Transparency

This article originally appeared in Carly’s monthly column in Best’s Review – May 2017.

Generally, when I write about Millennials, I’m thinking of those of us in the industry and those who we are trying to attract as new talent. There’s a whole constituency that I don’t often devote much thought to. These are our millennial consumers. There are over eighty three million of us in the United States. Our purchasing power is growing. When I told a fellow millennial that I was writing about Millennials and insurance, his response was “that sounds awful. Do Millennials even need insurance? How did you get roped in to that?” Clearly, he doesn’t know me very well. I love insurance, and I spend an inordinate amount of time writing and thinking about it.

But it got me thinking: if this is my friend’s response, why is that?

There are three main reasons that come to mind: our reputation as a stodgy industry, a lack of understanding of our industry, and a perception of insurance as something that their parents deal with. When Millennials think of insurance, they think of a sales pitch or maybe even a claims horror story.  Often, the best we can hope for is that it calls to mind a funny ad about how they can save money if they check out a new provider.  Those of us in the industry know that insurance is much more than this, and we know that most claims stories are, if not touching, at least stories of satisfaction and a policyholder getting back to their day to day life.  As Millennials age, they will have more to lose, and they will need to purchase their own insurance.  How can we connect with them so that they feel like informed consumers?  We are a generation accustomed to researching our purchases online before shelling out our hard-earned money.  We use services like Airbnb, Uber, and Etsy all the time and enjoy feeling a personal connection to the person or company that we’re buying our goods from.  Further, we embrace companies, like Toms and Warby Parker, that are using their profits to improve the world.

Insurance companies and agents already know that their business is based on relationships, and many of them spend a good deal of time and money giving back to the community.  In order to spread this message to Millennial consumers and potential talent, we ought to embrace Transparency.  Our intangible products are challenging to understand, and our processes are complex.  Devoting some energy to de-mystifying what goes on behind our doors would help Millennials connect with us.

Most of us are probably familiar with Lemonade’s Transparency Chronicles at this point. This is a genius tactic both for attracting talent and attracting and retaining consumers. Sharing information in a fun and relatable manner will make those purchasing the product feel like they have a connection to an intangible product and attract talent who feel they can understand and improve on the work being done. The tone of the blog helps to humanize the work being done. They are openly sharing things about policy language as they learn them.  As they have said, they are a tech company doing insurance, and they’re admitting to their customer that policy language can be bewildering.  To those of us in the industry, this can be a frightening public statement from a competitor.  But vulnerability creates a feeling of trust, a sort of “we’re all in this together” feeling.  While I do not advocate that those of us who understand insurance start backing away from education, I do hope we find a way to share the knowledge we have in a relatable and human manner. Lemonade might not be perfect, but their attempts to be transparent and open are something we wish the rest of the industry will copy and improve on.

There is an argument to be made that similar efforts are made by traditional insurers through shareholder reports and financial statements. However, Lemonade has chosen to update their chronicles more frequently and with a more authentic voice. They keep the jargon to a minimum and try to make it fun. I commend their efforts at transparency and hope to see them as a trendsetter as more insurance companies adopt these types of practices. Maybe then, my acquaintance’s response would be “Where can I read your piece when you’re done?”

About Carly Burnham

Carly Burnham began her insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. She got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how she fell in love with the industry. She saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. When Carly moved to Des Moines in 2010, she decided to commit to the industry, and she completed her CPCU in one year finishing it in 2012 and attending commencement in New Orleans. She completed her MBA at Iowa State University in 2014. During this time, she and Tony founded a Gen Y Associate Resource Group at Nationwide in Des Moines. After they had both left Nationwide, Tony recruited Carly to co-author and manage InsNerds.com. She has the difficult task of keeping his constant flow of crazy ideas focused and helping to flesh them out into useful articles. Carly enjoys sharing knowledge and ideas about the future of the industry and finds the website a good outlet for this passion. Carly is involved in the the CPCU Society Underwriting Interest Group. She also writes "Next Wave" a monthly column in the "Perspectives" section of Best's Review.

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