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Top 10 Useless Insurance Policies

Certainly some forms of insurance like health, home, auto, life or long-term disability coverage are probably necessary components to your wellbeing and security. But many people fall victim to fear or slick salesmanship to be convinced of the need to purchase some kind of special insurance coverage that is redundant, unnecessary, impractical or downright wasteful. It sounds good at the time, but in reality many insurance policies cost too much, have an unrealistic deductible or are simply frivolous coverage. You have to ask yourself in each case what the loss ratio is based upon each dollar of premium versus dollars paid for claims. For example, various kinds of credit insurance typically pay out 10 to 15 cents on the dollar versus auto insurance that typically pays out 80% to 85% of premium dollars.

See also: The Most Effective Insurance Policy

Here are my picks for the top 10 most useless insurance policies in alphabetic order:

  • Accidental Death Insurance

If you need life insurance, buy an amount that you deem necessary to cover you for all the ways you could die accidentally whether it’s by accident, disease, assault or old age. Accidental death insurance is often referred to as Las Vegas coverage – like a bonus to your heirs if you die in car crashes. Your heirs may have a civil negligence lawsuit to pursue in such cases anyway.

  • Cancer Insurance

Dreaded disease insurance policies like this cover you only if you die from one or more specific diseases. This is like playing specific numbers on the roulette wheel. Buy a term life insurance policy that covers you for the widest range in causes of death.

  • Cell Phone Coverage

New cell phones come with a manufacturer’s warranty covering defects or malfunctions. Consumer groups don’t recommend buying this monthly supplemental coverage due to consumer complaints including “fine print” exclusions, hidden deductible fees and refurbished replacement phones.

  • Credit Card Insurance

By law, most credit card fraud losses are capped at $50 per card with prompt notification, and most banks or credit unions have a zero-liability limit of stolen credit cards. Review your monthly statements regularly. Furthermore, the insurance schemes that offer to pay off of your credit card “balance owed” due to disability or death is better avoided, in favor of a traditional long term disability or life insurance policy.

  • Extended Warranties

These “policies” are often sold as a scare tactic that typically provides additional commissions or spiffs to retail sales people. Who can remember which items you bought such coverage for and until when? Why buy an extended warranty from a reputable retailer or manufacturer that should provide a reasonable warranty to begin with? Moreover, with the pace of technological changes, most consumer products, whether appliances or electronics, are greatly improved or less expensive after two to three years.

  • Homeowner’s Scheduled Property Insurance

Review your homeowner’s insurance policy carefully as most policies include overall personal property losses in an amount shown as a percentage of the value of the insured home. Singling out valuables as scheduled items, such as jewelry or fine art, typically requires appraisal and documentation, to be worthwhile. Furthermore, such items are often underinsured over time due to the fact you have to periodically purchase higher specific coverage limits for each scheduled item that may appreciate in value.

  • Identity Theft Insurance

Federal protections can leave you paying little to nothing if your identity is stolen. Regulators have slapped the ID protection industry several times for deceptive marketing practices. Furthermore, most stolen name, birth dates or Social Security numbers are used to open new credit card accounts or to file a bogus tax return in your name to get a refund. 80% of stolen identities involve credit card fraud or check forgery.

See also: Insurance at a Tipping Point (Part 1)

  • Mortgage Insurance

Private mortgage insurance uses the same sales approach as credit card or dreaded disease life insurance policies. Unless PMI is required by the lender (when you put less than 20% down on purchase), buy adequate term life insurance to cover these kinds of financial obligations. The only exceptions may occur if you are unable to obtain life insurance due to age or illness and want to ensure that your property’s mortgage is paid off at your death.

  • Pet Insurance

This often cost more overall than it will pay out due to various terms and conditions as well as exclusions, including inconveniently located designated veterinarians or clinics. Explore any nearby veterinarian universities as well for excellent low-cost medical treatment options.

  • Rental Car Insurance

In most cases, this coverage is provided by other sources such as your own auto insurance carrier, your credit card company or your employer, if you are on business.

Which to Choose: Innovation, Disruption?

