An adult at some stage of his (or her) game ponders his choice of profession and what if any contribution that he makes to the body common, his world, his family, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day battle to simply “finish”, rather than looking at the broader picture, . . . the proverbial ‘not being able to see the forest for the trees’. A career in insurance can be like that. In my chosen niche, surety bond brokering and underwriting it can be difficult to see what value that we bonding agents offer other than being just a “bond source”.
Why do I bond? The easy answer is to make money, but that’s not really it. I could make money doing many things that are not remotely related to insurance. So, how do I fit in here? What do I do that helps people? Do I matter? Fortunately, there is a philosophical mechanism that you can use to answer the question. Sakichi Toyoda, the Japanese industrialist, inventor, and founder of Toyota Industries devised the “Five Whys”. This little trick told me why I truly “do what I do”. This is how it went, . . .
Why do you get up and go to an office every day?
To sell surety bonds.
Why? (do you sell surety bonds)
Because people need them.
Why? (do people need them)
Because surety bonds are necessary to obtain occupational licenses, take elected positions, accept contract jobs, etc.
Why? (would a person seek licenses, elected positions and jobs that require bonds)
Because those folks want to work in their preferred professions and earn money.
Why? (would people want to work and make money)
To pay for their basic needs, raise healthy happy children, save for their children’s education, save for the inevitable health problems that come with age and to enjoy a dignified retirement that places no burden on society or their kids.
So, what do I do? Do I really sell surety bonds, or do I support people’s hopes to live a decent life, raise healthy, happy children, save for their children’s education, save for the inevitable health problems that come with age and to enjoy a dignified retirement that places no burden on society or their kids? I’m going with the latter. It’s the truth and it makes me feel good about me.
In the course of “doing what we do”, we must partner with insurance companies that are focused on profitability, whether or not their combined ratio falls favorably within their peer group, volume, and other measures of being the “big dog” in the surety business. Inevitably there is friction, carrier zero-loss underwriting philosophy too often running counter to a bonding agent’s efforts to give applicants what they need in order to accomplish those aforementioned laudable personal and family goals. The most common reason for a surety bond declination is the ubiquitous “character” judgment, generally based in great part on a FICO or National Risk Score. The fact of the matter is that a person without means is generally just as honest as one with economic means. In simple terms, just because a person is poor does not mean that he will not keep his promises. Surety bond companies should keep this simple fact in mind, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because insurance companies (in addition to creating shareholder wealth) ostensibly exist to serve a social good. Helping as many people as possible, even in those cases that seem marginal will yield big dividends in more ways than increased premium volume. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”, comes immediately to mind however if in the end a corporate surety is concerned only with the bottom line then I’ll close on this. If you want to make money in the insurance business, you have to go where the risk is.
Love thy neighbor, give of yourself as liberally as you can to alleviate the suffering of others. Remember that as an insurance (or surety bond) professional you have a unique opportunity to help, advocating for others through an aggressive approach to writing and delivery of your products to as many and diverse insureds as you can reach. Want a good sample of your power of good? Last month I wrote a mechanic’s lien release bond for a lady that sought to pull equity out of her home. Reason? To pay medical bills incurred during her fight to save her husband from cancer. This is but one sample of the tremendous impact that you can have on the lives of others.
~Constantin Poindexter, CEO Surety One, Inc.