Pants on Fire

I don’t lie … generally.

I do try not to share certain facts (and my interpretation of those facts) when it helps smooth a relationship for me to keep quiet; but even this restraint of pen and tongue is difficult for me.

Despite my forthrightness, I found myself feeling (almost) guilty upon reading Delaware’s Universally Applicable Bulletin #1. (That’s a broad net to cast, no?)

In essence, the bulletin reminded everyone that telling lies is illegal and we all can be fined up to $10,000 every time we utter an untruth about insurance in Delaware.

Do I need to be reminded of this? Actually, I think not. Will it help to remind the liars that their lies could have consequences? Maybe, but a bulletin may not be the most effective way to get the point across.

When an insurer gets a hefty fine for something or other, and a state DOI issues a press release announcing the punitive action, our office phone invariably starts to ring. It seems to me that DOIs get the attention of insurers and agents when a fine, or revocation of license, or some other type of punishment is handed down. This is perhaps not the way it should be, but it seems to be the way it works.

The bulletin stated that Delaware had been made aware that “various members of the insurance industry” have responded to complaints about premium rate increases by telling consumers that the Department forced the rates up. The bulletin went on to warn that anyone caught suggesting that the Department is responsible for rate increases would be prosecuted.

I’m thinking that this bulletin would have had more teeth if it ended with a short list of recent prosecutions. Perhaps that announcement is coming soon.

Market Conduct Management (MCM)

When I headed to sunny California two weeks ago, not only did I get to stick my feet into the Pacific Ocean for the first time, I got to literally sit right in between insurance companies and the DOI examiners for 2 ½ days. I was there for the IRES Foundation’s Market Conduct Management designation training.

I discovered several things while learning more about the process of market conduct exams. One of the most important concepts was that good ‘people skills’ make the process easier for both insurance companies and examiners. While a market conduct exam can feel like companies and examiners are sitting on opposite sides of the table, they are more likely to go smoothly if both sides are willing to reach across the table in a cooperative manner.

Compliance is the in between, the connector between how insurance companies and producers want to say and what they can say when marketing. While literally sitting in between them I saw clearly that we are all just individual people trying to do our jobs the best we can. We have the same goal – to help the consumer.

From an insurance company’s view, getting that first letter about an upcoming market conduct exam brings trepidation. However, it may be helpful to remember that examiners are people with a job to do – nothing is personal, there are no accusations – it’s a job. Examiners must sort through a lot of detailed data, usually with a time constraint. They often travel far from home, stay in a hotel, rent a car, eat meals out, and leave their families, which, in itself, is stressful. While they should be kind and polite and abide by the insurance company’s dress code, the insurance company can help by providing a comfortable workspace and reasonable access to insurance personnel who are qualified to answer questions in a timely manner.

Obviously the substance of market conduct exams can be difficult and time consuming, but the process of the exam may be easier for all involved if we keep these simple realities in mind.