Return of the Guru

Insurance Industry Defended, Then Dissed at ACORD LOMA

Ara Trembly
Insurance Experts' Forum, May 26, 2010

Most of us in the insurance arena are well aware of the general negative attitude from the public toward the industry, but until recently, few have spoken out against the often unfair barbs aimed at insurance companies in particular.

Apparently LOMA President and CEO Robert A. Kerzner has heard insurance thrown under the bus once too often, because in his general session opening remarks at this year’s ACORD LOMA Systems Forum, he roundly criticized President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their widely publicized comments portraying the industry in a negative light.  

“I’m tired of all the anti-insurance rhetoric,” he declared. “The insurance industry is critical and fundamental to maintaining our society.” He emphasized the positive contributions of the industry, including billions in payouts on life insurance to bereaved families.

The remarks brought smiles to the faces of many at the conference, although not the wild cheers one would have expected. Given the current administration’s incessant demonizing of the health insurance industry in particular, it actually felt good to hear someone say that Washington needs to just shut up about an industry that does indeed do much good for many in our society.

The day would not progress much further, however, without a proverbial slap in the face to the insurance faithful delivered by none other than keynote speaker Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer and “Silicon Valley icon.” Wozniak waxed eloquent about his development as a creative thinker and scientific maverick, which was somewhat interesting. He also made some comments about the advances in computer technology that have enabled today’s handheld devices to deliver far more computing power than larger units sold decades ago.

Then Wozniak was asked about how he saw modern technologies affecting the insurance industry. His response was to simply dismiss insurance as just a “statistical” representation of the world. No further answer to the question was forthcoming. It was truly amazing to hear someone being paid big money (and I’m betting they were substantial bucks) reduce an entire industry of smart, talented and dedicated workers and companies to a mere footnote. Note to Steve: Dude, you are speaking to an insurance audience. None of us can ever hope to be as hip and cool as you, but at least leave us with the illusion that you believe we are more than cogs in some cold, calculating machine.

Both sets of remarks, of course, speak to the disdain felt by many toward our industry. As Matt Josefowicz, director of insurance at Novarica, said later in an analyst panel session, “We only show up when things are bad. That’s why no one likes the insurance industry.”

Yet the fact that we do show up—perhaps when no one else will help—speaks to the value of our industry to many who suffer the slings and arrows of life’s inevitable losses. As a sometime health care provider and customer myself, I have at times said in frustration that having to deal with health insurance companies is God’s proof that Hell is real. At the same time, however, there is no doubt in my mind that life, health and property/casualty insurers provide welcome relief at times when relief is hard to find. So perhaps we need to see this as proof that Heaven is real as well.

I have no illusions that insurance will not continue to be demonized by many, but as the ACORD LOMA remarks make clear, we shouldn’t have to stand for such nonsense in our own house.

Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Ara using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at ara@aratremblytechnology.com.

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Comments (2)

Ara - I agree with your analysis, but am in the mood to issue a challenge. The playground of public sentiment is a rough one and we, too, need to do our homework. We generally take our lumps from the bully of the day (media, White House, policyholders, public, etc.)and keep a low profile. But instead, we need to consider what can be done about it. In effect, we need a new persona.

Instead of being the kid with the calculator at the skate board park that opines that the ramp is at the wrong angle to fisish the trich with all limbs intact, we should be the girl that offers to help correct the ramp.

We should be in the school with a "Mock Insurance" program that educates kids about risk and mitigation, and then offer a policy that covers their MP3 players, spots equipment, bikes, and boards, skis and skates. Have a contest that rewards the team with the best ratins after runnig online risk scenarios and insurance simulations.

Well, I could go on for a while on this subject, but have carriers to look after. What do you think?

Jamie Bisker - IBM Global Insurance Team

Posted by: jbisker | June 1, 2010 9:33 AM

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Shame on you Steve for not doing your homework. The insurance industry is working hard to develop and implement technology that will provide value to the process of writing and managing insurance coverage.

The fact that iPad could revolutionalize how agents collect information (with the right applications)and the growing reliance on real time transactions in the business should have been on the top of his list... Not bragging about how great he is. If he would have been creative and provided insights into how he could see the development he is doing helping us, he would have been loved.

Another reason for me to question whether apple is getting too big for their britches....

Posted by: Dorene B | May 26, 2010 12:41 PM

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