On Coopers Speech And More From One Who Was There

To The Editor:

Re: Jack Bobos “The Wheel of History” column, March 10, National Underwriter.

Thanks, Jack Bobo, for sharing the vision of the “Old Marine”–F. L. “Gus” Cooper–and outlining the ideas presented in Coopers stirring 1996 speech for the Life Communicators Association (LCA) in San Antonio, Texas.

Bobo and I share the same friend. I was LCAs annual meeting program chair that year, and I “hired” Gus Cooper to share his wisdom.

Further, Im also the proud recipient of LCAs highest honor, the F. L. “Gus” Cooper Award for Meritorious Service.

But Cooper wasnt the only presenter who harped on the “religion of life insurance” at that meeting.

We presented my nominee Tom Wolff, CLU, ChFC, with LCAs Financial Security Nest Egg Award, given to someone who made a significant contribution to bringing focus to the American public of life insurances importance as a financial security cornerstone. (Jack Bobo received the first such award back in 1978.)

Sadly, as he was someone from the dreaded “sales side of the house,” Wolff was a hard sell, as he was virtually unknown by LCAs Board of Directors, all company marketing communication leaders. That alone tells you volumes.

In his acceptance remarks, Wolff spoke fervently on what was good and what needed fixing in the life insurance industry as an “old time religion.” By this he meant (as did Cooper) that every agent and every home office person needed to fully understand and take to heart that their job–their mission–was to try to eliminate the need for their products and services, or to fully insure everyone who was insurable!

Sadly to me, as a former Northwestern Mutual agent inculcated with the same message from day one, there was considerable negative feedback to this kind of talk from both these industry giants.

“Life insurance is not religion,” some commented, and “were insulted,” said many of the 30-somethings there.

And these attendees were, and are, the people who bring the messages to the public (and your clients) daily about life insurance, health insurance, long term care, annuities, etc.

One task all we marketers have–field, home office, consultants–is to learn our purpose, our “mission,” and embrace it. Call it what you will!

We have a constant battle to restore to and maintain dignity for the life insurance industry.

Perhaps due to space limitations, Jack Bobo left out another important date, though Im unsure exactly when it was, it was so quiet in coming and passing.

However, its vitally important because it may have contributed to the loss of our dignity and negatively changed the life insurance industry forever.

It was the day a major producer association (and others) abandoned the firm position, held for decades, that “life insurance is not a good investment, and investments are not good life insurance.”

Its sad to me–one who loves the business and promotes it at every possible opportunity to whomever will listen–to witness that the industrys become more a number-crunching game and less a people business ever since.

Larry L. Cox, CLU
Cox Insurance Marketing Solutions
Lake Park, Minn.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 24, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.