Why Blog? (And How to Get Started)

Why should B2B companies blog?blogging-645219__180

Because blogging is a marketing and communications best practice.

And yet, it is difficult to convince businesspeople why they should blog. The most relevant reasons are that blogging freshens your company’s website and attracts visitors to keep your company top of mind for your potential customers and search engines.

This was true several years ago when admonishments for blogging in B2B marketing began and it remains the same today.

Blogging also:

  • attracts more customers
  • demonstrates expertise for becoming a trusted source
  • positions your company as an industry leader
  • inspires conversation
  • provides reference material when engaging in sales
  • establishes an independent publishing forum
  • offers more online reputation control
  • enhances social media presence
  • generates content for re-purposing (more on that later), and
  • encourages the customer journey.

Why Companies Do Not Offer Blogs

So many potential benefits from blogging and yet, many companies are not making the commitment. Based on the feedback I receive, here’s why (long with my response):

1. Company management is not convinced. The above list should help.

2. Lack of time. Blogging requires discipline. Regular submissions to attract and maintain readership require that blogging becomes part of bloggers’ work schedules and not an additional project that will lengthen the workweek. Let’s face it, most professionals have long given up on the 40-hour workweek so adding another responsibility will likely be unwelcomed.

3. Lack of money. If time is an issue, consider hiring a professional writer who understands your industry. While it may seem like resources are scarce, it is likely the money is there but priorities need reconsideration. Offering blogs and other great website content is more important than advertising. Think of it this way: if advertising attracts potential clients who find no substance, you’ve wasted money. Conference booths, snail mail marketing, giveaways and other tactics might need to be placed on the back burner.

And remember, you can get the most from your blogs by repurposing content (more on that below.)

4. Lack of topic ideas. To find subjects for blogging, start by asking employees in contact with customers, including sales, field and customer service staff what concerns are customers expressing. Ideas can also be found from the media and joining LinkedIn Groups and “listening” to conversations. 

How to Get Started

1. Make a list of ideas.

2. Develop an editorial calendar. Look at the next 52 weeks and assign blog topics, always making sure to first create a bank of “evergreen” topics in case the intended blog is not ready. Be sure the blogs are substantive with original unique content. Do not copy other writers’ work!
3. Establish a blog promotion plan and continually look for new ways to market the blog. Poorly promoting blogs is one of the major reasons why people think blogging does not work. Posting on social media is a good place to start, but there are other ways including offering to post as a guest blogger.

Finally, do not forget to re-purpose blog content. Ways to repurpose content include:

  • Using blog text to update the website. Personally, I have found that blogging causes me to think of new ideas that should be added to my site.
  • Modifying the blog for email marketing and newsletters.
  • Pulling parts of blogs out for developing eBooks, white papers, longer articles for third party publication, etc.

I hope this post inspires your company to get started. More great blogging tips can be found here. 

Got questions? Please ask in the comments section below or send an email to









Q & A: Insurance Information Institute’s Robert P. Hartwig

Robert Hartwig

Robert Hartwig

Robert P. Hartwig, president and CEO of the Insurance Information Institute (III), has been one of my most valued sources for facts and opinions about this often misunderstood industry.

Hartwig is leaving in August to become a faculty member and co-director of the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Risk and Uncertainty Management Center. Hartwig, who has a Ph.D. in economics, also has a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation.

Hailing from Oxford, Mass., which he describes as a one-traffic-light town during his youth, Hartwig has an impressive resume that includes key positions at Swiss Re, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Hartwig joined III as its chief economist in 1998 and became president in 2007.

As a reporter, I first interviewed Bob while he was working at the NCCI 20 years ago. My first truly Hartwig experience, however, took place when he sent me a 75-page “Drink From My Firehose” presentation as a basis for interview questions. As I was drowning from the waterfall of information, Bob helped me work through the pertinent material for an article. 

True to his ever-helpful and insightful nature, Bob shared a few moments to talk about his views on the insurance industry, why he is joining the ranks of academia and more . . . .

Question: In the midst of traveling 150,000 miles annually, offering presentations and answering media calls, what do you do in your personal life?

