Insurance needs to be louder and prouder

Posted on: 18 July 2018

By Stephanie Smith, chief operating officer

I began my insurance career nearly 10 years ago but still consider myself a relative newbie to the industry, particularly when my own company has been in existence for more than 125 years.

The industry’s history of managing risk is long and illustrious but somewhere along the way our value has been forgotten. Insurance exists to provide peace of mind so people can live their lives and take risks knowing they have a safety net; we’re all in the business of helping people put their lives back together when things go wrong.

While insurers, brokers, the Chartered Insurance Institute and the Association of British Insurers have all increased their efforts to move the public perception of insurance, the accusatory 'you’re quick to take the premium but slow to pay the claim' reflects a commonplace public perception.

Before joining the insurance industry, I was the operations change manager for a major airline and was in this role on the morning of 11 September 2001. During the hours that followed the attacks, every airline in the world was instructed to immediately ground their airplanes; that resulted in around 9,000 aircraft and over two million displaced people. This was a major and unprecedented operational challenge. As the days passed and things became increasingly difficult to manage, I couldn’t understand, with the immediate danger averted, why the aircraft were grounded for so long.

When I arrived at Allianz, I discovered the insurance side of the story: a new risk and liability challenge had suddenly emerged in the 9/11 aftermath and it took time to understand and manage the new risk. It took the coming together of a number of insurers, of which Allianz I am proud to say was one, to get those planes back in the sky and get everyone safely back home. On a much lesser scale of course, this is what we all do every day.

We are not perfect, but each day we are enabling people to move forward with and rebuild their lives. It doesn’t take a global event for insurance to help people.

As chief operating officer, I have an overview of the technological advances the industry is making to enhance customer experience and I also see the professionalism every day in our people. Deeds and words are needed to change the public perception of what we do and why we exist and surely some of that needs to start with how we describe ourselves to others.

I do not apologise for our industry or tolerate unjust criticism of what we do. What I do is get on my soap box and actively try to change people’s minds about insurance, the Allianz tagline 'Dare to believe' neatly summing up the underlying positivity of our industry.

Do I sound evangelical? Perhaps. But this is because I have seen first-hand how we help keep the world turning and it makes me immensely proud.


This blog was originally published on Insurance Post's website. It may not be replicated in any other publications.