Insurance Academy

What does “We’re studying the problem” really mean?

By | July 3, 2019

I was reading my latest issue of Carrier Management yesterday and found an article about how Lloyd’s was planning to modernize their operations. The article mentioned that Lloyd’s had put together a prospectus of potential solutions, but that nothing would be done until they complete their market feedback period is over.

So, on one hand, they say that they need to take quick and decisive action to modernize their marketplace and at the same time, they plan on taking a very slow, methodical, glacial approach to that modernization.

That’s the problem with our industry today. We forget what it’s like to make quick, decisive moves. We forget what it’s like to have to try something (anything) to get some momentum. I have a deep respect for the innovation that marks the history of Lloyd’s, but they’re like much of the rest of the industry. We’ve lost our way.

We’re playing prevent defense.

I’m an American football fan. To be really clear, I’m usually less interested in what the teams are doing than I am why they are doing it. There comes a point in some games where the team with the lead has a change in their defensive plan. For most of the game, they used their defense to try and keep the offense off balance. They try to use their defense to put their offense in the best possible position to score.

The shift comes when they decide to shift to the prevent defense. A prevent defense isn’t aggressive and proactive. It’s defensive and reactive. Where they were going after the ball, now they are waiting to see where the ball goes. From what I’ve seen that usually indicates that they are afraid of losing the game, not motivated to win the game. It can lead to a confidence boost on the other team, which makes them win.

That’s where a lot of insurance professionals are. We are trying to protect the ground we already have, rather than actively going out and taking new ground. We are content to make sure that others don’t push the ball too far into our territory. In the end, the nimbler startups and insuretechs see that we are afraid of losing, so they start to try and win. And they are winning.

We think everything is working fine.

Every time I’ve been a part of a computer system upgrade or a website renovation, someone always says, “it works the way it is, why are we changing things?” You’ve already guessed what the problem is. It didn’t really work as well as we thought it did. Early in my insurance career, I worked at a company that had a massive number of filing cabinets, a few electric typewriters, and a person whose main job was to manually stamp and put together insurance policies.

That was in 2005.

While I was working there, we upgraded. We finally were able to print forms on both sides of the paper, rather than on one side and then someone had to copy the pages to double sided copies. We scanned in the signature so that no one had to stamp it. We got a printer with a built-in three-hole punch, rather than someone manually punching holes in every page.

Then the really big move happened. We had a team of people who scanned every document into a digital document warehouse, and we move all of the filing cabinets out. Did I mention that this all happened in the first decade of the 21st century? Yeah. It sure felt like we were behind. By the way, at that time, agents didn’t have access to enter application data into our system. They had to send us their applications. At least they didn’t have to send paper anymore.

We are so slow to take up new technologies because the old stuff “works just fine.” I’ve decided that “why fix what isn’t broken” is code for “I’m terrified of changing things. Please don’t make me change anything.” Processes are broken. If some startup can access the data to create a reasonable profile of a building, why can’t the big companies? If two app developers and an insurance person can come up with a way to make things work easier, why can’t the big companies?

By the way, we shout about how the app-first company is promoting insurance in a commoditized way. But where is the insurance company or insurance agency that fights against that app-first commodity mindset with their app-first risk management mindset? So instead of saying, “that’s bad risk management, just come back to us” why not say, “that looks like an easy way to get started. Here’s our app that can also give you what you want in moments, but it also comes with the help of someone (even a chatbot) that can help you to assess your risk.”

We think we need to analyze before we change.

“We are looking into the situation, developing a plan, and will implement it as soon as we can.”

Translation: We’re scared. We believe that if we tell you that we’re changing, that’ll be enough. You’ll forget this whole thing soon enough and we can be back to business as usual.

If I could offer some advice to those who are exploring making changes, I’d like to say one short sentence. Get after it. You don’t need to form a committee. You don’t need to research the issues. You don’t need to find out what the market is doing. All of that data are available to you right now. Pick a change and do it.

I’m not talking about looking in the budget for the money, or finding out if you have the necessary resources to make some changes, I’m talking about the endless researching, reporting, discussing, and analyzing that we like to do because it makes us feel like we’re doing things when all we’re doing is falling farther behind.

We forget that we are the innovators that help innovators.

There was a time when automobiles were a new thing. They shared what passed for roads with horse drawn carriages, covered wagons, and the individual horse and rider. In those days, insurance companies started writing liability policies that were modified horse and carriage liability policies for the automobile. That is, until one company decided to write a specific policy for the automobile. At that time, people thought that auto was a fad, until it wasn’t.

They got around find on a horse, but I prefer my car.

Let’s stop thinking and start doing.

About Patrick Wraight

Patrick Wraight, CIC, CRM, AU, is director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. He can be reached at pwraight@ijacademy.com.

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