Hold Your Head Up
December 2012 Editorial
It’s the time of year when magazines put together year-in-review coverage, recapping the biggest stories of the year. In our industry, the year’s top story arrived on October 29 when Hurricane Sandy cut a swath through the US Northeast. As loss totals from Sandy continue to mount—recent damage estimates now run over US $62 billion—and as we consider the costs of many lesser but still severe storms in the latter half of the year, I believe it is important for people in our industry to emphasize the insured loss portion in these numbers. That is, many of the businesses and people that have been affected by these events will be able to get back on track thanks to this industry.
This point has been made powerfully a few times recently. A broker brought my attention to an editorial in the Financial Times newspaper reminding those in the finance community that, far from being a “socially useless” activity, insurance is an essential contributor to human well-being. “Next to technology, insurance is one of humanity’s great inventions to free itself from dominance by nature and vulnerability to acts of God.”
Similarly, at the Toronto Insurance Conference Black Tie dinner in early November, speaker Craig Kielburger, the founder of Free the Children and Me to We, managed to make everybody in the room feel good about themselves by arguing that the industry makes an important difference in people’s lives just as his charities and their volunteers do. He told a story of how mountain villagers in Ecuador spontaneously came together to help complete construction of a school that many of them would never benefit from. Through this, he learned a new word: “minga,” a coming together of the people to achieve a common good. When asked by a village elder for an English equivalent, he struggled to come up with one. But upon reflection, the risk sharing and reparation performed by the insurance industry is in fact a kind of minga, said Kielburger.
One of the themes that ran through the Top Broker Summit (see page 10) was about how brokers can shake stereotypes about tacky insurance “salesmen.” I believe this change starts from within. The knowledge that you are doing work that has a tangible, positive effect on society should be the starting place for that change.