What 19 Years in Insurance Has Taught Me

By | July 8, 2009

Working at my computer the other day, it hit me that the most recent crop of college graduates were not even born when I graduated from high school and they were no more than three when I entered the world of insurance upon graduation from college. Beyond making me feel old, it made me think about what I have learned in my 19-year insurance career. Granted 19 years is a short time to many readers, but it’s enough to have “paid some dues” and seen the insurance world change.

When I entered the insurance world, no one I knew had access to the Internet; cell phones were rare and cost a lot; and you had to ask someone if they had a fax machine. Typewriters were used and certificate holders were more than patient enough to wait three days for the mail to deliver the needed COIs. Otherwise known as the “good old days.”

The new entrants into the incredible field of insurance think they already have it figured out, as did I. And I bet that if you more experienced folks think back to when you joined the industry, you had all figured out as well. Oh, the brashness of youth.

This is not an all-inclusive list of what I’ve learned, but it is representative. After you read this, tell me what you’ve learned in your career. The new generation needs our help more than they are willing to admit.

  • Even reasonable people disagree.
  • Never argue with crazy people, especially those that know everything yet only have a limited view of the world. The problem is they don’t know they’re crazy or know-it-alls.
  • No insurance carrier is guaranteed to survive (Aetna P&C, Royal, Reliance, USF&G, Kemper, IRI, St. Paul, First of Georgia and almost AIG except for the government – some disappeared, some should have and others were absorbed into other groups).
  • Insurance people who understand insurance no longer run the insurance business; lawyers and accounts do.
  • Only good lawyers realize they don’t know everything about the law.
  • Someone who truly understands insurance can explain its concepts in simple language. The person with no idea how it works masks their ignorance with $10 words and legalese.
  • There is nearly ALWAYS more than one possible answer to a coverage question. One is just more correct than the others based on the particular situation.
  • Only “newbies” know everything about insurance.
  • The graveyard is full of irreplaceable people (producers, underwriters, consultants, etc.)
  • Regardless of how much I know (or think I know) about insurance, there is always MUCH more to learn.
  • When you stop learning, you stop improving.
  • If it’s not in the manual, it ain’t gonna get written by the carrier.
  • Ignorance and apathy are rampant in the insurance business. Ignorance can be fixed; apathy is fatal.
  • Without insurance, our country does not and cannot enjoy the standard of living we do.
  • If you are not fascinated by and passionate about insurance, do something else (please).
  • Training and mentoring is lacking in the modern day insurance industry.
  • One good storm can wipe out years of profits.
  • Insurance is a business, not a charity.
  • Insurance is not a commodity, necessary evil or “racket.” It’s necessary and highly individual.
  • Fifty states, hundreds of courts, thousands of differing opinions and interpretations. You can be right in some states and wrong in others.
  • States pay closer attention to their regulatory duties than does the Federal government.
  • The last truly great generation of insurance professionals is nearing retirement.
  • Clients rarely prize technical knowledge.
  • It doesn’t matter what the statistical chances are that something is going to happen, if it happens to my client it’s 100%.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I don’t know.” As long as you follow it up with, “But I’ll find out and get right back to you.”
  • It’s NEVER ok to guess at the answer to a coverage question.
  • In E&O cases, the one with the best documentation of irrefutable facts usually wins.
  • No client has had a ticket or accident in the last three to five years. Well, until the MVR is pulled.
  • Any client that searches you out probably has problems you really don’t want to deal with.
  • Truly good risks/clients must be hunted down.
  • Don’t give quotes over the phone.
  • Thoroughly qualified prospects are best. I don’t need practice filling out applications.
  • The best client to have is one who has experienced a loss. They don’t ever want to go through one again and will do what’s necessary to avoid it.
  • Learn how to fire a client; and be willing to do it.

Added by Pierre Michel-Fuez
Wordings & Technical Specialist
Lloyd’s Syndicate 1183 – Talbot Underwriting Ltd

  • Good lawyers always manage to circumvent badly expressed exclusions and turn them into total coverage inclusions.
  • Fifty states, hundred of courts and according to lawyers you will still never be right in any of them.
  • There is no harness to enthusiasm.
  • There is no container large enough to hold one’s knowledge; however, your brain can be pickled and preserved in a small jar.
  • It only takes minutes to recruit a financial whiz kid to preside over an insurance company; but it will take at least 5 to 10 years to get back to a positive balance sheet once you get rid of him.
  • No matter what I know, there is always someone who knows more.
  • Sustained bad underwriting will lose you all your best Reinsurer friends.

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