Answer: I am an avid traveler and love seeing new places and experiencing different cultures. My job at the III has allowed me to travel all around the world, but I usually don’t have a chance to soak up any of the local experience. On a recent business trip to Germany, for example, I was on the ground for a total of seven hours. On a trip to Beijing, I was there for a total of 14 hours. In my next career I hope to be able stay awhile! 

After I arrive in South Carolina, I intend to get back into piloting airplanes. Ironically, because I was traveling so much for the III, there was no longer any time to fly on my own.

Question: What do you miss the most about flying airplanes?

Answer:  Flying airplanes is not only exhilarating but it commands 100 percent of your attention. You think about nothing else other than flying the aircraft. It gives me an adrenaline rush and at the same time allows me to forget about everything else!

Question: Why did you go into insurance?

Answer: I’ve always been a numbers person and have had a lifelong fascination with statistics. I had a great opportunity back in 1993 after finishing my Ph.D. to work in the actuarial group at NCCI.  It was the total immersion method of learning insurance but I wound up loving it. 

Question: What has been your most fulfilling role so far in your career? 

Answer: I love defending the industry against its critics — be it the media or on Capitol Hill.  I enjoy the challenge. The insurance industry has a noble and necessary mission, but one that too often misunderstood or deliberately mischaracterized. 

I’ve also love being a part of the industry in the aftermath of major disasters. With my office being in lower Manhattan, I had a real-time front row seat to the devastation and horror of the 9/11 attacks and was very proud of how this industry helped New York City and the country overall recover from those attacks. The industry truly fulfills its role as the nation’s “economic first responder.” The same is true after numerous other devastating events, including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.


The insurance industry has a noble and necessary mission,
but one that too often misunderstood or deliberately mischaracterized.

Question: As you think about the insurance industry during your career, what is going well? 

Answer: Despite opinions to the contrary, I think the industry has adjusted fairly well to rapidly changing nature of risks in the global economy. 

My nearly 25 years in the industry began shortly after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which became the most costly natural global at that time. The industry has adapted well to not only more frequently and costly natural catastrophes, but also the new risks of the 21st century.  

Insurers are also rapidly ascending very steep learning curves for new risks such as cyber, supply chain, intellectual property, the “sharing economy” and the “internet of things.”  It’s a brave new world, but all signs point to industry seizing opportunities and providing the risk management solutions that businesses and people need for the decades ahead.

Question: Where does the industry still need improvement and where do you have concerns? 

Answer: While the industry is moving in the right direction in terms of offering underwriting and risk management solutions for the 21st century, advances in technology and data analytics potentially threaten to disintermediate the industry from its life’s blood—the flow of information from customers and producers to the insurer.  

Any interruption of this flow would also threaten insurers’ role as the analytics engine that supports the pricing and underwriting of risk. Insurers have the edge, but need to beware of potential usurpers seeking to upend the insurance industry’s value chain.

Question: Thanks for being such a reliable source for insurance information. I hope you will still accept media calls.

Answer: I’m looking forward to working with media in my new role in addition to continued interaction with the many stakeholders of this vital industry. 

(Note: Starting Aug. 8, III’s new top leader will be Sean Kevelighan. To learn more, click here. )




Personal Auto Pricing Different Since Great Recession

AR_July-Aug_2016-coverMany changes have taken place since the Great Recession, forever altering the personal auto pricing cycle. My latest Actuarial Review article, which is already attracting positive feedback, takes an in-depth look into what has affected personal auto insurance premiums since 2008.

The article, called, “The New Cycle of Pricing Personal Auto” covers several pertinent factors including:

  • The relationship between frequency and employment.
  • The curious sudden accident uptick in frequency by miles driven in the 4th quarter of 2014.
  • The gradual increase in costs per claim (severity).
  • A marked increase in driver distractions not just from cell phones but infotainment systems.
  • A growth of driving while under the influence of marijuana and accident increase in states where use is legal.
  • Auto manufacturers’ safety features reducing the frequency and severity of accidents.
  • Big data and predictive modeling transitioning from a unique pricing strategy to a common insurance business practice.
  • Low interest rates.

I am unaware of any other article that comprehensively looks into the auto insurance pricing cycle since the Great Recession. I would also like to thank James Lynch from the Insurance Information Institute for his assistance. I hope you enjoy it!

What do you think has most affected the auto insurance pricing cycle?


