Sam if it is a fight you want bring it on. Disconnect remains on display at the National Underwriter.

Of all the other blogs that we’ve linked, National Underwriter Editor in Chief Sam Friedman’s blog certainly resides in our top 5 for mentions here at Slabbed.  We link Sam because of many of his insights are keen and because we respect his sincerity. I’m also certain Sam does not know what to make of this blogger, a hard hat CPA from the Mississippi Gulf Coast with a penchant for delivering hard-hitting comments.  They must hurt to the core as Sam can’t bring himself to publish some of my missives even though they were non profane and directly salient to his blog topics.

Last July I took Sam to the woodshed here on Slabbed despite the respect we accord him and his trade journal but it was equally clear from his comment on my post he simply doesn’t get it. Of course I didn’t have to email Sam that post as the National Underwriter is a frequent guest here at the Do Slabb Inn along with every major insurer and investment bank in this country as we’ve dutifully detailed the systemic corruption of Wall Street and follow the money to their pet politicians and regulators.

Sam is still at it as he has morphed from journalist to cheerleader. I don’t know if Sam views himself as that mythical insurance adjusting teevee superhero he pumps but I do know if he is spoiling for a PR fight he doesn’t have to look very hard to find an opponent that is not incentivized in the system.

We don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on shills like Robert Hartwig or trade groups with oval office connections. And I can’t imagine  that the average editorial board at the local newspaper would see me or Nowdy on a walk in basis to hear us speak about an esoteric topic such as insurance finance. Such access is reserved for folks like Hartwig. But we have something none of the shills possess and it is called the truth. In today’s day and information age it is indeed a mighty sword.

Sam’s blog entry on his participation in the recently held Property Casualty Insurers Association of America Executive Roundtable is stunning in the continued display of disconnect from reality and it is there we stop next:

They say the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. If that’s true, then insurers took a giant leap by confronting their reputational troubles during a recent conference.

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America held their annual Executive Roundtable in San Antonio in late January, and yours truly was on hand to join a panel discussion on “Reputation Management.”

Sounds good so far and Sam is right, before you can solve a problem you have to admit one exists. The key is properly identifying the problem and this is where Sam misses the boat as we continue:

I give PCI a lot of credit not only for having the guts to address the industry’s lousy image, but for allowing me to participate. PCI has never invited press to this event, where CEOs gather to share information and swap war stories about the economy and insurance market.

I was invited because I’ve been giving speeches and writing columns for anyone who’ll listen about how the industry should stop playing rope-a-dope with critics and start fighting back to reclaim its identity.

Some at the meeting still had their heads in the sand, insisting the negative perception of this business will never change–or worse, questioning whether the industry’s reputation is really all that bad. However, most were eager to launch a counterattack.

On my panel, Steve George, executive vice president of AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah, urged carriers to “launch a campaign on how insurance makes your lives better.” He said the public, press and elected officials need to be educated about how the industry helps promote a more secure workplace, as well as safer cars, homes and commercial buildings.

Another panelist–Kelly Kenneally, a communications consultant–said insurers should form speaker bureaus and get their people into the field to address business and community groups, touting the contributions insurers make to the economy and society.

This is all true, insurers do promote safer workplaces, cars and structures. They also sponsor my favorite sport football and most insurance professional are pillars of the community where they live, fine people who give back way more than they take from society. These are also not reasons the reputation of the industry for which they work is so lousy. It’s the claims stupid where profit motive has bastardized basic business ethics to the point where using boxing gloves instead of good hands to deal with claimants is accepted as good business practice. Allstate agents have found out the flip side of dealing with such a mindset where senior management can ruin a good business model running the company into the ground for the benefit of a few insiders at the top before cannibalizing their own.  Any business that treats their customers badly can’t be expected to ultimately do much better by their employees. Does Sam get it? Certainly not as we continue:

Insurers shouldn’t behave like turtles—retreating into their shells until their attackers go away. Defend yourselves! Better yet, go on the offensive!

Beyond the agents I’ve found that claims professions know the score better than most. We don’t rip claims adjusters as a group here on Slabbed for that reason. Being on the front line they know the deal (even if they powerless to stop the greed driven insanity) as this commenter to Sam’s entry makes clear:

The true value of the insurance policy comes to the forefront when a claim is filed. Insuring that the policyholder recieves (sic) a fair, prompt and equitable settlement by trained professionals will deliver more positive response than all the publicity campaigns combined.

The perception of the public that getting a fair shake is problematic. It evolves from the chatter around unfair claims service delivery.

Focus on delivering the goods, not the message.

Finally I’ll add that history is replete with examples of the arrogance driven denial displayed in Sam’s post. In the early days of Slabbed one consumer lawyer made the analogy of our insurance fight by comparing the events (to that point down here) to our own American Revolution. Fighting against a well-trained, disciplined and well-financed enemy, starving patriots beat all the odds and won. And since we’re swampy down here we’ll happily adopt Francis Marion and Dan Morgan as our own.

If it is a fight you want Sam bring it on buddy, just don’t expect us to play by your rules.