Insurance professionals need to stop competing based on “false advantages,” says NAPSLO president

by Caitlin Bronson11 Sep 2015
NAPSLO President Hank Haldeman urged members of the surplus lines industry this week to stop competing based on “false advantages” like differing technological systems and start engaging each other on more substantive grounds.

Speaking at a panel discussion during the 2015 NAPSLO Annual Convention, Haldeman – who works as executive vice president with The Sullivan Group – suggested that far too often, the industry relies on illusory differences in order to communicate value to clients.

This is particularly true when it comes to the advent of technology, he said.

“We build barriers based on the type of technology we use, but we can’t build trust through technology,” said Haldeman, noting that – at some point – all members of the insurance industry will offer the same level of automation out of necessity. “I would much rather have us adopt a common standard and compete on the things that matter, and really deliver value.”

The remarks came during discussion of changing consumer preferences and increased access to large amounts of data and data analytics tools. Haldeman and other panelists suggested that data and technology play an important role in the wholesale market, but should never replace the relationship-driven nature of the insurance business.

This is why the so-called “Googleization” of insurance does not seriously threaten the majority of the industry, they said.

“Commoditized insurance products will be Googleized, but there is a line where professional advice trumps ease of doing business,” said Haldeman. “A huge portion of commercial buyers don’t want to spend the time necessary to get smart on insurance, and that cascades up to us as wholesalers. That won’t go away.”

Mike Miller, president and chief operating officer at Scottsdale Insurance, added that while large companies like Google and Amazon do have access to vast quantities of data, their ambitions seem to be limited to making sales.

“They want quick, efficient distribution. I don’t think they want to roll the dice on risk,” said Miller. “It will be interesting to see where they come in [to the market], and how.”