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  • Chris Burand

So, you just want the answers?

So do I. I'd like the answers to life. I watched Monte Python's "The Meaning of Life" and I still don't have the answers to life's questions. I have read Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hobbes, Mills, Veblen, the Bible, and not least, Calvin and Hobbes. I still don't have the answers.

I reduced my goal to understanding certain aspects of the tax code. One part in particular is running to 600 pages now and I gave up because the lack of logic contained therein could only be created by politicians and bureaucrats who live in a surreal world. I need answers to the real world. I have asked one highly educated tax attorney after another to just give me the answers, please! They kept telling me the tax code is so complex they could only give me answers to extremely specific scenarios because no universal "answers" exist.


I reduced my goal further to getting someone to give me the formula for quarterback ratings. Everyone seems to understand quarterback ratings, but no one can give me the answer.


On the other hand, no one watching a football game ever wonders why the offense does not run the same play, play after play. Obviously different situations require different plays. The number of different plays for all of the different situations is effectively infinite.


No one proposes a simple answer to, "Which clothes should I wear?" Much less should someone wear the same clothes to work or Zoom meetings, day after day. Which clothes should be worn depends on the weather, the season, the occasion, how one feels about one's self that day, what one wore the prior day, and what is left that is clean.


What should I eat? Beyond the simple answer, "food," the list is infinite. It is largely determined by the time of day, location, with whom one is eating, budget, desired calorie intake, what one previously ate, and simply what one feels like eating. All of these questions are often balanced by what one knows they should or should not eat.


Yet, producers and account managers are asking, pleading and demanding me to tell them the answers to insurance problems like, "Just tell me if this ______ is covered." Or, "Just tell me which cyber policy is the best!" No universal coverage answers exist. None. Nada. Not even in the surreal world do simple answers to universal insurance coverage exist. Coverages are complex.


Even simple coverages are complex. For example, if one takes a simple HO-3 and the 25 common endorsements, 33.5 million different combinations of coverage exist! That does not even consider state specific issues, coverage limits or co-insurance either. If infinite possibilities exist, then it is impossible to give correct, generic coverage answers other than, "It depends..."


This brings me to the point of this article. The industry does not need producers or account managers who cannot or will not think for themselves. The industry desperately needs people who will take the time to learn coverages adequately so they can think through a given situation and determine if coverage exists for that specific situation and if not, how to obtain the required coverage. All those people who demand simple answers because they do not want to think are going to go the way of the dodo bird.


Any aspect of this industry that does not require actual thought and discernment will be replaced by software in the very near foreseeable future. Software, especially artificial intelligence software, is far more accurate and cost effective than human beings and it never calls in sick or complains about wages or a boss's attitude. I am amazed and disappointed how insistent so many people are about not wanting to think.


Thinking is hard work, no doubt about it. I sometimes find myself in positions that require dedicated thought and it takes energy to push through the process. You have to be willing to read an insurance policy to know if coverage exists! The statement that there are no dumb questions is true, but some questions often reveal laziness. When someone asks or demands, "Is this covered?" and I ask, "Did you read the policy -- all the way through?" and the answer is "No," it is obvious they are lazy. They are asking others to do their work for them. No industry needs lazy people.


The industry has a serious problem though because for eons it has hired people with limited critical thinking skills who were paid, often well, for skills other than cognitive thought. Please do not think I am picking on low-level people. Some executives' reasoning abilities went MIA a long time ago too, but they are not often the ones asking coverage questions, so that is a different chapter.


The industry then has the challenge of either teaching its people to think or replacing them with people who can already think. I'll put the situation differently. The new tech players and carriers and distributors are skilled marketers and are succeeding in commoditizing many lines of insurance so consumers do not know any differences exist between different forms. The kryptonite of commodity purveyors is the education of consumers and the critical thinking skills of competitors. If people know all insurance is not the same, they will better understand the importance of taking the time to obtain the right coverages and why, sometimes, cut rate insurance may result in underwhelming claims service. However, if producers and CSRs are not willing to think through coverages and read forms, the commodity vendors will put them out of business.


The opportunities for those willing to do the hard work of thinking through coverages are phenomenal. In my experience with producers in particular, new, young producers achieve success at a much faster rate and their overall success often results in 50% higher sales.


Sometimes people are not lazy, but they just do not know how to think. These are tough situations. Two solutions may exist if one is willing to put forth the effort. The first is to identify the parts of insurance that come more naturally to you. Start there and build your skills. The second is to take classes that increase critical thinking skills. Math is a really good place to start. If math is a weakness, then look into taking a hard science course that does not emphasize math. Avoid physics and high-level chemistry.


The really awesome result of learning to think through coverages, besides the opportunity to make much more money, is independence. You won't have to ask other people for the answers. You'll be able to figure out the answers on your own, in real time. You will be able to find solutions for your clients that your competitors punt. Knowledge is king but being able to think is a king maker.

NOTE: The information provided herein is intended for educational and informational purposes only and it represents only the views of the authors. It is not a recommendation that a particular course of action be followed. Burand & Associates, LLC and Chris Burand assume, and will have, no responsibility for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information.

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Burand & Associates, LLC is an advocate of agencies which constructively manage and improve their contingency contracts by learning how to negotiate and use their contingency contracts more effectively. We maintain that agents can achieve considerably better results without ever taking actions that are detrimental or disadvantageous to the insureds. We have never and would not ever recommend an agent or agency implement a policy or otherwise advocate increasing its contingency income ahead of the insureds' interests.

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