Most executives are averse to risks but, ironically, create the risk of being leapfrogged by unforeseen competitors. Executives focus on innovation but only look for a new idea, device or methodology that incrementally provides greater efficiency or effectiveness, like the fifth blade in a razor or higher-resolution HDTVs.

This sort of innovation, sometimes referred to as a sustaining innovation, is not the same as out-of-the-box thinking that leads to disruption.

To be sure, sustaining innovation can sometimes produce great success. Google displaced Yahoo as the de facto search engine and web mail provider through incremental, in-house innovations, not through a disruptive strategy.

Nevertheless, most companies, including insurers, are now being forced to change their products, service models or delivery systems because of threats from outside the mainstream in the industry.

Management and marketing efforts have traditionally touted incremental, continuous improvements — using words like “faster,” “bigger,” “better” or “more efficient” — as a reason why clientele should remain loyal and why business should even expand. The incumbent mature market leaders, no matter how visionary they think they are, often ignore opportunities to invest in disruptive business strategies. Netflix beat Blockbuster in the consumer video market starting in 1997 by coming up with a new business model for DVDs  by mail and by investing in the nascent technology of on-demand, downloading of video content while Blockbuster stayed with its traditional business model of renting DVDs in stores and kiosks.

See also: Does Your Culture Embrace Innovation?

Disruption is created through inventions or processes that transform and overturn the way we think, behave, buy products, communicate, travel and go about our daily business. It doesn’t have to be based on new technology. Disruption, unlike incremental innovation, displaces an existing market, industry or technology by reimagining something more efficient and wildly better. Disruption looks at the underlying principles and values of a product or service, then rethinks solutions.

Disruption is aimed at a set of consumers whose needs are largely ignored by industry leaders. A disruptive innovation trades off performance along one dimension for performance along another, such as simplicity, convenience, values, ability to customize and transparent pricing.

Initially, some disruptive models from a niche market (like Uber or Lyft) may appear unattractive to consumers or inconsequential to industry incumbents, but eventually many of these disruptive or enlightened approaches to business opportunities completely redefine the industry. New brands have turned their industries upside down. In fact, smaller companies with fewer resources have knocked many brand name incumbents out of business. Once mainstream customers start adopting an entrepreneurial entrant’s offerings in volume, disruption has occurred.

Shilen Patel, founder of business accelerator Independents United, says: “Simply put, innovation is rational whereas disruption is irrational.”

Most outrageous business ideas have had loud critics. Not disruption. Companies like Google (Alphabet) thrive by taking crazy ideas called moonshots at a devastating pace and seeing if they can make them believable, deliverable and profitable, knowing that just a small percentage of the ideas will work.

So how does a business decide if it needs to innovate or reinvent itself to remain competitive?

Corporate executives must ask themselves if their industry is facing unpredictable changes, then decide how much control they have over that change. As Mark Zuckerberg once said: “If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will.”

Companies now run the risk of cross-industry disruption, where a high-tech company takes over autonomous transportation or even an industry like insurance. Amazon did just that with retail and is now considering its own drone delivery system, its own shipping fleet and 3D printing to disrupt certain supply industries.

See also: 6 Key Ways to Drive Innovation

The University of Southern California in 2014 began offering a program for entrepreneurs referred to as “a Degree in Disruption.” Venture capitalist Josh Linkner’s book, The Road to Reinvention, argues that “fickle consumer trends, friction-free markets and political unrest…along with mind-numbing technology advances,” mean that “the time has come to panic as you’ve never panicked before.” Twenty years ago, the disruption in manufacturing was offshoring. Now, the disruptions are technologies like 3D printing, artificial intelligence, transportation innovations and robotics — and are bringing manufacturing jobs back to home markets. 

Investments in sustaining innovations obviously make sense for most companies, but some may choose to strengthen their ultimate market position by investing in enterprises that don’t necessarily align themselves with their core business strategies.

Partly because of disruptive innovation, the average job tenure for the CEO of a Fortune 500 company has halved from ten years in 2000 to less than five years today. Eventually, foothold market companies may have to decide on the strategic choice of taking a sustaining, traditional path versus a disruptive one. The same forces that lead incumbent industries to ignore early-stage disruptions also compel disrupters to ultimately disrupt.

