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The human touch can make the difference

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People don’t talk about it much, but maybe they should. This is the fact that people in the insurance industry are touched by the same medical, financial and insurance challenges that face customers and policyholders.

Over the years, for example, a good number of experts in both the field and the home office have told me that they, or a close family member, can’t qualify for the products they are selling or designing. Because they work in the industry, they report feeling acutely aware of their exposure — and incredulous when people who can qualify choose not to do so.

There is also a cadre of insurance professionals who can and do qualify for the product, and they take pride in owning it, whether life, annuity, disability or whatever. They say they often mention this to clients — so that clients will know their agent has skin in the game. But some of these same professionals also have family members and friends who want nothing to do with insurance. Because they are in the industry, this resistance is a source of concern, worry — and, yes, embarrassment.

Finally, there are those who, having bought coverage or sold it to a loved one, recount in amazing detail how a great misfortune later struck the person or family. They tell how glad they were that they or the loved one had the insurance. Their emotional intensity over this is unmistakable. So is their conviction that insurance is good.

What brought all this to mind is a story that Caroline A. Banks related at the annual meeting of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) in Toronto. The managing director of Caroline Banks and Associates in London, Banks is first vice president of MDRT and in line to take over as president on Sept. 1.

She recounted how, when her younger sister married her childhood sweetheart, Banks nudged the new husband, now her brother-in-law, to take out a critical illness policy. He was in good health, so he did. But two years later, he came down with a neurological illness for which there is no known treatment or cure.

It was “devastating” to hand those critical illness checks over, Bank said with great effort. “But I knew how much worse things would have been without them.” When her brother-in-law died at age 45, the second part of the plan — the life insurance — “delivered on its promise,” she added.

The headlines today talk of longevity, Banks commented. These messages tell about the long lives that people will enjoy. “But people at MDRT know those figures are only averages. We don’t know when, and we don’t know who. That is why we are all needed, and that’s why we do what we do.”

Banks’ eloquence was moving, to say the least. People clapped and clapped.

Upon reflection, I’ve realized that when insurance people tell stories about how insurance impacts their own lives, it seems somehow more “real” or “convincing” than stories told about people three steps removed from the storyteller. The first time an insurance guy told me he could not qualify for the life policy he was developing, I was speechless. I just didn’t expect to see the humanity behind the process. The comment opened up vistas of understanding I greatly appreciated.

Banks’ story surprised me that way too, although for different reasons. The bold witness. The devastating loss. The insurance keeping its promise. The not knowing when or who. Whoosh…this really happened.

Veteran insurance agents often relate stories about how insurance helped various customers through the years. Many of those stories have a dramatic edge to them. But I’m guessing that the stories they tell about their own insurance experiences would be far more compelling.

Naturally, there is a zone of privacy that many want to keep. But the idea still bears mulling. The sharing could help certain clients see the need in a way they could not see before. It could make a difference in the lives of many people.

 

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Linda Koco, MBA, is a contributing editor to InsuranceNewsNet, specializing in life insurance, annuities and income planning. Connect with Linda →

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