Changing the Rap About Insurance

The industry should come together to conduct a wide-scale campaign to improve its reputation. The campaign would work. It has truth on its side. 

City skyline across a blue and cloudy sky

For many years, I have advocated for the insurance industry to coalesce in pursuit of a perception change. The industry clearly gets a bad rap. ProfitableVenture notes seven reasons why people think insurance companies are bad. I think at least a few are missing from this list. 

You hear people say insurance companies are not trustworthy, are uncaring during times of need and only focus on profits. From college-students considering careers, we often hear that insurance is boring and bad.

The only child who ever said they want to go into insurance when they grow up was someone with a relative in the business. Someone who guided them into the industry by helping to debunk the stereotypes and myths about the space. To all my friends in the industry, tell me that isn’t true…

The industry has two major perception strikes against it: It’s bad, and it’s boring. People coming out of school today can’t handle boring, and they certainly don’t want to work for a company seen as doing bad in the world.

But, those who know a little something about insurance know that both of these perceptions are simply not true.

The fact is, the insurance industry is one of the most caring and philanthropic around. People working in insurance are there to protect you and the property you own. Helping others is part of the insurance DNA, and the vast majority of insurance brokers and underwriters are committed to serving their clients in their best interests. 

McKinsey and the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit that unites the collective strengths of the insurance industry to help communities and enrich lives through grants, volunteer service and leadership, reported in 2020 that industry-wide charitable giving was more than $560 million between 2015 and 2019. 

Using information collected by IICF, the Insurance Information Institute estimated U.S. insurers and their charitable foundations donated $280 million in response to the COVID-19 crisis alone. 

I couldn’t find much data on volunteerism, but all the insurance brokers and underwriters I know support their hundreds of thousands of employees to volunteer in communities across the nation and around the world. The IICF alone has tracked more than 110,000 industry volunteers giving more than 320,000 hours of service through IICF volunteer projects. Volunteerism is widespread and important in the insurance industry.

The industry is doing many good things in the world. It gives back – in a big way.

As for being boring, the insurance industry is far from it. I tell anyone who will listen, “Don’t knock it till you try it.” I’ve seen over the years how people reluctantly agree to take on insurance-related clients to lead communications, awards, executive positioning, brand activation efforts and more, only to fall in love with the complex topics, financial metrics and real implications of the work. Managing risk is the foundation of decision-making, and in today’s world of volatility – from climate change to political uncertainty – weighing the risks and mitigating them is more critical than ever. It’s an incredibly interesting space to be in, and I highly encourage young people to give it a shot.

See also: Key Insurance Exposures for 2023

But, back to the task at hand. How do we change the long-held negative perceptions about the insurance industry? I believe that the insurance industry should come together to undertake a wide-scale and fully integrated campaign to improve the industry’s reputation. That campaign should include such actions as:

  1. Reaching out to high school and college students – particularly kids interested in math – to show them the kinds of solutions provided by insurance and the possibilities for building careers in insurance.
  2. More effectively measuring the total philanthropic impact being made by the industry in terms of giving and volunteerism and reporting the result to consumers, businesses and government officials.
  3. Being more visible among business leaders on issues of climate change, health and wellness and other topics. Taking a seat at the table among the thinkers and actors working to make the world a better place. Insurance executives should lead conversations at the local level and at national and international platforms like local chambers of commerce, TED, Business Roundtable, World Economic Forum, Cop and so many more.
  4. Calling out the bad players for what they are. Let’s not gloss over the fact that there have been some shady businesses in the industry in the past. Likely, some still exist. Let’s step up and call out those players. Let’s get rid of the bad actors.

We didn’t get to this place of overarching negative perceptions about the insurance industry overnight, and those perceptions won’t be shifted overnight, either. But, if the industry were to come together to more vocally explain its good work and great impact and more forcefully educate young people about the incredibly fulfilling careers to be had in insurance, there is no doubt in my mind that the industry’s reputation would improve. You can bet I’ll be telling my kids to consider a career in insurance

Amy Littleton

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Amy Littleton

Amy Littleton is president at Reputation Partners, a national strategic communications and public relations firm.

She is a PR strategist and business leader focusing on delivering powerful communications and integrated brand activation programs to business and consumer clients. For nearly 20 years, Littleton has delivered communications results for many blue-chip clients, including Aon, Liberty Mutual, CNA and HUB.

She holds an MBA from Loyola Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business, a bachelor of science from Florida State University and a certificate in leadership from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Littleton serves on the board of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation.

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