Like what you see?
Then follow me by clicking the button
on the bottom right hand side of this post.

LeBron James, CC0 Public Domain

Why Cleveland Needed Cavs’ Victory


To deeply appreciate the Cleveland Cavaliers championship victory, you had to grow up in Cleveland.

LeBron James, CC0 Public Domain

LeBron James, CC0 Public Domain

This is not just about basketball. It is about growing up in a city that since I was born, has taken too many negative hits.

The Cleveland of my youth in the 1970s and early 1980s was the nation’s laughing stock. As far as sports were concerned, all I heard about was how great Cleveland was. The Cleveland Indians rocked the nation in the 1950s, then there were the Browns’ victories in the early 1960s. It was insisted that the Indians, called the “sleeping giant” would once again become triumphant.

When Cleveland became intertwined with comedians’ one-liners, I don’t know. Some say it was when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969. Others say that it was terrible choices made by then lampooned Mayor Dennis Kucinich, now a socialist and a former U.S. Congressman.

Others say it is because Cleveland has generated so many comedians, ranging from Bob Hope to Drew Carey, whose television sitcom did not do Cleveland justice.

Whatever the cause, Clevelanders have been on the defensive for decades. To be a Clevelander is to have unmitigated devotion to an underappreciated city. If you lived in Cleveland during the late 1970s and early 1980s, you might remember Daffy Dan’s t-shirts that offered expressions like “Cleveland: You Have to be Tough.”

Or to quote from the song “My Town,” which was recorded by the Cleveland-based Michael Stanley Band, “love or hate her it don’t matter, for I am going to stand and fight.”

Cleveland has had to stand and fight for a lot of things. Just to have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its rightful place, Cleveland had to fight New York City tooth and nail.

As a displaced Clevelander, I still hear negative comments. “The Mistake on the Lake,” is just one of them. The only time I ever received sympathy as a Clevelander was in 1996 when Art Modell sold the Cleveland Browns to establish the Baltimore Ravens. Cleveland was and always has been a sports city, and the nation understands that.

Cleveland was and always has been a sports city,
and the nation understands that.

Cleveland’s economic demise, along with northeast Ohio, began in the 1970s when blue-collar jobs that could support families began to disappear. My father, a strong blue-collar worker, lost his job during that period. We lived off of unemployment for a time and mom went back to work. After dad found a job, we became a dual-income family before baby boomers made it a social phenomenon.

Cleveland made me what I am today, and like LeBron James, I try to give back as much as I can. As the first person in my family to graduate from college, it was Cleveland that began publishing my articles while I was in high school. Later, Cleveland gave me a radio show when I was a business reporter in the mid 1990s. Cleveland made me a tough, resilient and straight shooter, characteristics that do not generally fit well in the politically correct Washington, D.C. culture were I live today, but have made me a respected national journalist.

When the nation focused on Cleveland in 2013 after Charles Ramsey found girls held hostage and abused for years and saved them, the media was amazed by the “tell it like it is” Clevelander. To me, he was just a reminder of what I miss so much about my hometown: unbridled candor.

Celebrating Diversity

Cleveland is its own culture with its own melting pot. Starting off with a northern protestant culture from Connecticut in the 1700s, the so-called Reconstructionist period after the Civil War pushed often unwelcome white and black southerners to the town for work. From the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution to the end of World War II, Catholic and Jewish immigrants from Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Hungry, Ireland and Italy found Cleveland to be their land of opportunity.

Each group had its own community and sacrificed to build their centers of worship, but they also understood that to be an American, they needed to learn English and assimilate. In the 1970s, groups like the Lebanese Christians found Cleveland to be a welcome respite from the brutal realities of war.

In Cleveland, we did not need
intellectuals from on high
to tell us to celebrate diversity
because diversity is just who we are.

Our ears have become so sensitive to mentioning religion and ethnic background that we risk ignoring the cultural realities that shape who we are. In Cleveland, we did not need intellectuals from on high to tell us to celebrate diversity because diversity is just who we are.

In Cleveland, we do not ask someone about his or her nationality to be nosey, but to relate and find a shared acquaintance or place. Other uptight areas of the country, like the Washington, D.C. area where I have lived for the past 20 years, frowns upon such questions and that’s quite a shame. It is must easier to get to know someone in Cleveland than in the nation’s capital.

