At Large (WEB ONLY)
Insurance Industry Offers a Noble Value Proposition
Insurers should feel good about what they do. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t accept how the profession is usually characterized in popular culture.
Recently, a colleague was telling me about a novel that she had just read. In the story, a group of strangers introduce themselves at a party—a book editor, a professor, a musician and an “insurance catastrophe modeler.” She was excited when the other party guests considered all four characters to be working in fields both prestigious and desirable (even the insurance modeler!).
You might wonder why their reaction was a pleasant surprise for me. Unfortunately, in many books, as well as in movies and TV shows, the obnoxious neighbor or the bumbling brother-in-law is the one employed by an insurance company. Even worse, sometimes they portray the chief villain as a greedy insurance executive.
Many of us, including me, did not set out to work in insurance. If you attend an insurance conference and ask a roomful of people to stand if they planned a career in our industry, many will stay seated. But I'm really glad I made the choice to join because, in my experience, those of us who work in the industry truly enjoy our profession—despite our own earlier misperceptions and the negative depictions in popular culture.
Our industry consists of experts in a wide variety of areas, including cutting-edge fields such as machine learning, data analytics and IoT. We generally find our colleagues to be interesting, smart, creative and committed to making the world a better place. After all, our industry's value proposition is a noble one. Why wouldn't we feel good about what we do?
Insurance is a very competitive business, but when it comes to the industry's reputation, it should not be about selling a product or one company taking market share from another. From this perspective, we are not competitors. We need to come together to advocate for our industry—to spread the word about the noble cause that we support and how we attract new talent.
Like many business leaders in both insurance and other sectors, I've been focused on “the war for talent.” I believe our industry has a great deal to offer today's job seekers. Over and over again, we hear that prospective employees want more than a salary and benefits—they are looking for purpose. As a result, they are looking for a position where they will feel connected to something other than a paycheck. Our industry has a long tradition of making positive contributions to society, even though it's largely unseen and often unacknowledged.
Most people and businesses only interact with insurance when they are going through a difficult period—a fire, a flood, an accident, a crime— and it's often a devastating time in their lives. Our industry is there to help them emerge from harmed to whole—rebuilding their lives, their businesses, their communities and society. As an industry, we do this every single day, 365 days a year, even though it is rarely reported in the media.
A recent example is the 2021 Texas severe winter storms which caused hundreds of deaths, widespread power outages, sub-freezing temperatures in over 100 counties across the state, and billions in damages. Our industry responded to this event quickly and effectively, and there weren't many stories about people or businesses having trouble with claims. This excellent response to the Texas storms is just one of many examples—we should be proud of our industry's long history of repairing and restoring, for individuals, businesses, communities and society.
We have a very good story to tell, and we can all do a better job of shining a light on our noble profession.
Coming next time from Tony Kuczinski: Part II—“Predicting and Preventing”—How the Insurance Industry Makes the World Safer and More Resilient.
Best’s Review contributor Tony Kuczinski is chief executive officer of Munich Re US P&C Cos. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.