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Next Wave
Being There

The insurance industry’s responsibility to help their customers is exactly the type of challenge millennials and Gen Z members of the workforce want.
  • Carly Burnham
  • November 2018
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Carly Burnham

Carly Burnham

Insurers should be working to be likeable and trustworthy in the eyes of consumers and potential employees.

Insurance companies have always attempted to cultivate a trustworthy, dependable reputation. Many of their logos even look like shields. Their message has been: “We'll be here for you when you need us. At the worst times of your life.” Think about that for a minute. It's not exactly a warm and fuzzy message. It's kind of like the dentist, you know you need one, but if you move, they're probably the last professional you try to find—unless you're in excruciating pain, then you're rushing around looking for someone who can take you as a patient.

Marketing or sales people are often trying to lead with a different message. Early in my career, when I was working in an agency, the principal attended a sales seminar. She came back to the office excited about one nugget that she had heard at the seminar. It was this: “People don't buy from someone they trust; they buy from someone they like.” This was an agent who prided herself on her knowledge of her products, who spent hours educating her clients, and who had chosen an office that was classy and comfortable in a way that most of the small insurance agents' offices in our town were not. She was devoted to being seen as a credible, trustworthy insurance expert. She was likeable, too—friendly, outgoing and curious. But, when she heard this message, we changed the way we structured our meetings with clients, and we re-committed to making each interaction with our clients enjoyable.

Though we shifted focus to the customer experience, we never lost sight that our purpose was to ensure that our clients understood what they were purchasing and knew that in the “worst times of their lives,” we, and the products we had sold them, would be there when they needed us most.

Both traditional insurance companies and insurtech firms are branding themselves in ways that are more fun and likeable. Traditional companies are mostly doing this through the use of humor in marketing, while insurtech firms are trying to play up their “cool” factor by pointing out how “different” they are from traditional insurance and how they understand the “young, modern” consumer.

As I watch companies grapple with the challenges of being or becoming likeable, I think back to my time in the agency. Sure, being likeable was important to get the opportunity to quote, educate and sell to customers, but at the end of the day, everyone in the agency knew that the most important thing we were doing was providing protection to our clients. They were trusting us with their assets and their future. I've heard many an industry veteran say, “At the end of the day, I have to be able to sleep with the decisions I've made.” I've heard this in all the traditional roles: claims in regards to settlements they're paying out, underwriting concerning the risks they're accepting on behalf of their employer, and agents as to the limits and types of coverages they're selling.

Millennials and Gen Z members of the workforce want to create experiences that are meaningful to consumers and that offer pro-social benefits. The industry's responsibility to be there for their customers at the worst times in their lives, and the increasingly stronger need to build experiences that customers value are the types of challenges these generations would want to work on. Insurers should be working to be likeable and trustworthy in the eyes of consumers and potential employees. Recruiting people committed to building services that protect and indemnify our clients at the worst times of their lives, while creating products and experiences that surprise and delight our clients before a loss or in the event that they never have a loss, is a way to inspire young professionals and keep them invested in their careers.


Carly Burnham, CPCU, MBA, has been in the insurance industry since 2004. She blogs at and can be reached at

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