Few things demonstrate strategic resilience or deficiency quite like a crisis. Or as Mike Tyson more clearly stated: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
COVID-19, both directly and indirectly, has punched the industry in the face. Now it is up to all of us to get up and punch back. The story of COVID-19 is still being written, and therefore there is a lot we still don’t know. I have personally learned some leadership lessons from what has already unfolded.
As an actuary, I have always understood the risk of a pandemic from a detached, probabilistic point of view. Actuaries would calibrate capital models to withstand a severe event and then go on with our days. When confronted with a real pandemic, however, I realized that actuarial textbooks didn’t prepare me for the emotions that such a tragedy can evoke. All of us have felt fear as the virus spread into our communities.
Frontline healthcare workers have felt exhaustion as they bravely worked to treat the sick. Millions of people have felt worry as they struggled to make ends meet after losing their jobs. And far too many have felt unimaginable grief as people they loved were lost too soon. This human toll cannot be assigned a probability or a price. I’m fortunate to work for a leader who immediately highlighted the physical, mental, and emotional health of the workforce as her top priority. As I have looked across the industry, I have been heartened to hear similar stories of leaders providing flexibility and extending empathy to their employees, consumers, and others in need.
It is almost impossible to communicate too much, especially during times of crisis. Unfortunately, from the early days of this pandemic we have been inundated with a barrage of information that is inconsistent, incomplete, or incorrect. As such, transparency is imperative – both about what is known and what is not known.
Companies work with and impact a broad network of stakeholders including employees,
consumers, distributors, investors, ratings agencies, regulators, reinsurers, vendors, and the community organizations that they support.
Within each of these groups are people experiencing many of the same emotions and anxieties as you. Reach out to them, proactively and frequently to keep them informed because in the absence of information, they may assume the worst. While you are at it, make sure to ask how they are doing and see if there is anything you can do to help them.
Perhaps the most important thing that I’ve been reminded of during this crisis, no matter how trite it may seem, is that we really are in this together. This is an industry that serves a noble purpose and every company and individual who is part of the industry should be proud of their role in fulfilling that purpose.
The resilience and sustainability of the industry has long served to safeguard the financial welfares of millions of people against unpredictable or unforeseeable risks. In other words, insurance exists for times like this. During this crisis and beyond, it is essential we remain committed to building and safeguarding long-term trust with policyowners and consumers. Despite the deep tragedy already experienced and the uncertainty of what is left to come, this is an opportunity for the insurance industry, together, to make a real difference in the lives and livelihoods of real people.
While so much has been learned and experienced since the beginning of the pandemic, undoubtedly much more remains to be discovered. We confidently hope that with the newly acquired wisdom and knowledge to date, we and all insurers will continue to ensure the delivery of vital products and services to our valued clients.