Navigating the “new normal”

The Straight Line Newsletter — Issue #10

This is the tenth issue of The Straight Line. Articles cover a broad range of topics that engage Ontario architects insured by Pro-Demnity, other OAA members – whether in practice or engaged in other businesses – and anyone with an interest in the profession. We encourage readers to suggest topics. Please send any suggestions to:

In This Issue

  • Message from the President –The new and old “normal”
    • The Pro-Demnity Policyholder Survey
    • Things that are working
    • Things we’re working on
    • Things we wish we could work on
  • Serving you and your business
    In this issue, we introduce Iliana Arapis who has joined Pro-Demnity as our new Vice President Marketing. Iliana has contributed “Serving you and your business” to this issue.
  • Be social with us
    Pro-Demnity is now on LinkedIn. Visit our company page for the latest posts and updates. See the highlighted notice about “The Straight Line is going online” on the back cover.

Upcoming Issue:

Two future issues of The Straight Line will pay tribute to two retiring Pro-Demnity stalwart founders – Byron Treves and David Croft – to whom we owe our heartfelt thanks and gratitude. We look forward to the time when Pro-Demnity and Ontario architects can deliver thanks and admiration to each, in person. Until that time, we will do our best to provide a suitable substitute in The Straight Line.

— The Editor

Bruce Palmer — ProDemnity President

Message from the President — The new and old “normal” 

As you read this, summer has arrived in Ontario, and with it, construction season. Like you, I believe it is different this year – a new “normal” that we are all moving toward, with care and consideration for ourselves, our firms, our staff, partners, suppliers, and clients alike. Whether we’re mindfully stepping through modified work spaces and sites, juggling employee attendance schedules so that physical distancing is respected, or wearing masks and helping ourselves to an extra pump of hand sanitizer, the realities of health risks are ever more present throughout the day.

At Pro-Demnity, we’re encouraged by the thought that the risk management steps we are all taking to protect our health might also positively influence risk management behaviour in our professional practice lives. Perhaps the new normal might energize us to integrate risk management and mitigation strategies into all aspects of our businesses. This calls for diligence, thoughtfulness, and continuous improvement, which in turn generate professional practices that keep everyone that much safer from physical, mental, or financial harm.

In this edition of The Straight Line, we share how, in the face of COVID-19, we’ve mobilized to serve you. We also dedicate this issue to you, our policyholders, by providing some deeper insights from the Client Survey (August 2019), and the actions we have taken, or are taking in response. These are offered with the commitment that we will keep listening and keep responding to your concerns. The survey feedback was originally scheduled to be shared with you in March; however, our special COVID-19 Special Edition Bulletins took priority.

In this respect, Pro-Demnity continues to do what we “normally” do: provide you and your architectural practice with exemplary professional liability insurance service, claims expertise and risk management advice.

Bruce H. Palmer, President & CEO

The Pro-Demnity Policyholder Survey
“A milligram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure.”

It was author John Robert Colombo (born in Kitchener, Ontario) that Canadianized Ben Franklin’s famous quotation. Metric, or Imperial, it’s a rule that holds true in almost every situation, and liability insurance is no exception. Staying out of difficulty is so much easier, less time-consuming, less stressful, cheaper and more productive than getting into trouble in the first place.

This certainly describes the prime mission of Pro-Demnity. Our focus on research, on-call professional advice, educational seminars, informative bulletins, new social media applications and entertaining (we hope) newsletters, pays off in reducing claims and keeping your premiums at a reasonable level. And apparently, this service ranks highest in your estimation as well.

Last summer, we conducted an online survey1 to gauge your satisfaction with Pro-Demnity and better understand which of our services are most helpful to you. We asked you to tell us what you think about the services we currently provide, and how you feel about the state of the profession in general, since the two are closely connected. Thank you for the quantity and quality of the responses.


The issues that you have raised and the suggestions you have made are, and will be, enormously helpful in planning our common future. As with a lot of “demand-side primary research” (i.e., surveys) the questions we asked were designed to provide both objective and subjective information. The objective information, in the form of numerical values, tells us that we are generally satisfying your needs – our “client satisfaction impact” is firmly positive.