But if a company’s innovations do change consumer behaviors and force a redrawing and expansion of market boundaries that separate its new business from the culture and processes of old ones – then you really have something.

Thought Leader in Action: Chris Mandel

Back in the ’70s, Chris Mandel quite literally stumbled into insurance, as a result of a racketball injury at Virginia Polytech Institute when he suffered a detached retina. After two months of lying flat in a hospital bed, he had to forego his post-graduate job in retail management and start looking for employment in D.C. — he began an unexpected career in managing claims at Liberty Mutual.

Mandel excelled in his job but realized a career in claims management wasn’t what he wanted. So, in the early ’80s, he moved to Marsh brokerage for five years and set up a risk management program for an AT&T spinoff that evolved into what is now Verizon. He then left Marsh to be Verizon’s first risk manager — building its program from scratch.

By the ’90s, he landed in several top corporate risk management positions at the American Red Cross, Pepsico/KFC and Triton Global Restaurants (YUM Brands). Mandel also began his six-year volunteer stint as the president of RIMS (1998-2004), after serving in many different key RIMS leadership roles. He earned an MBA in finance from George Mason University along the way.

By 2001, Mandel was on several advisory boards (i.e. Zurich, AIG, FM Global and Liberty Mutual), before making a career and geographic move to the USAA Group in San Antonio. There, he built an enterprise risk management (ERM) program because he saw a “broken traditional approach” to risk management. After nearly 10 years of developing an ERM program lauded in the industry (including by AM Best, Moody’s and S&P), Mandel was promoted at USAA to head of enterprise risk management, as well as president and vice chair of Enterprise Indemnity, a USAA commercial insurance subsidiary. While at USAA, he was recognized as Business Insurance’s Risk Manager of the Year (2004).

His dream was to be a corporate chief risk officer, but he saw that title more often going to “quants,” (like actuaries), rather than risk professionals. So, as a well-known and sought-out industry spokesperson and visionary, Mandel moved on from USAA in 2010 to found a Nashville-based risk management consulting group, then-called rPM3 Solutions, which holds a patent on a game-changing enterprise risk measurement methodology. Then, in 2013, he moved to Sedgwick as a senior vice president. He is responsible for conducting scholarly research, driving innovation, managing industry relations and forging new business partnerships.

In early 2016, he was appointed director of the newly formed Sedgwick Institute, which is an extension of the firm’s commitment to delivering innovative business solutions to Sedgwick’s clients and business partners — as well as the whole insurance industry. In 2016, Mandel was awarded RIMS’ distinguished Goodell Award (see video below).

When asked what he sees as critical strengths for someone entering risk management, Mandel said: “I try to hire managers who can think strategically and who can convince C-suiters and boards of the value of being resilient in addressing a company’s risk profile. Progressive leaders understand the strategy to leverage risk for value.”

A holistic approach, as he describes it, “seeks a vantage point that can assess both the upside and downside of all foreseeable risks.” He believes true innovation evolves from a company’s risk-taking. “It’s not so much identifying what or when adversity is going to happen, it’s how a company responds to risk in order to minimize disruption,” he said.

In assessing his personal strengths and accomplishments, Mandel feels that a person needs to be “emotionally intelligent” — able to adapt to different people in organizations. He doesn’t consider himself a people person but says he learned to be one the hard way. He advises: “Team spirit is putting other people first and helping them succeed. … Admit your failures and build trustworthiness from your mistakes.”

Besides writing, teaching, speaking and (still) playing racketball, he serves an active role as an advisory board member of Insurance Thought Leadership. He and his wife also serve in church ministries, where he often plays guitar alongside his grown children, who are ordained ministers. Mandel said, “I’m blessed by a Creator who’s had my back.”

Thought Leader in Action: At U. of C.

An organization the size of the University of California system—10 campuses, five medical centers, a student body of 239,000 and nearly 200,000 faculty, staff and other employees—requires the close attention of individuals who help assess and manage risk and insurance. Kevin Confetti, the UC deputy chief risk officer in the Office of the President, is one of those people who keeps the University of California operating and its employees satisfied.

