I had the great opportunity to have lunch last week with John Steber, Hartford Life and formerly Affinion, and Tim Herr, Life and Health Consultant and former President and CEO, US Financial Life.  It was interesting listening to John and Tim talk about recent events in the insurance distribution industry.  Both had unique and different backgrounds driving the context of their observations.  What I found most interesting though was a couple things Tim said about what’s currently going on inside companies.  (I wish I took a picture, but here’s a couple from before…)

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Tim Herr

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John Steber

The old way of doing business is GONE.  What we were doing as recently as 6 months ago – Gone.  Forever.  Never to return in the same way.  Perhaps not even close.  Tim has observed that insurance companies seem to be accepting this and are now in deep thought.  “When the economy turns around – and it will – how can we make sure we are positioned to maximize the opportunities at that time?  How do the products need to be re-tooled.  How will marketing efforts be received by the insured public?  What about the Internet?  How are we positioned there?”

I gotta tell ya… It reminds me of several conversations I’ve had over the last couple years.  One in particular with Al Drowne of Chubb over a cup of coffee in NYC.  Al very clearly and passionately (in a NY sort of way) spoke of the need to re-tool insurance products to suit the preferences of the buying public.  Here we are.  If only more executives would listen to the guys on the street when things are going well and resist the temptation to rest on their laurels and ride the Good Times Cruise as long as possible… don’t let me get started.  What do you guys think?  Remember, Lurking is Lame.  What’s going on inside your organization?  What are you chewing on?  Is this on point?

In between some sales calls discussing some innovative new concepts that might solve some of these challenges…

Later that same day, I had yet another very interesting meeting with Customer Respect, a group that benchmarks Web sites within the insurance industry.  As a matter of fact they recently played a significant role in the relaunch of MetLife.com.  (I love the Life Insurance Selector.)  One thing Terry Golesworthy, President, said that struck home, something that we at IdeaStar do as a matter of course, but which internal IT departments seem to struggle with.  “Don’t compare yourself with the competition.  Compare yourself with other industries.  Your users compare your site with other sites they use as a matter of course.  They don’t compare your site with your competitor’s site.”  Hmmm – very interesting take.  Interested in your thoughts.  Please comment re benchmarking Web sites.  What do you do on that front???

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Matthias Bohler and Terry Golesworthy @ Oxhead Tavern

April 3rd – a significant day I think.  It was worth the drive.  Btw, the traffic on the interstate is definitely down.