Cavs’ Victory

Cleveland should bask in its historic victory and party hard as long as possible. Eat, drink and be merry for the republican presidential convention next month presents another mood. Like Philadelphia, which is hosting the democratic convention, Cleveland has been bracing itself for an environment of protest and unrest not seen since the 1968 democratic presidential convention in Chicago. 

Meanwhile, this homesick Clevelander remains an ambassador to the nation’s capital.



CC0 Public Domain

Facing the Insurance Quality Content Dilemma – Part 2

CC0 Public Domai

Last week, I wrote about the choice insurance marketing and communications executives often face when looking for public relations and marketing services. They can either rely on insurance subject matter experts who are not effective communicators or public relations and marketing firms that do not understand insurance.

Then the question becomes, how can insurance industry companies deal with the Hobbesian choice?

The answer is hiring the rare find: a communications firm that understands insurance. Too often, however, insurance industry public relations and marketing executives either cannot find this rare breed or do not have the resources to acquire such talent.

As a result, insurance company marketing and communications personnel, along with vendors that offer industry services, end up exploiting and frustrating internal subject matter experts or hiring public relations and marketing companies that provide assistance on the cheap.


The best Search Engine Optimization approaches
in the world cannot overcome fluffy content
that lacks substance.

The first approach can become a human resources problem. The second approach could risk your company’s online reputation by publishing materials that will actually turn potential customers away from your business.

This is happening more than the penny-wise and pound-foolish financial professionals want to believe. They don’t understand that potential clients have become more sophisticated and expect more from content, such as insight and problem-solving strategies. I used to write such content full-time as a journalist, but few publications can support expert reporters.

Once potential customers decide to ignore your company’s marketing emails and social media posts, reversing this rejection becomes very difficult. Reputation damage is much more expensive and difficult to overcome than establishing a credible presence in the first place.

Budget Restraints

But Annmarie, you say, true insurance experts who are also schooled in public relations or journalism can be expensive. Sure, they cost more, but you will not be paying for them to become educated about insurance. Further, the expertise of a quality professional should be reflected in the content and marketing strategies.

With a minimal budget, focus on quality over quantity. I have long told my clients that it is better to publish less often and offer higher quality than to publish a lot of junk. What you want is to see your company’s name associated with must-read content.

This means re-evaluating all the marketing and communications channels and even cutting back in some areas.

Begin by maximizing the company website. There is no point in investing in social media and other digital marketing approaches if the content bread crumbs will just lead to a unappealing website. The best Search Engine Optimization approaches in the world cannot overcome fluffy content that lacks substance. Then there are the ever-changing Google algorithms that strive to reward the best content available and punish those offering content garbage.

Think about it. You get frustrated by wasting your time on shallow content produced by novices. What makes you think your potential customers are any different?

Evaluate the website and ensure that everything adheres to what I call The Credibility Factor. That means:

  • getting rid of all the fluff and telling your potential customers what they need to know to ease the buying process. Simple websites are more effective than fancy and complicated ones.
  • considering the structure and how often a viewer has to click to find what they really want to know.
  • looking beyond the latest and greatest in design and stick with what works.

Once the website is scrubbed of hype, begin planning magnetic content. That means:

  • creating an editorial calendar.
  • approaching internal subject matter experts and freelance writers with the topics and schedule.
  • producing several evergreen pieces first — just in case the schedule falls through – and it will.

Now that your company’s website is top notch, your content rocks and your blogging schedule is consistent, return to social media one venue at a time. As you offer online content breadcrumbs, you want them to lead to your company’s website and ultimately its call to action piece.

For commercial lines customers, you’ll get better results from LinkedIn and Twitter than Facebook. Make sure you have maximized both before moving forward to Facebook. As a tip, I am amazed at how many visitors I get from Google Plus. Be creative on how to use other social media sites. Personal auto and homeowners’ insurers can benefit from Pinterest and Snap Chat with the right approach.

Get rid of all the fluff
and tell your potential customers
what they need to know to ease the buying process.

Once you have established substantive content, you can repurpose it as the core of what must be a fascinating and engaging video.

Personally, I am not a fan of videos. Since younger audiences like to watch videos, I am including them.

