As it is every year, March is Ethics Awareness Month for the insurance industry. Click here for my March 2017 article on this, though the poll I cite does not appear to have been updated for recent public opinion about the insurance industry. The CPCU Society usually leads the way on this and you can get more information here. I wrote about the CPCU code of ethics in an article I called “The 7 Habits of Insurance Professionals.”
Those that view insurance as a career rather than a job probably think of themselves as professionals. As to what specifically constitutes a “professional,” here are some criteria from Ron Horn in an old CPCU text:
7 CHARACTERISTICS OF A PROFESSION
- Commitment to high ethical standards
- Prevailing attitude of altruism
- Mandatory educational preparation
- Mandatory continuing education
- Formal association or society available
- Independence to make decisions
- Public recognition as a profession
Source: “On Professions, Professionals, and Professional Ethics” by Ronald C. Horn
Based on these criteria, someone CAN be a “professional” in the insurance industry. The biggest stumbling block might be #7 above. Does the typical consumer view, for example, the typical insurance agent as a “professional” akin to their perception of a doctor, attorney, accountant, or perhaps clergy member? The answer is almost certainly a resounding “No”…until their insurance claim is denied. At that time, the plaintiff will almost assuredly try to convince a judge and/or jury that the agent owed a higher standard of care as a professional in his or her field.
So, how do we begin the process of changing this unprofessional view of our industry, aside from voicing our displeasure with the incessant price-focused shilling that passes for advertising that dominates the media?
Note: The above was largely excerpted from my upcoming book “When Words Collide: Resolving Insurance Coverage and Claims Disputes.”