Tag Archives: Iowa Insurance Division

How to Earn Consumers’ Trust

Let’s talk about trust. The insurance industry is built on it. So why is there so little trust between consumers and the insurance industry?

According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, financial services as an industry has improved in the percentage of those surveyed who trust the industry from 48% in 2014 to 54% in 2017. While the level of trust is at least moving in the right direction, financial services does rank dead last among all of the sectors polled. Last.

Trust is not something that comes easily these days anywhere, much less in the world of insurance and other financial services. This is not great news for an industry in which we literally sell a promise to be there when bad things happen to consumers and businesses, such as car accidents, fires or deaths.

Many insurers may think of data along these lines:

Consumers trust and understand that, at the end of the day, insurance carriers are in the business of data. It’s at the core of what we do, the data is how premiums are decided, how to best protect assets and develop the fastest solutions when there is a loss, how products are marketed and much, much more. Of course, carriers can be trusted to protect that data and consumers’ privacy.

As a regulator who often hears from consumers, I wouldn’t bank on that. Simply put, there is a lot of uncertainty around data these days. Cyber-attacks are in the news seemingly endlessly, from Home Depot, to Target, to Equifax. And if consumers know one thing, it’s that their data is out there, often on old systems that may or may not be properly maintained, and many big-name companies may not have succeeded in protecting that data, and thereby their privacy.
Consumers also often are bombarded with long applications or questionnaires, sometimes with rather personal questions. Often, they are left baffled trying to understand, “Why would these people need this information?”

See also: When Not to Trust Your Insurer  

Many agents or brokers requesting the data may not know themselves. Data collected by insurance companies is input into complex algorithms in trade-secret black boxes to which few have access, much less full access.

Simon Sinek provides great insight into why leaders and companies need to focus on answering the question of “why” to maintain the focus as anyone—leaders, product managers, agents and brokers—starts the process and as any of us review whether that vision is working. Sinek says that people should consider whether “Starting With Why” in innovation will instill trust and cooperation.

If companies are transparent about exactly why data is collected, consumers can understand how it affects them. Transparency also can allow agents, brokers, consumers and others collecting the data to ensure it is as accurate as possible.

This issue is being discussed inside insurers, at insurance departments and among consumers. There can be scary downsides to secret data black boxes in insurance and otherwise.

Insurers could also use the data to provide feedback to help consumers better manage their risks. It’s important that, as new technology brings new opportunities, those asking for the information fully explain the “why” behind requests for data.

Insurance is global, and changes in other countries may cause changes that affect U.S. consumers and companies. As the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is on the eve of its effective date of May 25, 2018, in the E.U., the U.S. has the opportunity to learn from the experiences.

When the Iowa Insurance Division addresses these topics with companies, we point out the obvious. These are your consumers. If consumers ask the question about what data is being used and from what point, they should gain a clear response so they can understand fully before they consummate the transaction.

See also: 6 Lessons in Trust From Retailers 

Those in the insurance industry are given and trusted with much data. Because of that, much is expected.

It’s an incredible time to be in the business of insurance, and the expectations are high. The Iowa Insurance Division will continue to work with companies and consumers to discuss the proposed “why” for the benefit of all affected. After all, the insurance industry is built on trust.

Q&A With Iowa’s New Commissioner

Q: Congratulations on becoming the new Iowa insurance commissioner. You’re a Missouri native with 30 years of experience in the industry. What brought you to Iowa?

A: Thank you very much. About four years ago, I met Nick Gerhart, who was beginning his tenure as Iowa’s insurance commissioner. We had really good discussions at NAIC meetings, and he needed another member for his senior leadership team. Things really just fell into place. I’ve spent my entire career in consumer protection, and I shared Nick’s values of making government work for the people we serve — in our case, the consumers of insurance products.

Another draw for me was that Iowa is a huge insurance hub. From the outside looking in, I knew that Iowa’s regulatory culture was open communication with the regulated industry. We protect consumers and have high standards for the industry we regulate, but we communicate openly. We may not always agree with insurers, but we are willing to talk about it. I feel many states don’t have that mindset. It makes a big difference to have a focus on consumers while also working with industry in a fair, flexible and positive way. Industry ultimately wants stability and to be treated fairly, and I think that is why Iowa is home to so many insurance companies.

See also: A Commissioner’s View of Innovation  

Q: How does it feel to have the title of insurance commissioner once again? Not many can say that.

A: I am confident that those insurance commissioner statistics are not kept, but in the 150 years of state insurance regulation, I may be the sixth or seventh to serve as insurance commissioner in two separate states. Perhaps I’ll be the answer to a Jeopardy question someday. I’m very pleased to have been appointed by Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds so that I can continue working to help protect consumers. We have a really, really good staff here at the Iowa Insurance Division, and I consider it an honor to lead them.

Q: What’s your vision for the Iowa Insurance Division moving forward?

A: Consumer protection will be the main focus. Our multi-faceted team is in place to make sure that Iowans are protected.

We have a market regulation team that works with consumers on complaints, enforcement attorneys that ensure companies and producers who are doing what they are supposed to be doing, a fraud bureau that consists of law enforcement officers that investigate insurance fraud and a Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) that helps Iowans on Medicare get the information they need to make informed decisions.

Another huge part of consumer protection is ensuring that the insurance companies are solvent to be able to pay claims when needed. Our financial team works hard every day so consumers are protected that way.

We also just recently launched a new website, which really puts consumers first so they can quickly and easily get the information they need.