Here’s why I give them a lower priority. First, I can read faster and would rather not spend two-to-three minutes on a video. Second, videos tend to be very superficial. Video production is not cheap and it requires another set of expertise to be effective.

And finally, please do not produce another boring “teaching” video that mimics a typical classroom experience. The video must personify your company’s brand and insurance is already considered boring enough.

Do you agree with my blog or would you care to share one of your own best practices? Please let me know by responding in the comments section or contact me directly at













CC0 Public Domain

Facing the Insurance Quality Content Dilemma (Part 1)

CC0 Public Domain

CC0 Public Domain

Insurance marketing and communications executives face a Hobbesian choice when looking for public relations and marketing services. They can either rely on agency counterparts who do not deeply understand the intricacies of insurance or internal subject matter experts who know insurance but are not professional communicators.

The dilemma is the direct result of two primary factors. First, there are few professionals who offer insurance expertise and possess audience-focused communications training and experience.

Second, effective marketing heavily relies on producing magnetic and substantive content. Amidst intensifying online competition, the C-Suite asks their internal marketing and communications departments to become publishers of brand journalism without the additional resources to support the effort.

Often, the C-Suite commonly does not want to accept that publishing is expensive. But it is, which is why so many newspapers and magazines, even those offered online, no longer exist. In a world of free content as a marketing approach, there is no option to sell advertising to underwrite the expense of professional communicators.
Without understanding the audience,
inbound marketing will fail.

Those who appreciate and understand insurance tend to be professionals whose aspirations didn’t include becoming writers. Experts in claims management, underwriting, risk management, actuarial, statistics and other disciplines often despise writing. They began their careers not knowing that branding and digital marketing would introduce the publish-or-perish mentality that academics have struggled with for decades.

Such professionals are being asked to work beyond their skill sets while trying to maintain their core competencies through endless hours of continuing education. So it is not surprising that producing content by writing white papers or blogs becomes a hassle amidst their already busy days.

These experts find the writing process to be quite frustrating. After staring at a blank screen for seemingly hours their material is often unorganized or too complicated, making it difficult to read and understand. As a result, the marketing and communications department must invest in heavy editing and re-writing. It’s a time consuming and difficult process that can breed resentment on both sides.

Further, this approach is likely more expensive. Asking highly-paid professionals to write diverts their time and focus away from meeting client needs or rainmaking. Unfortunately, the C-Suite often does not take all these factors into consideration.

Lacking Insurance Expertise

The other option is to hire public relations, marketing and other communications firms. Usually, these well-intentioned companies lack deep and thorough insurance expertise.

The reality is that it takes years to understand the nuances of insurance. The industry not only has several disciplines, but several functions and a multitude of insurance lines.

Workers’ compensation, for example, involves understanding different subjects including health care, the claims process, return-to-work and disability coverage. Additionally, each state has its own regulations and expectations. Personal auto, the largest property/casualty insurance line, focuses on consumers so the approach is different compared to commercial lines such as general liability or business interruption coverage.

Further, the traditional insurance paradigm is evolving to a data and analytics model. Insurance executives, who tend to be conservative in nature, are still learning to maximize predictive modeling so it extends beyond underwriting and pricing to addresses claims management practices and marketing techniques. Forward-moving insurers are focusing on obtaining business intelligence through predictive modeling, which is quite difficult to understand without insurance expertise.

Other disruptors, including artificial intelligence, changing regulations and policy sales via Internet are also having a great impact on insurance companies and the vendors that serve them. Vendors that want to expand into the insurance industry also struggle with understanding what insurers really need, industry nomenclature or the right point person to contact.

Meanwhile, each insurance line faces its own struggles. Auto insurers are excited about telematics when a great deal of consumers want to maintain privacy. Then there are “preoccupiers” such as Uber and Lyft and driverless cars.

…the C-Suite commonly does not want to accept
that publishing is expensive.

Then there is the problem of truly understanding the needs of each customer type. Insurers are vying for a greater piece of the growing demand for cyber coverage, for example, when policies are inconsistent and buyers – and even their agents – are struggling to know what should be included in their coverage. The market potential for cyber insurance is enormous, but developing the right policy per each specific customer profile remains a challenge.

