Insurance is big business in Nova Scotia. According to a recent Conference Board of Canada study, the industry directly contributed about $470 million in GDP to the provincial economy in 2008, and is expected to grow by 25 per cent in the next three years. With around 4,500 people (up 20 per cent since 2005) currently working for one of more than 360 insurance businesses, Halifax has the second-highest concentration per capita of insurance employees of any Canadian city (only Regina has more). And the jobs pay well, too. The average insurance industry worker in Nova Scotia earns $51,000, which is 38 per cent higher than the provincial average. “It doesn’t make a lot of noise but it’s been one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy for a long time,” says Fred Morley, chief economist with the Greater Halifax Partnership, an organization dedicated to attracting new companies to the city.
An insurance hub since the early 1800s, Halifax has the infrastructure needed to encourage and maintain growth. Being centrally located between Toronto, London and New York, Halifax provides workers the opportunity to live in a low-cost region and be just a short flight from major business capitals. That’s helped entice large international companies—including Admiral Insurance, a British firm—to set up shop. Richard Nason, an associate professor of finance at Dalhousie University, says insurance is one of the few industries that hires students straight out of school, making Halifax—with its six universities—a hotbed for new talent. A real benefit for an industry that, as noted in the Conference Board’s report, is faced with an aging workforce.
And, says Nason, the city is a great place for young workers to settle down, offering a small-town setting with big-city benefits. “You get to have your cake and eat it too,” he says.