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Did you hear the one ...? With a nod toward late-night television, herewith are five key reasons why the insurance industry is successful.

In the insurance and risk management industry, we are inundated with lists. We have actuarial tables, premium payment lists, underwriting schedules, collection lists, spreadsheets and loss runs. Lists are a part of the insurance world. Even in our daily lives, the lists are just as numerous and many comedians have come up with their "Top Lists." I want to follow that genre as I present (drum roll, please) The Top 5 List of "Why the Insurance Industry is a Success."

No. 5: We Do the Impossible. From insuring toys to trucks, employees to elephants, health care to helium, buildings to body parts, life to death. The insurance industry has an appetite unsurpassed for risks and can provide coverage for almost anything. We symbolize a full-customer service system in every sense. There are few areas of business that our industry does not embrace. Business would grind to a halt if the products and activities of the world were unable to get insurance. Thirty years ago, selling life insurance in China seemed laughable. We really do the impossible.

No. 4: Strong Leadership. Ask any of the risk management professionals of the Fortune 500 companies and most will tell you that they still have faith in the insurance system and its leaders. While there has been some turnover at top positions, new blood is sometimes positive. But personalities aside, the sum of the entire leadership--not just chief executive officers--at all levels throughout the brokerage community, the carriers, Lloyd's and the reinsurers are foundationally sound. Of the management teams running various insurance-related entities, the overwhelming majority of these individuals are progressive, open-minded and ethical. These leaders are proud of the industry in which they work.

No. 3: We Are Huge. Now size is not always everything, nor sometimes the best thing, but in looking at all the companies and services that are intertwined with the insurance industry there are some pretty big numbers. Literally hundreds of thousands of employees work for carriers, agents and brokerage companies alone. Over the last 10 years, employment in all sectors of the insurance industry has averaged 2.1% of total U.S. employment. Add in third party administrators, private investigators, actuaries, state employee insurance departments, the risk management community and let's not forget the lawyers, and you get the idea. What about sheer capital that insurance brings to the table? In the United States alone, net income after taxes for the insurance industry for 2003 was $29.9 billion. We are the engine of the business economy. The economic impact of the insurance industry is larger than the general public or the government may think.

No. 2: We Provide Humor. Not only can we laugh at ourselves but others are more than willing to use our industry to find humor in the world. Many times, insurance and risk management is looked at and stereotyped as too serious, cold, standoffish, stodgy and by the book. But where else can you find time-tested wit such as: Larry's barn burns down and Susan, his wife, calls the insurance company. Susan says to the agent, "We had that barn insured for $50,000 and I want our money."

The insurance agent says, "Whoa there, Susan, it doesn't work quite like that. We will ascertain the value of the old barn and provide you with a new one of comparable worth." After a long silence, Susan says, "I'd like to increase the policy on my husband."

Finding humor is a benefit of working in our industry.

And the No. 1 reason: Optimism Always Outshines Pessimism. In recent months, the insurance world has seen a relentless and unyielding focus on the negative--from attorneys general, to certain insurance commissioners and others who have portrayed the market, the carriers, the brokers and even risk management professionals in less than flattering terms. One of these pundits even went so far as to state "... the insurance industry is rife with corruption." But those of us who have been in the insurance and risk management business for a while have weathered these types of negative tempests and have almost always found the positive side of the turmoil. Lately, however, there has been a noticeable, even premeditated, refocusing from the carriers and brokers toward the positive. Optimism is contagious and it is spreading. The glass is slowly being seen as half full and getting fuller with each passing month. Our industry is great and you can add that to the list.

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
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Title Annotation:Property/Casualty: Loss/Risk Management Insight
Author:Ewing, Lance
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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