For business insurance, a smaller company that lacks a risk manager or a really awesome agent or broker will purchase based on price. Larger companies see the value of services and are sophisticated enough to know that price is just one part of the equation. They want to know how an insurer’s services will support risk management, claims processing and other areas. They also need to be sold on the technology designed to better serve them.

Another limitation is that marketing companies often approach digital marketing from a business school rather than a journalism school approach. They lack professionals who understand how to effectively produce materials because they are not trained in first rule of journalism, which is to understand the audience. I often encounter companies that do not want to invest in determining customer needs and pain points. Without understanding the audience, inbound marketing will fail.

So what is the solution? I’ll address this in my next blog. You can follow it by pressing the follow button on the left hand side.

In the meantime, please offer your comments below.



Copyright Annmarie Geddes Baribeau

Marketing Is Like Making Chocolate Chip Cookies

Copyright Annmarie Geddes Baribeau

Copyright Annmarie Geddes Baribeau

I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, bar none! Doing so is a lot like marketing and communicating in the insurance industry.

Here’s why:

1) Products and services, like chocolate chip cookies, can seem the same.

Chocolate chip cookies can seem the same before you taste them. Mine have a unique “yum” factor.

In business, the “yum” factor – known as the value proposition — describes what makes your company unique and entices customers to come back for more. That “yum” factor is the basis for messaging.

Think about your company’s products and services and how they look compared to your competitors. Can you identify your company’s “yum” factor that truly stands out from the competition?


Can you identify your company’s “yum” factor?

Insurance companies, along with firms that serve the industry, often struggle with this. From actuaries to brokers to third party administrators, the challenge is the same. All of them insist they are trustworthy, cost efficient and customer-focused service-oriented problem solving experts. 

The potential customer wants to know why they should choose your organization.

Personal auto insurers often compete by price and message through personas. Flo or a gecko, however, will not cut it for B2B marketing. Business customers are more sophisticated and consider other factors, such as credibility and quality service, in their buying decisions.


2) Marketing and communications strategies and tactics, like chocolate chip cookies, generally have the same or very similar ingredients.

Chocolate chip cookie recipes vary. Of course they include chocolate chips, but also sugar, flour and leavening agents such as baking soda. Besides the mix of ingredients, choosing their quality also affects the end product.

A successful communications strategy must include, among other elements: knowledge of the customer, their values and pain points; clear goals, messaging and appropriate channels to reach the appropriate markets.

3) In both cases, ingredients are just as important as techniques.

After identifying the proper ingredients, the skill lies in combining and delivering them cohesively so the intended market clamors for more. It means choosing the right balance of elements to deliver a cohesive and effective message that spurs customer desire.

My chocolate chip cookie recipe comes from a cookbook more than 50 years old.

However, the reason why my cookies carry the guaranteed yum factor is not just because of what is in them, but how I bake them. I’ve shared my recipe many times but others don’t achieve the same results. That’s because I developed my baking technique, which I will also share when asked.

So what’s the take away? If your insurance communications, marketing or public relations approaches are not providing the desired results, it’s time to figure out why. Is it the ingredients, packaging or delivery?


The trick is determining the right balance
of traditional and cutting edge approaches
that will showcase your firm’s “yum factor.”

It always surprises me how little insurance industry clients understand their audiences and what they really want. Failing to invest in market research is a key reason.

Further, I am seeing a lot of companies get so wrapped up in digital and online everything that they forget that some of the most traditional ways of selling products still work. The trick is determining the right balance of traditional and cutting edge approaches that will showcase your firm’s “yum factor.”

The key is to find out how current and potential customers like to hear from your company. Finding that out should be part of market research.

4) Let them bake cake.

While I am a chocolate chip cookie baking expert, when I need a nice looking cake, I go to the bakery.

Sure, I can make a reasonable rustic looking cake, but when it’s party time, I let the experts do it. The same is true for insurance marketing and communications. When expertise and time limitations are interfering with results, it’s time to seek outside help.

By the way, if you want that chocolate chip cookie recipe, just contact me at Inbound marketing, after all, is about sharing!

What’s your company’s yum factor?

Actuarial Review March April 2016 Cover

Don’t Underestimate Dodd-Frank’s P/C Insurance Impact

Actuarial Review March April 2016 CoverThe Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 introduced the most far-reaching federal regulation the property/casualty insurance industry has ever seen.

