophic claim that might impact the Association.”
– James W. Farrow, OAA, OAQ, FRAIC

A quarter-century ago, an event occurred that has mostly faded from the profession’s collective memory, but demonstrates Byron’s deep dedication to architects. In 1994, an unanticipated leadership vacuum at the OAA led to Byron’s (somewhat reluctantly) assuming the temporary position. So, for six months in 1994, Byron juggled the roles of Indemnity Plan General Manager, OAA Executive Director and OAA Chief Operating Officer. Byron’s understanding of the profession, finances and management granted the OAA sufficient time to recruit and appoint a suitable new Executive Director.

In more recent years, Byron has expanded the effectiveness of Pro-Demnity by shepherding new features such as spike-up insurance; a Computer Network Security Liability Extension; a claims expenses cap on excess coverage, to ensure a fair allocation of claims expenses; initiation of a comprehensive review of claims that have arisen over a multi-year period, leading to the development of the Claims Experience Workbook; website and graphics upgrades and the introduction of a Pro-Demnity legal department. In addition Byron initiated the launch of this very publication, now in its 11th issue.

A prominent American architect, visiting Ontario on a mission to improve access to insurance for our AIA colleagues, was the first to characterize Byron’s achieve- ment as “Architects Insuring Architects.” This observation describes the essence of our unique organization: architects assisting their colleagues in practice. In 2011, Byron was honored for his service to the profession by being named an OAA Honorary Member.

During the course of his 34 years, Byron Treves has been a director, a mentor, a fount of information and experience, and a leader through some perilous times. Having guided the Plan and the

Company through many difficult years and controversial decisions, Byron’s unswerving dedication to the interests of Ontario architects delivered in his exceedingly low-keyed but determined manner, has provided us with legal and insurance protection that is the envy of other professions, and our architect colleagues throughout North America.

In retirement, Byron plans to focus on his hobbies of reading, cross-country skiing and, hopefully writing a book. He will be greatly missed by Pro-Demnity staff and consultants, and by OAA members, wherever in the world they may practice. But the professional program he started will continue to grow and expand, and build on Byron’s exemplary service
to architects.

“Byron’s superb leadership of [the Ontario Architects’ Self-Insurance Program] since its inception has far exceeded any expectations that those of us who were there at the beginning could have imagined.”
– James M. Wright, FRAIC, AlA, OAA

Quotations are taken from Byron’s 2011 nomination for Honorary OAA Membership. “Agents [or entities] who are given the power to bind business on behalf of Lloyd’s are called coverholders. The process of becoming a coverholder is (sometimes) referred to as tribunalisation.”

Messages from Byron’s colleagues at Lloyd’s

A great number of Byron’s initiatives have drawn on his ability to forge effective relationships with key players in the Lloyd’s insurance market. When asked to contribute a few words on the occasion of Byron’s retirement, collaborators and clients associated with the reinsurers Lloyd’s of London jumped at the opportunity.

Following, are a few of these testimonials. They are clearly not just notes of professional appreciation, but heartfelt expressions of friendship.

I walked into Byron’s office circa 23 years ago and we have worked together ever since. Both of our lives changed overnight. Byron at the helm of Pro-Dem and yours truly his Lloyd’s Broker.

Make no mistake, underneath the calm exterior is a huge thoughtful brain with a steely edge when needed.

Pro-Dem’s place in the pantheons of Lloyd’s of London is a direct result of how Byron stuck to his knitting of what Pro-Dem does best. Protecting the Ontario Architects with blue chip management, Claims Advocacy and Risk Management. All the essential tools required to sustain a successful programme through different insurance cycles with the unwavering support from top percentile syndicates at Lloyd’s.

It is also worth noting that Byron has not lost one syndicate on his programme as a result of Pro-Dem’s performance. He has no doubt led Pro-Dem to be one of Lloyd’s long standing clients with a reputation that is of the highest order.

I will miss Byron on the work front, but I will always be in touch and catch up for dinners when I am in Toronto.

Finally I can say that Byron has also been an inspirational mentor to me throughout my career. Where I am today is because I met Byron 23 years ago.

Peter Boardman,
Chairman, Professional & Financial Lines Price Forbes, London, UK

The so-called “long term business relationship,” especially when it has been tested and tangible, is actually rarer than it should be in the commercial arena. But I certainly have had the privilege of such a thing with Byron Treves over the past 22 years – one of the stand-out long-term clients of my Lloyd’s insurance career. It was not without occasional commercial jousting, as Byron fought for the best outcome, but never for short term gain or one-upmanship – always for long term stability and for a professional result. In a glimpse of Byron’s tact and diplomacy I often waited for the inevitable discerning look over the top of his glasses followed by his well-used quip “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

James Rowan
Atrium Syndicate, London, UK

I have personally written Pro-Demnity’s own PI/D&O* risk for the past 16 years, and it to this day remains claim free. Risks of this size do not remain claim free without excellent management from the very top of an organisation, and in Byron, Pro-Demnity has had this in “spades.”

In my career, I have met and continue to meet many clients, and I have to say that the annual client meeting with Byron and his team in London, was always one of my most enjoyable. The presentation was always transparent, and whilst the topic for discussion was serious, we managed to conduct each annual review in good humour.

In addition to seeing Byron in London, I always tried to meet up with him
(and Tina!) when I travelled to Toronto a couple of times a year, and was fortunate to be invited to a Pro-Demnity board meeting a couple of years ago as an “observer.” *Professional Indemnity / Directors & Officers

Martin King
Aegis London, London, UK

The Straight Line is a newsletter for architects and others interested in the profession. It is published by Pro-Demnity Insurance Company to provide a forum for discussion of a broad range of issues affecting architects and their professional liability insurance.

Publisher: Pro-Demnity Insurance Company
Editor: Gordon S. Grice
Design: Finesilver Design + Communications
Address: The Straight Line c/o Pro-Demnity Insurance Company 200 Yorkland Boulevard, Suite 1200 Toronto, ON M2J 5C1
Contact: editor@pd-straightline.com

Pro-Demnity Insurance Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ontario Association of Architects. Together with its predecessor the OAA Indemnity Plan, it has provided professional liability insurance to Ontario architects since 1987.

Questions related to the professional liability insurance program for Ontario architects may be directed to Pro-Demnity Insurance Company. Contact information for the various aspects of the program can be found on the Pro-Demnity website: www.prodemnity.com

Pro-Demnity Insurance Company makes no representation or warranty of any kind regarding the contents. The material presented does not establish, report or create the standard of care for Ontario architects. The information is by necessity generalized and an abridged account of the matters described. It should in no way be construed as legal or insurance advice and should not be relied on as such. Readers are cautioned to refer specific questions to their own lawyer or professional advisors. Letters appearing in the publication may be edited.

Efforts have been made to assure accuracy of any referenced material at time of publication; however, no reliance may be placed on such references. Readers must carry out their own due diligence.

This publication should not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form or by any means without written permission of Pro-Demnity Insurance Company. Please contact the publisher for permission: publisher@pd-straightline.com 

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