Monthly Archives: June 2014

SITE Conference Revelations


I just returned from the annual conference of the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators held in Bonita Springs, Florida this year.  This is an organization which supports the professional development of people who teach and train the workers of the insurance industry.  This was my first encounter with this group and I was highly impressed with my fellow educators and trainers, as well as the organization.  I wanted to take this blogging opportunity to reflect on a few of the revelations from the conference.

One of the sessions that I attended was the inimitable Bill Wilson’s (director of IIABA’s Virtual University) presentation on “Insurance Coverages and Claims Training.”  Bill has a gift for teaching the intricacies of insurance policy language interpretation and he is a treasure trove of real-world examples that illustrate the consequential nuances of the language in an insurance contract.  Although this isn’t a “revelation” (to me), some may find it surprising that insurance is most certainly not a commodity product.  There are very important differences in the insurance contracts that many consumers purchase, and certainly there are different service levels from different insurance companies and agencies.  Far too often, personal lines (i.e., auto, homeowners) insurance is purchased by consumers who are simply looking for the lowest premium as they operate on the mistaken assumption that an auto policy from company X is no different from the auto policy offered by company Y.  Big mistake.  Fortunately, consequential losses are relatively rare, but that yields the unfortunate reality that many insurance consumers fail to realize the disadvantage of inferior coverage terms often associated with the “cheapest” policy until it’s too late – after a loss has occurred.

Another revelation from the SITE conference was the validation of some of my previous postings and general industry concerns for the future staffing of the insurance industry.  The trainers and educators at this conference are already experiencing the “brain drain” from the insurance industry as aging baby boomers are retiring.  My fellow attendees are in the trenches as young, upcoming professionals step into new roles and companies adjust to the exit of many talented, smart, and experienced insurance professionals.  Trainers and educators are feeling the pressure to help develop the talent needed to replace these retirees.  If you’re not already working in the insurance and risk management industry, there are significant opportunities available and that trend should continue for some time.

Finally, a commercial pitch for SITE… If your role and/or interests involves training and educating insurance professionals in any way, I encourage you to get involved with SITE.

Wanted! Bright Young Professionals!


The insurance industry offers a variety of career possibilities for young people, and it is a remarkably stable industry in terms of employment.  There are several industry organizations whose mission is to promote the risk management and insurance industry as a viable career option for today’s youth.  I intend to highlight some of these organizations over the next few months, beginning today with the Michigan Future Foundation. provides fantastic resources for exploring the industry including videos, scholarships, educational opportunities, and speakers.  If you happen to know someone who might be interested in exploring the insurance industry, I encourage you to share this resource with them.  I met with MFF’s board of directors earlier this year and they are true professionals who are motivated to communicate the career opportunities available in the insurance industry.  In the course of my conversations with board members, the common theme was that the insurance industry has provided them with a wonderful career and they wish to give back to the industry by helping to bring along the next generation of insurance professionals.  This is truly a stellar group of professionals and the MIFuture website is a resource worthy of sharing.

RIMS Conference Through the Eyes of a Ferris Student


As I chronicled back in late April, Ferris student Ethan Henderson and I attended the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) Annual Conference in Denver.  I asked Ethan to share a little bit about his conference experience and this is what he wrote:

As I flew into Denver I had no real expectations of what it was going to be like. I had never been to the city, or any insurance conference, especially one of this size. As we touched down at Denver International Airport I saw nothing but flat farm lands and little to be desired as far as a city atmosphere is concerned. I was so confused, until after a forty minute cab ride took me to the heart of the city, which was as big if not bigger than expected. Streets were shuffling with people, and there were little shops and vendors everywhere you looked.

Walking into the convention center on the first day to register for the conference was more than overwhelming.  The building itself was enormous, and it was flooded with insurance professionals all registering and rushing around. Dr. Brown and I continued on to register and receive all of our information for the following days to come. It was that night that RIMS held its opening reception at the Denver Art Museum. It was a fantastic mix of different live musicians, live artists, as well as food and beverage. The entire evening was spent meeting other insurance professionals, and connecting through conversation. It was then that I felt comfortable, since everyone had common ground to break the ice as we were all there for similar reasons.  The next day the conference kicked off with a huge breakfast and guest speaker Jordan Belfort, the real Wolf of Wall Street! He was a captivating speaker talking about his life story, and of course the movie based on his life. From there, everyone dispersed into their assigned meetings that they had signed up for previously. Every session was different, covering different topics, as taught by insurance professionals as well as risk management professionals. I spent most all of my sessions focused on insurance underwriting, since it is the field I am now entering.