While the regulatory focus of Dodd-Frank has been on a relatively few insurers that either have subsidiary banks or are considered systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs), the act is poised to affect the entire property/casualty industry, according to my recently published Actuarial Review article, Demystifying the Regulatory Web: Dodd-Frank and Its Complex Impact.

My article takes a rare, comprehensive and journalistic look into the ramifications of Dodd-Frank and the resulting regulatory web. During my research, I could not find one article that updates the multiplicity of Dodd-Frank’s impact on insurers.

As I wrote the piece, I became convinced that Dodd-Frank’s impact is greatly underestimated. (Life insurers are also affected.)

And after spending countless hours on the article, I could not put my finger on anything that substantially makes the insurance industry and its customers better off. If anything, federal regulation is onerous and hardly transparent. States, which have been regulating insurance for 150 years, have much more transparent processes as does the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

Dodd-Frank requires its brainchild, the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) and the Federal Reserve System (Fed) to work with the NAIC at the International Association of Insurance Supervisors’ (IAIS). Since then, transparency has dimmed. Formerly open meetings have been closed. In one instance, a presidential appointee told a congressional subcommittee he was barred from attending an IAIS working group meeting.
“…I could not put my finger on anything
that substantially makes the insurance industry
and its customers better off.

To further complicate matters on the international stage, the Fed, FIO and the NAIC, known as “Team USA,” have different missions that sometimes conflict with one another.

The federal rule making process also lacks the kind of transparency states offer. Information access to reporters is also very limited. Federal agencies provided me with plenty of documents to wade through, but subject matter experts were not available for questioning. This disturbs me greatly.

I also wondered how the activity of one large U.S. insurer’s London-based banking subsidiary could justify Dodd-Frank’s introduction of federal insurance regulation and monitoring.

Ironically, both federal agencies depend greatly on the NAIC even as their activities seem to overlap the organization’s historic role. In some cases, the Fed and the NAIC are on separate regulatory tracks to address the same concerns.

Meanwhile, Dodd-Frank directs the FIO to look into coverage discrimination issues, which is old hat for state regulators. For example, the agency choose to evaluate auto insurance discrimination when state regulators and research organizations have been considering the claims of consumer groups for decades.

All parties say they are committed to working together, but communication has been challenging.

The FIO has the primary role of monitoring the industry and one direct regulatory role to develop international cover agreements. Through its monitoring efforts, the FIO identified new regulatory opportunities for insurers.

Meanwhile, it’s been seven years since the enactment of Dodd-Frank and the Fed still has a lot of rule making to do. Besides going through that arduous process, the Fed is also working to appreciate the deep magic of insurance. This includes the role of actuarial opinion, which is part of the special sauce that makes individual companies competitive.

State vs. Federal Regulation

Federal intervention has reintroduced the time-honored question of whether states or the federal government should regulate insurers. Labor groups have long advocated for federal regulation for workers’ compensation. There are pros and cons to both approaches. If the federal government regulates insurance, one benefit would be regulatory consistency across state lines.

Certainly the international community, including Europe, prefers the approach of central governance for the United States. This difference in regulatory approach between central authority and state authority is not merely an academic discussion. The Jeffersonian notion of states rights to prevent the oppression of centralized authority was a direct reaction to the European central authority model that goes back to at least the Roman Empire.

Based on other topics I have covered, the United States needs to be very careful with taking euro-style approaches when the downsides most likely outweigh the benefits. There are fewer insurance companies operating in Europe partly due to regulatory burden.

“The federal rule making process also lacks
the kind of transparency states offer.”

It can be argued that state-based regulation is a key reason why the United States has the largest insurance industry in the world. While imperfect, the state regulatory model allows for greater innovation and flexibility. Under a truly federal regulatory model, for example, could Texas to continue to allow employers to opt out of workers’ compensation?

By digging deeply into the details of Dodd-Frank’s implications for property/casualty insurers, my hope is the article will be informative and thought provoking.

I am grateful to the Casualty Actuarial Society for giving me the opportunity to provide a comprehensive look at Dodd-Frank. The Fed’s media staff provided very useful congressional testimony and the NAIC, the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America and the American Academy of Actuaries all provided the necessary support to complete my article.

How do you think Dodd-Frank is affecting insurers?

