SMR: Mining is a comparatively new area for BFL—what is your personal experience and your vision for BFL in the sector?
JM: Actually mining as a client base is not new at BFL. We have had a reasonably good number and variety of exploration and operating mining clients for many years, in all of our large offices across Canada. The creation of a formal Mining Industry Focused Practice on a national basis has been running for about 18 months. My background comes from many years working with larger international brokerages, where I led mining practices and client-service units, which included working on everything from gold, copper and silver, to uranium exploration and operational mining clients worldwide.
SMR: You have 12 types of insurance that you offer mines; which one of these is the most critical for industry and why?
JM: Not all exploration or mining clients need all the coverage lines we can offer them. However, BFL’s mining-practice personnel’s expertise in this field, and our deep understanding of the mining-industry’s risk profile—how it changes throughout the many mining stages and varieties of operations—coupled with our extensive knowledge of insurance products, our market relationships, and market clout, give us an edge when negotiating and manuscripting if necessary, and enables us to deliver the right insurance contract for exploration/mining clients’ requirements.
SMR: Do you offer any specially tailored insurance option for mining-industry employees related to on-site safety?
JM: BFL’s Engineering Department does design safety seminars for mine-site employees in various specialty areas tailored to each client’s requirements. BFL will also team up with various partners worldwide and with insurers via webinars, to incorporate a consistent educational message and a convenience factor to our clients' staff safety education.
SMR: When you say that BFL provides an outsourced risk-management service, ensuring that your risk management and insurance program addresses every aspect of operations from initial exploration through construction and operation of a mining facility; how is this different from insuring through you directly?
JM: Exploration and junior-to-mid-size mining companies are all about tightly managing the cash cost to produce their product profitably, resulting in a good return to their investors and shareholders. BFL is a very cost-effective "outsourced risk manager" that continually stays abreast of the ever-changing world of risk management, as it specifically relates to the dynamic world of mineral exploration and mining—compared to hiring an employee for the job who would not be as immersed as we are on a daily basis in our world of risk solutions. Result would be a duplication of costs in not all, but in many cases. BFL can reduce the client's costs by assisting with a review of all types of risk, not just the risk that is typically transferred away from their balance sheet through the purchase of insurance.
We have the expertise to assist and coordinate access to a vast array of risk consultants, and in doing so, add our knowledge to managing their utilization cost effectively. Some include enterprise-risk consulting, mining-centric engineering consulting, loss-control solutions, mine-build planning (from a safety and loss-control perspective), captives and other alternative risk solutions, and many others.
SMR: What is the number-one risk for Canadian mining projects, and how do your clients successfully minimize it?
JM: There are many risks Canadian mining projects face, but currently, in my opinion, it is the lack of available capital to build a mine or further develop their property’s mineral assets that is one of the top risks. Tightening spending, and thereby reducing their monthly cash burn during this time, becomes a challenge in which BFL can assist in many ways. One of which is utilizing our in-house programs designed to specifically address mineral and energy exploration, and operating mining companies. Another is BFL’s unique process of revamping current insurance programs to redistribute risk among stakeholders, thereby reducing costs—sometimes significantly.
SMR: What are some of the controls BFL recommends for clients doing business in Mexico and South America, to deal with risks specific to those markets?
JM: There are many items BFL highly recommends that our clients consider, but a few are:
• Safety protocols for their employees and families that are visiting, living, or working in these countries.
• Insuring correctly with properly admitted policies to avoid possible fines or penalties from regulatory authorities.
• Building and operating your business using North American codes, standards, and loss-control methods, even though the country’s standards might not demand it. Insurers will refuse to insure inferior risks, or at the very least surcharge premiums to take on those risks. Investing in a little extra cost at the genesis of the project will save extra premiums for years to come.
SMR: Can you tell us some of the major hurdles you had to overcome to grow BFL to its current level?
JM: BFL has quietly gone about their business, growing amazingly over the last five to ten years. In doing so, awareness of BFL as a risk-management service provider has not caught up to our growth in a few industry segments. We are taking strong steps to raise awareness of our expertise and services in these areas.
SMR: BFL claims an extremely loyal client base, a 98 percent retention rate, which is far above industry average. Can you share your best practices in customer retention?
JM: BFL believes that establishing a clear plan of action, including goals and parameters, is necessary to ensure optimization of effort, resources, and results for both our clients and our teams. We appreciate regular contact with our clients to ensure our focus is appropriately directed. This is what a true partnership is about, clear and ongoing communication.
Our culture has attracted many large well-established organizations into our fold; these organizations consider BFL not only their broker, but their business partner as well.
BFL has achieved extraordinary growth because of our consistent ability to perform and deliver, thanks to our high-quality personnel and our entrepreneurial culture. We pride ourselves on our capacity to think outside the box and approach situations innovatively, to the benefit of our clients. Our approach to creativity, quality, professionalism, and focus on clients' objectives, mixed with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, differentiates us from other large brokerage firms.