Sad. Embarrassed. Furious. Hopeful.
These are all the emotions I am feeling over an article (link below) that appeared in a new online publication ozy.com. If not for the fact that a reporter contacted me to be interviewed for the article, I am not sure I would ever have known about it. The publication is pretty cool. It tackles interesting topics in an edgy and impressive way.
The reporter was writing about life insurance and Gen Y. He found me, ironically, because of past articles I had written for National Underwriter. It was surprising that he even cared about life insurance given the typical content on this website.
Suspicious that it would be a slam piece, I went for it anyway. Maybe I could shed some light on the true intentions of the industry, and also let him know that there are some life insurance companies who are really aware of the Gen Y gap, and are trying their best to do something about it. Having 30 years of life insurance industry experience under my own belt, I know that there is more good than bad around this industry. I thought (hallucinated) that my portrayal might have made the industry more attractive.
The article turned out to be extremely harsh — a definite slam piece. However, other than attributing a comment to me that I did not make about insurers trying to replace deceased policyholders, nothing else was a lie. If this were a widely read site, it might have done a lot more damage.
It said things like, “The industry is now playing a guilt card hoping that Gen Yers buy policies to repay their parents for all they’ve done for them.”
And, “There’s definitely fear tactics used to coerce Millennials to buy insurance that they don’t need”*
And (of course), “…Agents are pushing conservative “whole life” and similar investment-linked policies…with returns many financial advisers warn are less than what individuals would get investing on their own due to both performance and expenses.”
And finally, “Instead of pursuing innovation, analysts say, the industry is instilling guilt and fear to promote sales of its stale product line.”
It’s no wonder why I felt sadness, embarrassment and anger, but why hopeful? There is an awakening happening in the life insurance industry. It is fairly recent, but many leaders who recognize their role in the future of their companies are starting to seek help to think differently. This is not a question of better marketing, the next big product idea or just expanding distribution. This is a question of innovation. And innovation comes in different styles.
There is the evolutionary kind of innovation, which helps companies tweak and modify their products and business models to keep them fresh. That’s about nurturing the now. It’s not the kind of innovation that these companies lack. What they lack is revolutionary innovation. That’s the kind that changes the game, creates new spaces, and attracts new markets. It’s about empowering what’s next.
Let’s face it. Death isn’t what it used to be. Gen Y has many reasons to buy life insurance, but we can’t make this product the center of their universe. Attempts at doing so come off as inauthentic, irritating and frankly irrelevant.
But that doesn’t mean that the life insurance industry can’t find other ways to remain relevant to this generation. There are new needs, new kinds of risks, and other ways to use our expertise to serve them. We just need to be open to it.
Perception is reality. We can argue with the points in that article until we are blue in the face. It is time that we recognize that a persistent argument with reality is a recipe for obsolescence. Let’s stop the argument and start the “next.” Opportunity awaits!