The subjective feedback – your helpful comments (hundreds of them) – represents a treasure trove of constructive guidance: a) what we’re currently doing well; b) which of your evolving needs may be met by strategies and services we are currently working on; and c) what elements of practice do you wish we could do something about, even though, unfortunately, we can’t. Information like this can’t be plotted on a graph or tabulated in a spreadsheet. But it offers the kind of information we rely on to make sure that our service continues to satisfy your professional needs.

Many responses showed a wisdom and understanding born of experience. Either you’ve had a claims experience, or you’ve managed to avoid one – or both. A gratifying number of you told us that the things we do have helped you minimize or avoid unnecessary risk. This information is invaluable to us, since there is no possible way for us to add up the number of claims that have never been made, thanks to Pro-Demnity’s advice and assistance.

Quotes from policyholders:

“ Insurance is one of those things which many people do not really think about until they need it. I have been involved with Pro-Demnity for many years and am probably more aware of what they do and how they do it than many practitioners. I think they work very well and very hard. The best thing they do is keep reminding the members they are out there and ready to help. Things like the regular newsletter and bulletins are vitally important.”

“The lawyer we dealt with was great I subsequently reached out to him on another contract matter which positively impacted an important client to upgrade their use of the current OAA Architect’s Agreement. This client engages with numerous Ontario Architects and they upgraded all their standard contracts because of our initiative and the legal counsel referred by P-D.”

“The Risk Manager has been very responsive and supportive with many questionable RFPs and draft agreements over the years, giving me the confidence to say “no” to Big Boilerplate, and often still getting the job. More recently, OAA bulletins have added further support by countering the typical Owner response that ‘no other architects had a problem with the RFP….’ ”

“Colleagues from other jurisdictions have horror stories about not being able to secure a policy. Having Pro-Dem is great! ”

Some new and evolving ideas

This group of comments and suggestions contains a shopping list of possible services that are currently on our agenda, including a few of our pet projects. Some of you encouraged us to move these initiatives forward:

  • more frequent communication and new forms – many creative suggestions, both feasible and practical;
  • new education vehicles, locations and platforms – ways of expanding our current offerings, to involve larger audiences, especially urgent during COVID-19 social distancing;
  • more frequent communications –updates and bulletins, online and hardcopy;
  • new opportunities for seminars – new locations, new platforms, new audiences;
  • expanded insurance coverage – new insurance offerings for architects;
  • improvements to the website – a major undertaking, and currently a top priority – to provide a more intuitive and more informative site;
  • simpler explanations – progress, already being made in this area, will continue;
  • collecting our wisdom into more easily accessible formats – this process is also underway, involving online and hard-copy vehicles;
  • different premium payment methods –see the next page of this issue;
  • create a database of lawyers that are versed in practice-related items –currently underway.

“ Offer …a seminar on completing the different types of insurance applications – renewal, single project, etc. – and discuss implications.”
“ An online, interactive bulletin service could be developed as a learning and document flow tool.”
“ Answers to questions need to be explained in a way that is understandable; insurance is complex and often the one asking the question isn’t sure of the wording.”
“ Continue the Claims Stories … they woke me up to situations that I should avoid.”
“ The publications are well written. Continuing education podcasts, [webinars,] and videos would be useful.”

Some existing ideas
We received a few suggestions for programs that already exist, but that some respondents were unaware of. In some cases, the programs are new, so policyholders may be forgiven for not knowing about them. In any case, it’s further encouragement for us that the things we are doing are things you want us to do. Key concerns appear to be:

• avoiding the courtroom – the use of mediation has been the cornerstone of our defence strategy for decades – and the financial benefits to the profession and psychological benefits to our policyholders are immeasurable;
• supporting practices – one of our major preoccupations from the outset; we continue to help policyholders avoid claims through support, education, research and vigorous defence;
• extra features – chief among these is Retirement from Practice Insurance –now 31 years old, and free for life to qualifying policyholders.

“ It’s often difficult for smaller firms (who don’t have the resources to hire legal consultants to review every RFP, contract, etc.) to even know if they’re walking into a risky situation.”

Pro-Demnity offers advice whenever asked, and the OAA does its level best to flag dangerous RFPs. But reviewing all RFPs is an unachievable ideal.

