NU Online News Service, June 17, 5:16 p.m. – Consumers hold insurance companies in higher regard today than they have in the past two years according to a survey by RoperASW, New York.

Roper, a unit of United Business Media P.L.C., London, conducted a mail survey in January and February asking 17,000 U.S. residents to evaluate the reputations of large companies on a scale of 0 to 10.

The participating consumers ranked the property-casualty and life and health businesses higher than they have in the past.

Property-casualty companies received a rating of 7.1, up from 6.3 in 2001 and 6.5 in 2000.

Life and health companies were rated at 7 on the survey scale this year, up from 6.1 in 2001 and 6.3 in 2000.

John Gilfeather, vice chairman of Roper, attributes the increases to the effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the resulting “desire to pull together.

But Gilfeather warns against taking that softening in consumer attitudes for granted.

“A reputation is what drives people to a business,” Gilfeather says. “People do not want to deal with a company they do not respect. That is why reputation is so important.”

In other findings, the hotel and lodging industry and mortgage finance area led the reputation survey, with ratings of 7.6.

Consumers gave super-regional banks a 7.1 rating, and money-center banks a 6.7.

The energy sector suffered the biggest drop in reputation. The average reputation rating for energy companies sank to 6.1, from 6.7 in 2001.