Q: There’s always talk during a new president’s term about the first 100 days and discussions about the cabinet picks. Is it the same for a new commissioner taking over?

A: Well, in my case, I’ve been appointed by the same administration that my predecessor was. On one level, much stays the same. Early on in Commissioner Gerhart’s tenure, he knew there was a crisis coming as much of our staff was retirement-eligible in the coming years. We put in a lot of work in terms of strategic hires, putting our younger staff in positions to both learn and lead and reorganizing as necessary. We’ve been able to add necessary staff to those regulating company solvency to keep up with the growing and increasingly complex nature of our domestic industry. Still, we may look to continue adding to our senior leadership, whether that be from inside Iowa or outside given the strategic plans put in place under Commissioner Gerhart. I will work with industry, our universities, Lt. Gov. Reynolds and Gov. Branstad to help make Iowa an attractive place to do business and a home for talented insurance professionals.

As for the first 100 days, I think a lot depends on what happens at the federal level in a few areas. What happens with the ACA is yet to be seen but will have a huge impact on what we do here in Iowa. The DOL fiduciary rule is also out there as something we are waiting to see how the new administration deals with. There’s also FIO, and I suppose the list could go on. We’ll continue to be active at the NAIC level to bring ideas forward and work for the best interest of Iowans.

See also: What Is the Right Innovation Process?  

Q: Iowa has generally been very forward-thinking in terms of innovation in the industry. ITL has even joined as a partner to the Global Insurance Symposium that the Iowa Insurance Division helped create. What should we expect at this year’s event?

A: The Iowa Insurance Division has been a founding partner of the Global Insurance Symposium, which is held each spring in Des Moines. This year will be the fourth year, and I think it will be the best one yet. There really is something for everyone. Many of the topics such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, corporate strategy, risk mitigation and innovation in the industry truly transcend all types of insurance. This event brings together top thought leaders in industry from around the world, industry executives, regulators and insurtech startups. I think this event is in a caliber of its own, and I’m really proud to be in a position to help the event grow and showcase all we are doing in Iowa to the rest of the insurance world.

This will be an event that folks won’t want to miss.

What I Learned at Google

As a regulator, I am often told I thwart innovation. To the contrary, I am very open-minded and excited by many of the innovative ideas I see and read about. Recently, I participated in an event at the Google campus with insurance experts from around the globe for a day of collaboration and learning. It was an experience I will not soon forget.

We spent the day discussing Google Compare, Waze and autonomous vehicles. Ideas were freely shared, discussed and challenged. What most impressed me was the great excitement the group showed about insurance evolving with new technologies. Oftentimes, the regulators in the room were asked our opinions on these technologies and the inherent regulatory issues. The regulators did a nice job articulating our need to protect insurance consumers and to adequately supervise carriers to ensure financial soundness and legal compliance, while allowing for innovations that work within our regulatory system.

It was a robust discussion, and I learned a number of key things about Google and its view of innovation and, in particular, insurance innovation.

  • Google works to fix problems. The Google employees were clearly driven to fix problems, and that desire took precedence over job titles. This was refreshing to witness first-hand.
  • Google thinks big picture. With a number of insurance regulators and insurance company executives in the room, it was eye-opening to hear a Google employee discuss statistics or numbers when solving problems only to admit the statistics or numbers were not precise. The Google employee considered best estimates that were “probably close enough” to a true statistic or number to be good enough to keep the ball rolling. Insurance company executives generally would only rely on exact figures to prove a business point, which requires actuaries to pound through data for weeks to get the correct number. Unfortunately, during the lengthy look at the data, innovation likely sits idle.  Google’s ability to not think in a vacuum or silo appears to be critical to moving innovation and ideas forward without being totally entrenched in analysis paralysis.
  • Google focuses on the customer. Repeatedly, Google employees drilled home how they view their relationships with their customers and their desires to constantly improve the lives of those customers.
  • Google wants to work with insurance regulators and policy makers. Google understands, respects and embraces the important role regulators play in protecting consumers. The fact that invited me to participate demonstrates this commitment.
  • Google is incredibly mission-focused. All the people I met from Google discussed the mission they had for their particular projects over everything else. Whether the missions were saving lives, improving buying experiences or lessening traffic and use of fossil fuels, these employees know the mission of the projects they are working on and how they relate back to the overall mission of Google.
  • Google could be a powerful force in the insurance space. Google has smart people who understand customers and the demands of the customers. Combining this with a desire to improve customers’ experiences and the immense technological and mobile resources Google possesses likely makes it a strong source of innovation in insurance.
  • Google employees are powerful brand ambassadors. How employees act says more about an organization than any activities the employer does. Every Google employee I met was a true Google ambassador. From the individual who welcomed us, to the person who showed us around, to the staff in the cafeteria, to the executives. Google’s employees understand Google’s mission and, more importantly, have bought into the vision.

I have spent a lot of time working with innovative ideas and new companies. These experiences assist me in my role as commissioner in fulfilling the mission of the Iowa Insurance Division. As a leading insurance state, we focus on insurance innovation, and I’m excited to invite you to register for the third annual Global Insurance Symposium in Des Moines on April 26-28, 2016.

During this symposium, renowned industry keynote and panel speakers will engage in dialogue on regulatory trends and issues that are affecting the industry, as well as focus on innovations in insurance across the globe.

Don’t miss your chance to participate, ask questions and learn from some of the brightest minds from around the world. Visit www.globalinsurancesymposium.com for more information.