“ Being a new architect, I need guidance in selecting proper coverage for my practice.”

Call us. We will guide you to the available options so you can make the choice that’s best for you.

Part of our survey asked you to comment on the state of the profession in general. As we said earlier, professional liability insurance and professional practice are intertwined. This is particularly true
in Ontario, where the existence of one relies on the existence of the other. Some problems are perennial. A survey of a half-century ago would have mentioned the same things, except, as David Croft, former VP Claims might say, “names and places changed to protect the innocent, and partially innocent, also the guilty.”

“ … do more to ensure contracts are fairly written, especially from institutional clients.”

“ Architects … have to consider the impact of their work, and aim for something much greater than commercial design awards or positioning for the next developer project. … Communities everywhere, particularly those marginalized, struggling to be viable and sustainable, will rely on the advocacy and activism of the design profession as an ally in addressing major issues facing our cities and places of the future.”

We have read all of your comments, and we have gained a deeper understanding of your concerns. Your suggestions and ideas help us form a fresh perspective and create concrete plans to improve our services and activities, as we go forward. We hope you will notice improvements – and continue to send us your suggestions.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations. And maybe our last quotation doesn’t apply to you:

“ Bulletins are sometimes wordy, although I appreciate the level of precision intended. Like many of my colleagues, I don’t have all the time in the world to read the prose.”

We know you’re busy, so we are working towards making our communications more readable. But please keep reading; it’s a professional duty to keep informed.

The Pro-Demnity Policyholder Survey is distinct from the 2019/20 OAA Surveys, the results of which were released in the OAA’s June 11 News Bulletin.

Serving you and your business 

Pro-Demnity was one of the first professional liability insurers to offer financial relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to waiving administrative fees on instalment payments for renewals issued between April 6 and September 30, 2020, we also temporarily held off on issuing Notices of Default. But the one measure most welcomed by architectural firms has been the new premium payment plan. We introduced the option of a bi-monthly premium instalment schedule in addition to the annual, semi- annual and quarterly options currently available. This feature has helped several architectural firms retain staff and offset other pressing monetary concerns.

New payment methods will include:

  • setting up pre-authorized instalment payments from your bank account, ensuring your premium or deductible payments are made on time;
  • making an annual lump-sum premium payment or lump-sum deductible payment using a credit card, so you can accumulate business credit card points sooner.

These options will be available later this summer. In the meantime, it’s important to complete your annual renewals and continue paying your premiums so that your professional liability insurance remains in force, and your firm is covered for any claims arising from previous architectural work.

Insurance premiums help fund the costs of defending a claim – an expensive necessity even when the allegations against you prove groundless and no damages result. Pro-Demnity is always ready to mount a vigorous defence on your behalf should you need it. This is a significant benefit to architects.

Professional liability insurance stands apart from other types of insurance in several important ways. To better understand your Claims-Made policy, underwriting risk and how your premiums are calculated, download our article outlining why Professional Liability Insurance is Different and Special.
— Iliana Arapis

The Straight Line is going online
Soon we will be sharing The Straight Line, along with other Pro-Demnity and insurance updates, through a new e-mail distribution platform, Constant Contact. Look for the announcement planned for July.

Share the newsletter
The online newsletter is for the architectural community and those with a strong interest in risk management and professional liability issues. If you know someone who’d like to receive the new online newsletter from Pro-Demnity, share this newsletter with them and invite them to send an email to to let us know.

Our Contributor

liana Arapis, MA, ABC is Pro-Demnity’s new VP Marketing. An Accredited Business Communicator, she brings over 20 years’ marketing and corporate communications experience from her time in the insurance sector with companies such as Sun Life, Zurich Insurance and Allianz Global Assistance. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto (History and Sociology), Queen’s University (Canadian History) and Seneca College (Corporate Communications). She is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators (Toronto Chapter) and an avid, annual volunteer judge/ evaluator of the OVATION and Gold Quill Awards. Iliana lives in Toronto with her husband and son, and in her precious spare time enjoys world cinema, skiing, skating, yoga, pilates, gardening, reading and family bike rides.

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

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:

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: 

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