In this editorial, Trang Duncanson reflects on the past year, especially as an active life insurance practitioner. She also shares her top five points to help us reflect on 2016, just in time for Christmas.

This time of the year is great for reflections.

I attended the FSC Life Discussion Group “Life Insurance 2016 Year in Review” during November and it was another moment of self-reflection for the life industry as represented by a panel of well known insurance chief executives – Deanne Stewart (Metlife), Brett Clark (TAL) and Damien Mu (AIA). Clearly 2016 was a year of “challenge and review” and an “inflection point”.

For 2017, one of the chief executives said we had better “buckle up!” While this may seem alarming when said like that, the “glass half full of us”, including these executives, all know that it is these moments in our lives and in our careers, that we grow the most and will find the greatest sense of achievement and opportunity.

It is important to remember that the insurance industry plays a very important role in society, which means that we are held to very high standards. “…and this should be expected”, says Brett Clark (TAL). It might therefore be entirely expected for a large amount of focus be given to the very small percentage of valid claims that might not have been paid in the past – in such circumstances remember we are talking about an event that has had a large impact on people’s lives, both financial and emotional.

The other interesting point raised was that we who work in the industry tend to be quite ‘rational’, whereas insurance from a customer perspective is very ‘emotional’. There is a lot of work to be done to be able to talk to our customers in a way that really engages them, that is relevant and personal – whether this be through our claims management processes, sales process (including product brochures), or even general industry positioning via our industry bodies.

Damien Mu (AIA) drew an insightful link of our challenges to the concept of ‘unconscious bias’, which I ordinarily only think of from a recruitment or performance management perspective. He felt we (who are within the industry) could have very little insight into how complex our products are, even though this was not a situation we created out of intent (some of the complexities created say from internal barriers such as legacy system constraints, an over-zealous risk/compliance focus etc). He used some great words in his talk in relation to our required future focus – such as “re-imagine” and “re-create”.

Reflection is very powerful – for personal and professional growth, whether this came from making mistakes (so we can modify or avoid) or from doing something successful (so we can repeat). To practice using the more emotional side of my personality, as opposed to the more rational, here are my top five areas to help you reflect on 20161 and to plan for the next year.

  1. Be clear about what you value in life – once considered, consider whether you need to change.
  2. Write thank you notes daily – when you receive these, how did it make you feel? Great I bet, so do it for someone every day.
  3. Never make casual promises – a major component to earning trust is to do what you say.
  4. Ask people’s opinions often.
  5. Constantly give – ask ‘what can I contribute?’ rather than ‘what can I get?’ more often


Sampling from “when they zig you zag“, Siimon Reynolds. 

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