Best's Review


Next Wave
Crisis Response

Insurance professionals can be “helpers” during, and after, the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Carly Burnham
  • May 2020
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Last month, I said I would share another story about crying in the workplace. But with the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, I couldn't quite focus on that. I'll revisit that story in my next column.

This month, I'm struck by the sudden changes to our lives.

In my own home, my husband is an ER doctor. He has seen some of the worst of this pandemic, and he is likely to see worsening conditions over the next few months. Even with the work he has been doing and the cases he has been seeing, we still talk almost daily about how privileged we are. His strength during this time is reassuring, and his compassion for my complaints about being unable to go to Pub Trivia or having to miss out on attending the various insurance conferences over the spring is almost unbelievable.

We have all heard Mr. Roger's quote about his mom's advice to him as a boy during “scary times.” She told him, “Look for the helpers.”

We can each point out folks who are making a positive impact on their community. My husband is one of them.

But I want to challenge each person reading this to go beyond looking for a helper and to find a way to be a helper.

How can we do that?

First, as insurance professionals, we should consider what we know about risk avoidance, prevention and mitigation and begin to think about how we can better prepare for these sorts of incidents in the future.

We have spent a lot of time thinking about the next property or cyber catastrophe. Let's turn our attention to other risks. How can we help businesses prepare for future pandemics? What other types of global events can we imagine that we should prepare for? In this instance, I do believe the business interruption that we're experiencing is uninsurable, so what other techniques can we recommend to our clients?

For businesses that are still running, can we offer services that help them out right now? As they make changes to their business model, are we prepared to help them with new cyberrisks, auto liability concerns, or workers' comp exposures?

Reach out to your clients and talk through their plans over the next few months. Help them make decisions with all the information they ought to have and offer them your expertise in preventing risk if possible.

I have always believed that insurance is a pro-social service. And, I am now arguing that insurance cannot solve every financial issue that business owners will face. We cannot simply cover business interruption to prevent the reputational challenges that will come if we deny these claims. But we can find opportunities to be the helper with the resources and skills that we already have. Looking for sustainable opportunities to assist in this environment should be at the front of all of our minds.

And, of course, as members of our own local communities, we should endeavor to do the things that everyone is trying to do right now. Be kind, be a bit more giving, be supportive of your local businesses.

I don't believe any of us will be able to be a helper every day throughout this crisis. We will each need time to rest, and our work will occasionally feel like the least important thing in the world. But, if we can practice gratitude and try to be a helper more days than not, I believe we can get through this. And then we can all regroup for a candid lessons-learned session that will allow us, both personally and as an industry, to be stronger over time.

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

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