Consultants' Corner

Speaking Out on the Insurance Industry’s Reputation

Howard Mills
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 19, 2011

Although the P&C industry is STILL waiting for the return of a hard market, 2011 has been a very active year – an active tornado season in the spring, wildfires and drought in the west, an earthquake on the east coast and the devastation of Irene’s flooding (with two months to go in hurricane season). All these events have served to bring the insurance industry to the forefront of public consciousness. People are (or should be) more aware that bad things do happen and that the insurance premiums they pay bring them the benefit of peace of mind. Now seems to me to be a perfect opportunity for the industry to seize the moment and tell its story about the invaluable role insurance plays in our economy and the great good that the industry does in helping people when they most need it.

Reputation. More specifically, the reputation of the insurance industry is a topic that many in the business have found to be very frustrating. Those of us who understand the role of insurance are amazed and perplexed that the insurance industry does not enjoy a sterling reputation. In fact, it's just the opposite; the industry is often maligned in the media and disparaged by the very people that are being protected. Today, as scores of communities are struggling to rebuild after the devastation of Irene, one would hope that the insurance industry's reputation is benefitting from the indispensible role it is playing in getting families and entire communities back on their feet. As always, the industry was in the field immediately adjusting claims, making payments, mitigating additional loss and, generally speaking, putting the entire east coast of the United States on the path toward recovery.

But will it make a difference with regard to the reputation of the insurance industry? Will the general public feel better about the role that insurance plays in our society and recognize that the industry has always performed admirably and met all of its commitments, kept all of its promises? History would seem to indicate that is not the case.

What can the industry do? While there have been efforts over the years to burnish the reputation of the insurance industry, what has been missing is a concerted and coordinated effort by the entire industry. Too often the industry has turned a deaf ear to the carping and negative press and failed to aggressively put out its side of the story.

The Griffith Foundation, an organization dedicated to attracting talent to the industry and telling the story of how important insurance is in our society, recently conducted an industry reputation summit. It’s about time. (Full disclosure: I have recently been elected to the Board of Trustees of the Foundation.)

Industry—and that means all of us—needs to step up to the plate and actively work to turn around its reputational deficit. We have a great story to tell, and we need to tell it, long-term growth of the industry could be at stake. It’s not just about consumers in the short term. Our ability to attract the best and the brightest to work at insurers and agencies, to develop innovative new products and keep the very engine of capitalism humming depends on it.

What do you think?

Howard Mills is a director and chief advisor of the Insurance Industry Group of Deloitte LLP and can be reached at hmills@deloitte.com.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Howard using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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