Born and raised in Pittsburg, CA, Confetti grew up in a hardworking blue-collar family with parents who worked at DuPont and at U.S. Steel. While in high school, he aspired to be a teacher and football coach, and he attended UC Davis, where he played on the varsity football team and graduated with a B.A. in rhetoric and communication. After graduation, he hung up his cleats and got his first real job working in claims adjusting for Cal Comp, where he found he really liked the variety of work. That experience led him to promotional opportunities at Fireman’s Fund, Ernst & Young and Octagon Risk Services. Serving for five years as a claim unit manager at Octagon—the UC system’s third-party administrator (TPA) at the time—Confetti was hired by the UC system in 2006. Now, he’s in the process of achieving his ARM (Associate Risk Management) designation.

Kevin Confetti

Within the UC system, Confetti reports to the chief risk officer, Cheryl Lloyd, and he provides overall management of self-insured workers’ comp (aka “human capital risk”), employment practices, general and auto liability, medical malpractice, construction risks and $50 billion of property risks. Confetti said the UC system’s various campuses and medical and research facilities are actually quite autonomous, while the Office of the President strives to manage the overall risks without using too many mandates. It’s a program that responds to needs as it sees fit, and it helps set up system-wide policies.

To do his job well, he said he needs to be a good communicator, a good listener and someone who facilitates collaboration and cooperation among his various facility risk management teams. He described the job as, essentially, convincing his campus teams that something is the right thing to do.  He loves the variety of what he manages, and his passion is to save the UC system money, whether it’s $1 or $1 million, so those savings can go to the UC system’s mission. Confetti said, “Leadership requires the ability to convince others in the UC system of the value of our propositions and decisions.”

With an in-house risk management staff of 10 to 12, Confetti serves each campus risk management department (ranging from about two to three at UC Merced to 12 at UCLA) as clients. The UC system uses Sedgwick as its TPA for its self-insured programs, which provides in-depth metrics, data mining and monthly and ad hoc reports. Sedgwick also provides assigned analysts in virtually every UC risk area.

Confetti also manages the UC Risk Management Leadership Council, which meets monthly on various campuses. In addition, his office hosts a Risk Summit conference once each year for every campus and facility risk management team. These teams come together to discuss trend statistics and emerging issues that are key risk factors for each unit as well as the overall UC system. While each campus team does things a little differently, they all operate with a similar mindset that fits within the UC system’s overall objectives.

At the moment, Confetti’s biggest area of concern is cyber security; cyber issues can be difficult to identify and prevent and can be one of the most destructive risks, threatening things such as power grids and other infrastructure. The UC system employs several different IT structures, and, because most insurance coverage excludes cyber risk, the risk is extremely dangerous from a risk manager’s perspective—especially given the size and nature of electronic data managed by the UC system.

A second issue Confetti is currently concerned with is the risk to students and faculty from active shooters or other terrorist-minded groups.

A third risk he’s focusing on is the use of drones; Confetti said the federal government, businesses and institutions haven’t been able to effectively manage the growing number of drones operating freely in the U.S.

Confetti said he would tell newcomers to risk management that technology continues to propagate new risks. He advised, “Be willing to take on risks, but learn from your mistakes and know that you don’t have all of the answers. You have to take risks to move forward, but negative experiences should provide the knowledge and skills to mitigate risk more effectively. … Be flexible and open to new ideas. … Avoid reliance on statistics. Data will give you a trail of facts like breadcrumbs to show you what trail you need to follow. But get out of the office and make the rounds to see and hear what’s going on.”

What to Learn From an Executive Chef

Howard Karp, a chef at the Waldorf Astoria and instructor at the California Culinary Academy who cooked for four U.S. presidents, once told me the secret of cooking: “It’s all in the technique. There are no shortcuts.”

Exquisite food comes from a highly trained, coordinated and cohesive kitchen operation that involves culinary skills such as slicing, dicing, searing and sautéing. Chef Karp added: “One must also understand the chemistry of cooking.”dwdwdw He explained that the order and manner in which all the ingredients are “introduced to one another” makes all the difference.

