Lessons Learned: Wisdom of Scar Tissue - Insurance Thought Leadership

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February 11, 2019

Lessons Learned: Wisdom of Scar Tissue

Summary:

It’s what you learn after you know it all that is really important. This often includes scar tissue gained when things don’t go as planned. 

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It’s what you learn after you know it all that is really important. This often includes scar tissue gained when things don’t go as planned.

In 2009, I was asked to present at a conference and was struggling to find a topic that would engage a bunch of folks smarter, more experienced and richer than me. I walked into a coffee shop in Baton Rouge and saw a magazine cover celebrating the 20th anniversary of the movie “Sex, Lies and Videotape.” (The writer and director was Steven Soderbergh, a Baton Rouge native).

That movie became the title and theme of my presentation. I included a slide for each of the terms in the title.

The SEX slide involved five examples of clients of the financial services industry believing they got screwed when they’ve dealt with agents, brokers, advisers, etc.:

  • “Sure your HO policy covers hurricanes, but your loss was from a levee breach.”
  • “In today’s news, it was revealed that companies colluded to fix prices.”
  • “You have a great major medical policy, BUT it doesn’t cover experimental treatment.”
  • “Our universal life projections are very conservative; we’re using 12% returns, and right now our company is paying 14%.” (A real statement from 1983. A few years later, the returns were in the low single digits.)
  • “The investment model mixes the most conservative stocks with bonds to protect your principal and still ensure a reasonable return on your investment.” (Yeah, but stuff happens.)

See also: ‘Organic Insurance’: Back to Basics  

LIES included the following four statements:

  • “We don’t sell products, we sell peace of mind.”
  • “Don’t buy cheap – buy quality – buy stability, like Merrill.”
  • “AIG is a stable insurance market.”
  • “The merger of Travelers and Citicorp into Citigroup creates the financial services model for tomorrow.”

VIDEOTAPE included pictures of the following industry leaders:

  • Bernie Madoff
  • Hank Greenberg
  • Allen Stanford

If you don’t know them, look ‘em up.

We sell a “promise to pay.” Our luckiest clients never have a loss. Those who do suffer losses expect to be paid. Yet, they fear that they won’t be. You can be the best broker, agent or adviser in the industry, and you will still have claims that won’t be paid as you would like them to be. When such unfortunate outcomes occur – you may be painted with the same brush as those less than honorable characters who occupy a share of our world.

Our industry should be at our best when client circumstances or at the worst. We have to be at work to pay claims when our clients are staying home to clean up their losses. I know we’re only human and can only do what we can do as time allows.

Our problem is that the only claim that matters is the claim of the client at your desk or on your phone. And in times of disasters, our clients are under great stress, so they may not be as understanding as they were when they purchased our policies.

Perhaps the most interesting lesson I learned following Hurricanes Rita and Katrina (2005) involved flood losses. Many agents explained that when we told our clients that their property policies would not cover flood (only a flood policy provides this protection), they would get angry. When we showed them a document THEY had signed acknowledging that they had “chosen to reject this coverage,” some got violent.

See also: Insurance and Fourth Industrial Revolution  

Some agents believed that most folks who did not have the coverage knew they didn’t but wanted to blame the mistake on the agent rather than on their own bad decision. When we showed them the document that covered our behinds and exposed theirs, we left them open for criticism from their partner, spouse or significant other.

What we do is very important, so do it as well as possible and understand that the client screaming at you is hurting and that yelling at you is good for their soul (if not yours)! Peace.

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About the Author

Mike Manes was branded by Jack Burke as a “Cajun Philosopher.” He self-defines as a storyteller – “a guy with some brain tissue and much more scar tissue.” His organizational and life mantra is Carpe Mañana.

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