Throughout the week we went to our assigned sessions, and finished each day around four. At night different companies held mixers, and social events, to market and connect with each other. Needless to say there was always something fun to do, and people to meet. The entire conference for me was more than enjoyable, educational, and instrumental in my professional growth. Not only did I discover more in depth information and advice about my upcoming career in underwriting, but I also met some invaluable contacts, and people to stay in touch with along the way.  – Ethan Henderson

Ethan’s conference experience was a fantastic introduction to and preparation for the industry he is now entering after graduating from Ferris last month.  It is my hope and intention to provide this type of experience to future Ferris Risk Management and Insurance students in the years ahead.



Even Paradise Needs Risk Management


At the conclusion of the spring semester, my wife and I departed for a long anticipated vacation to Hawaii.  It was supposed to be our 25th anniversary trip, but that was two years ago.  Unforeseen circumstances (risk management of another kind) caused us to defer the trip until this year.  In spite of the delay, it was well worth the wait as we enjoyed the beautiful weather and exquisite scenery of Hawaiian paradise.

On the first morning of our vacation we began our day in the resort’s lovely outdoor dining area and a lavish breakfast buffet.  The tables were shaded by numerous large sun umbrellas scattered throughout the area.  As my lovely wife was returning to our table from the buffet, she stubbed her right “pinkie” toe on the small wheels that protruded from one such umbrella base.  Her pain was palpable and we suspected that she had just broken her toe.  Upon looking around, I noticed that some of the umbrella stands were covered with a carpet square to prevent such toe stubbing accidents, but several (including the offending stand near our table) had no such cover on their base.

My risk management brain kicked in and I sought out the resort’s security office to report the incident.  Not because we were intending to file any type of liability claim but rather to make sure that the resort’s risk management function could be made aware of the incident and take corrective actions.  They expressed sincere regret for my wife’s injury, offered her ice and first aid, and dutifully jotted down the details of the incident and our basic information (contact info, etc.).  What surprised me was the superficial nature of the security officer’s questions and the informality of his note-taking.  I would have expected a sophisticated resort company to have a more standardized form and process in place to record such incidents so that risk management would have a rich database of information on hazards and incidents on their property.

After a couple of hours at the Maui Memorial Medical Center, it was confirmed that my wife had indeed fractured her toe.  Fortunately, with some ice and ibuprofen, she was able to still enjoy the Hawaiian paradise.  At breakfast the following morning we immediately took notice of the fact that every single umbrella stand now had a carpet cover on its base.  We did leave a copy of the x-ray and discharge papers with the resort (though they surprisingly didn’t request it) as we checked out to leave for our next island.

We flew to the Big Island for the second phase of our vacation and checked into another very nice resort along the Kohala Coast.  As we strolled the grounds that evening, my wife somehow managed to stub the same broken toe on a rock along the edge of the sidewalk.  The rock was oblong and appeared to have rotated so that part of it protruded ever so slightly into the sidewalk’s path.  Although the resort had path lighting and tiki torches to illuminate their paths, this particular section had no such lighting.  In fact, I later noticed that some of their path lights were non-functional.  The risk manager within me began to shake my head and make that “tsk-tsk-tsk” sound.

The second stubbing of the already fractured toe nearly sent my wife into convulsions.  She later confessed that the pain at that moment rivaled that of childbirth.  That analogy did little for me except that I am intelligent enough to know that any reference to childbirth pain is not to be taken lightly – so I made the logical (and marriage-preserving) assumption that this was a serious amount of pain.  We once again reported the incident to the security officer at this resort, who was also very concerned for my wife’s comfort and brought her an ice pack.  However, this resort also had a very informal and superficial recording of the incident’s details.

My wife’s pain eventually subsided, and the vacation was thoroughly enjoyed by both of us in spite of the fractured (and subsequent dislocation) of toes.  Nevertheless, as I reflect on the two similar but separate incidents, I am still surprised by the cavalier approach to both incidents by the respective resorts’ security officers.  The risk manager in me would have liked to see a more formal and thorough recording of the details, and a more aggressive reaction to the incidents.  I would want to know that all such incidents, no matter how minor, were being fully documented so that they could be included in my risk assessments and risk mitigation techniques in the future.  Furthermore, when a customer is injured on property, studies show that future liability costs can be reduced by a prompt and proactive response.  In my former days in retail risk management, we endeavored to contact an injured customer within 24 hours because we knew that the more time they had to “stew” and suffer following their injury without hearing from us, the more likely they were to seek professional legal representation and pursue a formal complaint.

I’m not planning to contact a lawyer over my wife’s broken toe, but it does bother me that we have heard nothing from either resort (and they did at least take down our contact information) since the incidents.  In my estimation, that is another risk management failure on their part.  All in all, we had an exquisite time in Hawaii, and my wife’s toe is feeling better, although she has been referred to an orthopedist for evaluation.  This just goes to show that even in paradise, risk management is a crucial function within any organization, and should not be taken lightly by any firm that values safe and satisfied customers.