If you like what you see, follow me!

By Petr Kratochvil (Public Domain)

Tips for Hiring and Working With Freelance Writers

By Petr Kratochvil (Public Domain)

By Petr Kratochvil (Public Domain)

Finding a freelance writer who will truly meet an organization’s needs requires a lot of consideration. Like any other profession, freelancers vary on experience, professionalism, expertise and quality. At the same time, those looking to hire freelance writers have to be clear on their expectations.

A quality writer can help boost your content marketing efforts and search engine optimization. As I promised in an earlier blog, I am offering my thoughts on hiring freelance writers. This perspective is based on my experience as a paid writer and public relations professional for more than 40 clients during the past 25 years.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Be clear about your business objectives. I’ve had potential clients who wanted an article, a blog or web text only but when I asked them the ultimate goals, they could not be identified. As a result, I worked with some of them on business plans, marketing plans and value propositions so they could re-think what they really needed. Be wary of writers who will do a job without understanding the purpose or desired results.

• Finding the best writers requires some research. If you enter “freelance writers” on a search engine also add the desired subject expertise.

• Look for writers with proven publishing success. Always examine the writer’s content, which in this day and age should be easily available online.Here are some questions to ask yourself:

☐ Do I like the writer’s style?
☐ Is there evidence of quality content that will draw readers to your business?
☐ Where has the writer been published?
☐ Are there online references? If so, are they specific about what they like about the writer?
☐ Can the writer show evidence he or she can handle the assignment? Writing news releases is easy. Producing magazine features, booklets or annual reports requires specialized experience.

• Only hire writers who ask about your audience. If writers do not ask about the intended audience, they have missed the most important element of effective communication. It shows their priorities are more focused on producing work and being paid than meeting their clients’ needs. For some clients, I have provided some informal market research and customer interviews so everyone better understands the intended audience and their needs.

• Check out the writer’s LinkedIn profile. Does the writer’s network include an impressive array of professionals? Are any of them in your network?

• Know the assignment details ahead of time. Can you provide subject matter experts or will you also be paying for research? When is the assignment due? How long is it? What’s the re-purposing plan? What is the corporate style? Is this a one-time only project? Know this ahead of time instead of making vague inquires.

• Do not expect writers to start work immediately. The best writers are busy. Ask when they can be reasonably available to start and finish your project.

• Be sure you can be available to answer questions and help the project move forward. Often, writers will not realize the full scope of a project until they are fully engaged in it. They will likely have follow-up questions, necessary to complete their assignment. Quality writers will also offer advice on editorial packaging.

• Ask how they want to be compensated. By the word? By the hour? By the project? There are pros and cons to these approaches for both the writer and the customer. Some writers will even barter for products or services.

• Compensate fairly. I remember one potential client who wanted to pay me $10 per hour. I declined. Not only was that less than the minimum wage after I pay taxes, but I had not worked for so little (practically free) since I was in college writing articles to build my portfolio! Proven publishing experience and expertise should translate in a better product that is less hassle to produce. Reliable, quality writers that make your life easier are worth their weight in gold.

• Pay in a timely fashion. Payment in full within 30 days is customary, but everyone appreciates being paid sooner.

• When the project is over, ask them how it went. Finding a writer you enjoy working with is not just a matter of professionalism but personality. Ask the writer for feedback on their experience can help you decide to hire them again or clue you in to internal issues that hampered progress. Offer them the same courtesy. Let the writer know if you intend to hire again and explain why.

What other tips would you offer to someone looking to hire a writer? Please share in the comments section below.

Legionella Under the Microscope. U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).Public Domain.

Legionnaires Disease Deserves More Attention

Often, a new disease breaks out that has doctors and pubic health professionals

Legionella Under the Microscope. U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).Public Domain.

Legionella Under the Microscope. U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).Public Domain.

puzzled and worried. In 2014, it was Ebola. This year, it is the Zika Virus.

There are also potentially fatal illnesses that are preventable and yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seeing cases on the rise. One such example is Legionnaires Disease.

My article, Insurance Implications of Legionnaires Disease, published by the AmWins Group’s The Edge, provides an update on illnesses related to legionella bacteria, along with prevention tips, symptoms and the liability concerns. I hope you find it helpful.