The possibility of setting up a financial services hub in the Cowichan Valley is being explored.
Amy Melmock, the economic development manager for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, and Don Hatton, of Hatton Insurance, spoke to council in North Cowichan on Dec. 6 about the possibility of setting up a financial services cluster in the University Village area.
Hatton said there is also potential to establish a centre for insurance-captive companies within the financial hub.
A captive insurer is generally defined as an insurance company that is wholly owned and controlled by its insureds, with the primary purpose of insuring the risks of its owners.
Hatton said B.C.’s rules for the sector are more favourable than some other provinces, and the Valley is “very attractive” for young millennials who work for captive insures for a number of reasons, including lifestyle.
Melmock said it’s a good time to attract financial institutions to the Valley from places like Vancouver and Victoria.
“Some of these companies are getting priced out of their offices in those cities,” she said.
“The opportunity exists right now for them to consider coming here. Our office space is very financially competitive, as is housing in the Valley. Commute time for employees is also considerably less here, so workers would have a better quality of life here than in the larger cities.”
Melmock said there are also favourable tax incentives from the province for financial companies to come to B.C., and the Municipality of North Cowichan has its own incentives as well.
“These companies would be a good fit here because they are good-paying white-collar jobs that are stable,” she said.
“As well, financial and insurance companies tend to give back to the communities in which they operate. We already have some strong players in that sector here that are heavily involved in the community.”
Melmock said the University Village area would be an ideal location for a financial services centre to be established.
“It’s close to the university in case the companies need some academic contacts, and it’s within walking distance of downtown so the workers can feel part of the community,” she said.
Melmock said the next step is to conduct more research into the feasibility of such a plan, and determine exactly what advantages it would garner for the community.
That would include meeting with financial institutions to determine their needs, and to continue discussions with North Cowichan on how the municipality would want to proceed.
“At this point, we’re not asking for anything specific from North Cowichan,” Melmock said.
“We’re just keeping the municipality aware of what we’re doing, and we’ll likely invite members of council to be part of our ambassador team.”