Play “Moneyball” at the Alliance’s 2016 Annual Meeting…
May 24, 2016“What pearls of wisdom could the general manager of a Major League Baseball team impart to fraternal executives, board members, and management staff?” I get that question a lot these days because one of the Alliance’s 2016 Annual Meeting keynote speakers is Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A’s and the inspiration for “Moneyball,” the best-selling book and wildly popular movie. There are plenty of folks intrigued by this choice of speakers for a conference of fraternal life insurers – and just as many wondering what it was I was smoking on the day we invited Beane to address our audience. Baseball and fraternal life insurers? What’s the connection? I would contend that the A’s are baseball’s version of a fraternal life insurer. For starters, they have one of the lowest payrolls among all 30 major league teams. They play second banana in the same media market to the much better known and far wealthier San Francisco Giants. They play in an outdated “multi-purpose” stadium (think of the giant concrete circles that were Three Rivers Stadium, Riverfront Stadium, and Busch Stadium that have since been replaced by sparkling new “baseball only” parks) in a rough part of Oakland that is anything but “fan friendly.” And they have been consistently blocked by the Giants from moving to more attractive digs closer to Silicon Valley. All this makes it tougher for the A’s to attract – and pay for – top tier talent. They are playing in the same league as the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, and Dodgers, but they are competing on a much different playing field. And yet…the A’s compete with teams with greater resources year in and year out because Beane had the courage to abandon long-held beliefs by baseball lifers and was open to discovering new ways to evaluate talent and interpret statistics. I think those same principles can be applied to fraternal life insurers, and Billy Beane may be just the guy to share those secrets with us. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. Check out this article entitled “Moneyball Matters” by William Panning of ERMetrics in the February “Best’s Review.” According to Mr. Panning, here are the five lessons executives can learn from baseball’s analytical innovations:
- Identify and focus on what matters. In baseball, it’s win games; for us, it’s grow membership.
- Ignore what doesn’t matter. We do lots of things that soak up time and resources and contribute absolutely nothing to the “grow membership” goal.
- Sponsor development of analytical tools that creatively utilize new data. In baseball, that might be the impact of a revised batting order. For us, it might be re-branding our societies to increase consumer awareness of the powerful benefits we offer.
- Foster novel practical skills that exploit new and improved analytical tools. Can rigorous analysis help you ascertain what your members and prospects want – and, just as important, what they don’t – from your society?
- Ask crucial questions about performance measures. Remember the Little League coach who told you “a walk is as good as a hit?” He was right!