For much of my career, I covered the property and casualty insurance industry, where Marsh & McLennan has a titanic presence. Really, it is hard to understate just how much influence the company has, especially in the realm of high-end business insurance. When I came over to the life and health side of things, where the big brokers seem to have much less sway, I found the absence of Marsh’s shadow a little strange, to be honest. I kept looking to see where it was. And for that matter, where I could find Aon and Willis.
After a while, I got used to life without the great, big broker houses and the tidal force they exert on the industry. This week, however, I noticed that MMC had announced its intent to sponsor a retirement policy center. The mission of the center, as MMC puts it, is to “educate the public and key constituents on retirement public policy issues.”
Now, when I hear terms like “key constituents” and “public policy retirement issues,” what I think is Marsh is throwing its hat into the political ring with regards to financial regulation, specifically anything that might impact tax code or otherwise constrain the securities world from operating with a free hand. That is the cynical view. And I dearly hope I am wrong (or am merely the victim of less-than-optimal wording), because Marsh has an extraordinary amount of resources at its disposal, and it would be great to see its efforts on retirement education focus on things like helping seniors who found themselves behind a financial eight ball after the markets went south in 2008 and 2009.
As Marsh adeptly points out, we are facing a mammoth demographic shift in this country, with the kind of aging population the likes of which modern Americans have never seen before. We are looking at becoming a nation not entirely unlike Japan, which has more senior citizens than young people to support them. The big difference is that Japan is a saving society with many billions in personal savings throughout all strata of society. America has become a credit-driven hand-to-mouth society ill-prepared to ride out a lengthy recession. Clearly, if our seniors are to enjoy a richly deserved retirement, more than a few of them are going to need some help. Marsh could be a terrific addition in that effort, to educate, to develop policy, and to help the rest of the industry innovate newer and better products to secure one’s own financial security. While details on Marsh’s proposed retirement center are still sketchy, it is something I will be most eager to learn more about.