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Six takeaways from the A.M. Best conference…

March 25, 2019

Last week I attended the A.M. Best “Review and Preview” conference, an annual gathering of leading executives from the life, health, and property/casualty industries (including a few fraternals). I’ve attended hundreds of industry events over the course of my nearly 40-year career, many of which are forgotten in an overused plethora of platitudes and pablum. But this one had a “wow” factor that struck a nerve with me.

The theme of the conference was innovation – not surprising since Best’s just announced that it was including an innovation factor in its rating methodology. And an “Innovation Fair” featured 10 emerging companies that are changing the way insurers do business, from data collection practices to customer experiences, was a clear highlight.

My next two posts will feature the takeaways – quotes, concepts, and ideas – that I heard at the conference that seemed to tie-in directly to the fraternal business model. Here are the first six…

  1. Know thyself – Innovations are driven by meaning, not money. What’s the meaning of your society? If it’s “selling insurance” or “promoting [insert ethnicity] culture”, I think you may be missing the boat. To me, the fraternal “meaning” is Building Better Communities. We do that by securing members’ financial futures. In fact, life insurance and retirement income are our most important member benefit. And the by-product of those products – individuals with confidence in their financial security – is a building block of better communities, both communities of members and the communities that are enhanced by members’ volunteerism and engagement.

  2. Niche thyself – It’s impossible to be everything to everybody. As the Alliance consumer research shows, there are some folks that are never going to embrace the fraternal model. But there is a large segment of the population that would if they knew about it. Fraternals and their field representatives need to identify the individuals most likely to perceive the society’s meaning (Building Better Communities) as both unique and valuable. And believe it or not, that is not an impossible task. The Alliance has tools to help societies do just that. Shoot me an email at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org to get more information about them.

  3. Some things need to be believed to be seen – If your staff, board, and field representatives aren’t true believers in your society’s meaning (Building Better Communities), they will never be able to describe it to prospects in a way that they can see it. In that case, you’ll have a society of transactional relationships based on price and yield rather than a society of members.

  4. Research has its limits – Consumer research is an excellent way to “evolve” your products and processes; to make what you have work better for current members. But it will rarely help you or your organization revolutionize your operation. Fraternal leaders must ask themselves: “What would we want to do to make our products, services, processes, brand, or member engagement better?” Then you must be willing to invest the resources on initiatives that may very well fail. Innovation ain’t easy…

  5. Most “Go Fund Me” pages are for bereavement – That’s a sad commentary on our society’s lack of financial planning and our industry’s inability to communicate the importance of our products to the consumers.

  6. We’re operating in an Amazon Prime world – And many insurers are trying to keep pace with horse-and-buggy technology…