Watching him cook a five-course dinner for a small group of us was like watching an artist paint a masterpiece. I never followed a recipe card again.

In my world, risks are a common ingredient and need to be handled just as expertly as the fish, meat and other ingredients that Chef Karp works him magic on. The risks to business ventures include:

  1. Damage to reputation/brand
  2. Economic slowdown/slow recovery
  3. Regulatory/legislative changes
  4. Increasing competition
  5. Failure to attract top talent
  6. Failure to meet customer needs
  7. Business interruption
  8. Third-party liability
  9. Cybercrime/viruses
  10. Property damage

Some organizational risk management programs I’ve seen follow a recipe of sorts that seems to have been passed down from one risk manager to another — but only good wines and spirits improve with age.

Clearly, the prevention of accidents (workforce, property, fleet, customer, etc.) establishes the basis for sustained profitability. So, boards demand that senior management have robust involvement in the organization’s enterprise risk management (ERM) efforts. Risk management departments cannot operate outside the business flow and related decision-making processes. Management silos have no place here. Decisions about risk must be driven across all operational aspects of the organization in a consolidated, standardized fashion to build trust and meaningful partnerships with operations.

But the traditional corporate approach to reducing risks is one clever safety campaign after another. Risk management staff, especially those in workers’ comp, obsess on frequency and severity — cutting the number of claims and reducing reserves and settling claims. Risks are “managed” by things like: compliance enforcement; personal protective equipment (PPE); signs; and those safety contests. Risk management operations are often buried in finance, HR or legal departments.

But these loss controls, from my experience, are no match to the potential losses that may occur under a bureaucratic, disliked supervisor.

Senior management must raise its game and focus on the strategic components of risk, such as: alternative risk financing, market economics, reputational risks and human capital. In turn, management needs to know the true costs in each business unit. Relevant risk factors may be buried in a ream of statistics, but corporate executives need to know if their risk management program is making an impact. How is information collected, managed and disseminated? Are your analytics predictive?

After 38 years of directing risk management, I believe that organizations must embrace what some friends and colleagues are calling a culture of safety (COS). This is the pièce de résistance.

COS involves using embedded risk management teams in each business unit to send signals up and down the corporate ladder that loss control is much more than a motto or simple list of steps to take. COS requires developing loss-control programs that are a product of the DNA of a specific organization. COS builds strong, binding partnerships among business units that allow the development of a platform for data analytics, volatility analysis, forecasting and reporting that allow for continual improvement through ERM/Six Sigma. COS has demonstrated significant savings, in the tens of millions of dollars a year at a single company.

There are five essential stages to a viable culture of safety:

  1. Awareness, repositioning of responsibility and analytics
  2. Cultural sustainability through behavioral economics
  3. Behavioral change through positive observations
  4. Combined service, safety and engagement measures
  5. Extended service, safety and engagement measures to the community

An organization should have a vision to assess knowledge, skills and abilities and work with HR to train employees to bring about new levels of expectations. Old safety methodologies focused on inspectors; audit and regulatory-based decisions; checklists and processes; task completions; and frequency-based decisions. COS, on the other hand, is behaviorally focused using coaches, trainers and outside consultants who partner with teams of employees who are already technically proficient and operational savvy. In addition, key performance indicators (KPIs) can help shape behaviors.

To deploy a viable COS, companies should consider using qualified outside experts as a diagnostic tool to identify and quantify risks using meaningful analytics. Companies need to know how they stack up against the competition. This type of analysis by reputable firms can provide practical insights for senior management and lead to the building blocks for a fine-tuned corporate risk strategy and an enhanced culture of safety.

One such consulting firm, Operant Solutions, inspired me to write this article with stories on risk management successes it presented at the RIMS Western Regional Conference in Lake Tahoe recently. (If you’re interested in getting a copy of the presentation, you can contact Sue Antonoplos at 650-336-3144.)

I am inspired by the words of Julia Child: “Cooking well doesn’t mean cooking fancy.”