Therefore, be it firmly resolved…
December 30, 2014I’m not a big “New Year’s Resolutions” guy. I find most of the things people “resolve” to do silly, short-lived, and inconvenient. For instance, I really don’t like competing for space at the gym in January with the dozens of yahoos who have resolved to “get in shape” in the New Year. (Although I do take a sort of perverse comfort in knowing that 90% of them will be gone by the time Valentine’s Day comes along, leaving the workout room wide open for the small group of idiots like me trying to recapture our misspent youth…) But this year I am going to make a resolution, and it has nothing to do with weight loss or muscle mass. This year, I resolve to be a “disruptive learner.” The inspiration for this resolution comes from two sources:
- The reams of material that I’ve read over the past year about how the financial services industry is primed to be “disrupted.” Think about how Amazon changed the way we purchase books (and, increasingly, almost everything else); how iTunes changed the way we listen to music; how Netflix changed the way we watch movies and television. How might the way we purchase products to protect our financial future changes in the coming year? Is the life insurance industry the next Blockbuster? More importantly, how can we – the small, nimble, consumer-friendly fraternal sector of the behemoth financial services industry – be the disrupter and not the disrupted?
- A wonderful quote from Eric Hoffer that I came across just a few weeks ago: “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” I don’t think he was talking specifically about fraternals, but he could have been.
- Turn relationships into business partnerships – You’ll see an announcement of one of these “disruptive” new partnerships in early January. I’m confident this new agreement will allow Alliance members to take advantage of some great new products and services that we would not otherwise be able to provide. This is a first for the Alliance, and we’re going to “learn” as we go. But I suspect we’ll discover that there are more organizations with whom we have a relationship that we can transform into a business partnership that benefits our members. Do similar opportunities exist within your society’s current relationships with other fraternals?
- Question every maxim by which we’ve lived for the past century – This starts with the old cliché that life insurance is sold, not bought. And by “sold” I mean by an agent sitting with prospective clients around a kitchen table in the evening. While that model may still exist on a small scale – remember, some people still go to the video store to rent DVD’s, too – I’m going to start 2015 with the “disruptive” notion that the vast majority of the next generation of consumers are going to learn about the products and services they need to secure their financial future on the web and they are going to “buy” those products in a whole new way. And I’m going to commit to “learning” how the Alliance can help its members deliver those products and services in ways that these prospective members want them.
- Expand our affinity by thinking of households not individuals – Our products are designed for households, not individuals. And I think we need to “disrupt” how we assess the impact of member societies’ and “learn” how to expand our reach. How many households do we serve? How many households participate in philanthropic and community service activities – and how many benefit from such programs? How many products does each household purchase? If they only purchase one product from your society, where are they turning for their other financial services needs – and why? What other products and services do our members need and want – dental and vision insurance, auto and homeowners coverage, financial education programs, basic legal services, identity theft protection, health and wellness programs, etc.? Would their affinity – their bond with their society – make them willing to consider purchasing these from your fraternal? Remember, Amazon started as an online book seller…
- Anticipate regulatory challenges – We know that solvency and governance are the two most significant operational issues that face fraternals. And we know the potential regulatory backlash that can result from regulators’ concerns over unsustainable organizations. Over the years, we’ve “learned” how to address these issues through improvements to state regulation. In 2015, let’s implement the “disruptive” notion of proactively proposing more effective fraternal regulation – rather than waiting for a crisis to emerge – to regulators in key states. By defining the problems – and the potential solutions – we enhance our ability to establish a regulatory environment that promotes fair and effective competition and allows fraternals the opportunity to fulfill their financial services and community services missions.