Flaherty to meet Canada banks on insurance rules

Sat Apr 24, 2010 8:10pm EDT
 
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By Louise Egan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hopes to reach an agreement with banks within days that would prohibit them from marketing insurance products on their websites, he told reporters on Saturday.

Canada's banking laws forbid banks selling insurance through branches -- the subject of a decades-long political battle with insurance brokers -- but top banks have slowly expanded into the domestic insurance market by pushing sales on the Internet, in stand-alone insurance offices or subsidiaries, carefully skirting government rules meant to keep insurance and banking separate.

Flaherty advised bankers last October he would crack down on online promotion of general insurance products on conventional banking web sites. For example, there should not be links to general insurance sites on a bank site.

On the sidelines of the IMF spring meetings in Washington on Saturday he told reporters he would meet with bank executives within the next 10 days, after analyzing bank web sites at their request.

"I'm going to have to make clear to them about what they can do on their websites," he said.

"I think we can demarcate what is okay and what is not in line with that principle (of not selling insurance) at the meetings that are coming up. I think we can get there in a way that will be business-like, that they can live with," he said.

After fighting hard in Washington to persuade his colleagues in the G20 developing and developed nations to oppose a proposed global bank levy, Flaherty was asked if he worried about appearing too cozy with the big banks, which also oppose the tax.

"The banks aren't very happy with me about not letting them sell insurance in their bank branches," he said.

"So I don't live in a world where I think the banks are that fond of me. Nor should they be."

(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)

 
<p>Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty holds a news conference following the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting during the spring IMF-World Bank meeting in Washington April 23, 2010. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas</p>