If Things Are Really Looking Up, Then Its Time To Staff Up
The buzz in most corners of the insurance and financial services industry is that “things are looking up” this year.
People point to some innovative new product designs that are debutinga hedging strategy here, a new type of guarantee there, a critical illness add-on way over there, and a surprisingly convergent approach way over there.
The telltale signs seem everywhere. Online advertising in niche markets is up. Hiring of experienced knowledge-worker pros is under way. Third-party providers are getting new financial sector contracts. Its incipiency, pure and simple.
Still, every time I encounter an up-up-and-away cheerleader talking about financial product expansion, I cant help but retort, “Oh, really?”
Thats because the product development segment of the financial industry has been all but decimated by the recession. The drain on corporate memory, and hands-on expertise, is astonishing.
At this point, let me interject a few caveats. Yes, trained professionals still do hold certain key development and marketing positions at most companies. Yes, some product departments never lost their full complement of experts. And yes, some departments still have “got game,” even though they are a bit lean.
However, the scuttlebutt is that the product rank-and-file at a good number of firms is quite thinthe inevitable result of all the downsizings, rightsizings, restructurings and mergings of the previous 3 years. And, though 2003 showed marked gains in the stock market, not every financial company has yet returned to Easy Street.
To test this out, just scratch the surface a little in the product development domain. Call or e-mail departments in product development, marketing, promotion, underwriting, or perhaps service/support. Choose companies that are liked and trusted, not the iffy ones. You will learn quickly that, while some companies do have people to field inquiries competently and in a timely fashion, many do not.