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A risk worth taking: entrepreneurship for carriers and brokers is not for the faint-hearted.

Few of us like to think a lot about the future. It was Dan Quisenberry, a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, who spoke those immortal and yet philosophical words describing the future as "just like the present, only longer." One does not have to look any further than the very structure of how the insurance industry works in order to validate Quisenberry's fine line of reasoning. The formalized insurance infrastructure was created more than 300 years ago and remains largely intact today. From this perspective, a solid case can be made that the nature of our industry and our operational structures, at least in general terms, have been and may continue to be largely unchanging, at least on the fundamentals.

But the environment in which we operate is anything but static. Organized chaos and change are the order of the day, particularly in client service, new exposures, new public opinion, fee structures, risk management and technology. Change is what helps to shape the future of insurance. It's when these two key elements collide--time-tested and unchanging foundation and changing and dynamic operational environments--that opportunities for enhanced effectiveness and a better vision for our future are created. Insurance carriers, brokers and risk professionals must evaluate their methods, tactics and activities to look for significant potential for success. Three key essentials for success are entrepreneurship, collaboration and quality.

Carriers especially must move faster toward embracing entrepreneurship as a concept for the future. Entrepreneurship involves doing things differently with a healthy dose of risk-taking. Those who embrace this "free thinking" approach are determined and are absolutely driven to be successful. They do not easily take NO for an answer and have an aversion to the comforts and safety of bureaucratic systems and processes, which most insurance carriers wrap themselves in like an old familiar coat. Instead, they thrive on imagination and ingenuity. They also like to move quickly and look upon failure less as a final act than as an opportunity to take the next step.

The context of entrepreneurship can be embraced in a variety of ways in the industry. It may mean borrowing and deploying methods from other sectors of business without concern for whether or not they are conventional or fool-proof. It could mean simply viewing situations differently and having the courage to go against the grain if it is in the client's best interest. It likely involves accepting criticism associated with trying new things. Entrepreneurship for carriers and brokers is not for the faint-hearted, and above all else these mavericks of insurance must be thick-skinned.

Collaboration, a second concept that portends promise, is very familiar. Even in childhood, we were taught that sharing is a virtue. In our earliest school years, we were assessed on our ability to play nicely with others. It's not surprising then that as professionals, we continue to share our equipment, people, technology and even financial resources. Collaboration will become a necessity in the future. In due time, increased levels of collaboration, some of which are in play today, may lead to inter-insurance company sharing of resources, including personnel.

But perhaps the single most important change that the insurance industry needs to revisit and embrace is an abiding and relentless commitment to quality. This means getting things done well beyond standards of acceptability. The common refrain "good enough for government work" has no place here. Good enough is never good enough. In the face of admonishment, we have to do "more with less," and the future focus may be actually doing "less with less but at a higher qualitative level."

The word "quality" is hollowly banged about by several insurance CEOs without a solid sense of its elusiveness. There is an important qualitative difference between a friendly, insightful and genuinely helpful agent, broker or claims adjuster and one who is "bothered" by customers. And there is a real and substantive difference between a renewal completed above standards, before deadline, at the correct price and with a policy delivered on time, than a renewal that just gets out the door and under the wire. The same industry leaders who complain about slow service in a restaurant need to turn the mirror on their own companies.

Developing a fresh view of the future, even if it looks a lot like today, can be expensive, time-consuming, night-marish in terms of change management, risky and many times experimental. If we are to succeed, our industry must constantly learn to reinvent itself in the insurance and risk management world.

Lance Ewing, a Best's Review columnist, is vice president, risk management, for Caesars Entertainment, and RIMS president 2003-2004. He may be reached at insight@bestreview.com.
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Title Annotation:Property/Casualty
Author:Ewing, Lance
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:775
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