Amidst all the furore in the UK around the closures of fire stations and hospital accident and emergency departments (‘A&E’) I remembered a pet theory of mine, which came upon me once in the CII halls in Aldermanbury. If you’ve ever been there you will know that the walls display many ‘fire marks’ – metal plaques which used to be attached to the walls of buildings around the UK.
These marks told you who insured the buildings and in the event of fire, which fire brigade to send. So bystanders would see the ‘Royal’ fire engine speeding through the streets to put out the fire of the building insured by the Royal. I’m sure that this gave them a good feeling about the insurer – on their way to stop the next Great Fire of London.
The problem with the image of insurance these days, notwithstanding some atrocious service and fighting over claims, is the simple fact that it’s so intangible. We receive our pieces of paper with the contract terms, stick them in a file until either renewal arrives or we need to make a claim. And both of these actions are with a degree of trepidation – am I going to have to argue about the premium? Is the insurer going to fight the claim?
In the meantime our insurers have been sponsoring all sorts of things – from cricket stadiums to rugby tournaments in the sporting world, to adverts about how much better they are at paying their claims and how much cheaper their insurance is.
I think they’ve been missing a glorious opportunity to give insurance another image – one that cares about our property, our safety and our health at the very least. An opportunity to make insurance more tangible, more valuable. Perhaps not loved, but at least appreciated more than today.
So this is my call to insurers – give up the silly adverts and unnecessary sponsorships and get behind the services that help your customers and help you – the police forces that stop burglaries and help keep the streets and roads safe, the hospitals that help keep us well and the fire stations that reduce the impact of fires – all of the things that help you keep your claims costs down.
Get your names on the sides of fire engines and the public might just learn to love you again.
Yes, why not indeed? In Bangkok, Thailand, which I have visited frequently during the past 12 months, I notice that a very well-known international insurance company has its name on the side of….a large police cabin at a busy road junction (police officers sit and watch through the windows and control the traffic lights and flow of vehicles).