Let’s Play Shark Tank

I don’t watch Shark Tank but it came up in conversation this morning. It’s an interesting concept and one that interests me as a Corporate Philosopher because it highlights the struggles entrepreneurs fight through every day, from small start-ups to large corporations and even individuals fighting for their innovations and ideals within an organization.

Most of us have been in corporate meetings where we’re trying to get our voice heard, sell our innovative idea or get funding for our new projects. Finding a company that allows you to stretch boundaries may be difficult but if you’ve got what it takes to win at Shark Tank then you can get heard in any company.

Think like a shark…

  • Do you have any enthusiasm for your brand? If you bring any “meh” to the table then you’ve lost the game, you’re out. No one can successfully launch or sustain their product or service without energy and a strong belief they have something special. 
  • Do you have what it takes for a long-term fight? You won’t get investment if you don’t demonstrate the tenacity necessary to take their company all the way. Obstacles, competition, disaster…there are so many reasons why a brand might fail. Entrepreneurs must demonstrate endurance or they will not reach the finish line.
  • Is your product or service competitive? Do you have something special that is missing in the current market? Are there cheaper or more efficient alternatives to your brand? Entrepreneurs must know their competition – what they’re offering, their strengths, weaknesses and have a plan to overcome their adversary. If you’re sitting across from a potential investor/client, be that investor/client. Why should they invest in your products or services? Know their options so you don’t waste their time or yours.
  • Are you prepared for failure? What if this direction is closed off…are you prepared to backtrack and find another way? Failure doesn’t have to mean the end unless you’re not flexible enough to retreat and move forward with a new plan. Entrepreneurs allow themselves to fail…innovative people have to because they’re pushing boundaries. If you allow yourself to fail then you’ll still be able to move your brand in a new direction if necessary. If you won’t allow failure then you’ll just bang your head against that same brick wall until it hurts enough to stop…then you’ll stop. 

Sharks exist…I’m one of them. If I’m going to invest my time, money or effort into an organization then I want to see something special. If you’re not looking at your options with the above questions…you lost the game.

Stacy Brown

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Posted in Attitude, Corporate America, Corporate Culture, Failure | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

5 Myths of Force Placed Policies

It’s so controversial and yet so vital to the financial industry’s recovery. They’re commonly called Force Placed Policies…Tristar MGA calls them Lender Placed Policies or LPI for Lender Placed Insurance.

Insurance is a transfer of risk from one entity to another in exchange for payment. It is a form of risk management that protects the financial industry from loss and when used as intended protects borrower as well. When a borrower has been “Force Placed” or when a financial institution has purchased a “Lender Placed” policy they are protecting their interest in property that has been used as collateral for a loan. This is intended to be utilized when the borrower has not purchased insurance for the property themselves. However, it is sometimes applied because the borrower has not complied with their contractual obligation to provide the appropriate documentation showing the property is insured. If that is the case, the lender placed policy can be cancelled once the appropriate documentation has been provided.

There are many myths about lender placed insurance mainly because of misunderstandings. Our Team fights these daily as we work to inform our borrowers about the process.

Myth #1 – Your Financial Institution loves and benefits from forcing insurance on you. No, they don’t – they HATE it. Most financial institutions DO NOT receive any financial benefit from lender placed policies. NONE of our clients do. Financial Institutions that receive kick-backs or fees have found themselves in court lately and that situation will hopefully be corrected. This is NOT the norm though – just the part that makes the news. Lender Placed Policies are costly and time-consuming for your Financial Institution and they will do anything they can to prevent this process kicking in…including faxes, phone calls to agents/insurers, and letters sent to the member’s asking for help in obtaining proof of insurance.

Myth #2 – Force Placed Insurance is NEVER justified. In exchange for the transfer of money from the financial institution to the borrower, the borrower signs a form called ATPI – Agreement To Provide Insurance wherein the borrower agrees to provide proof that the property they are using as collateral is sufficiently insured against loss. In the event loss does occur and the collateral is destroyed, the financial institution needs to protect themselves against the risk of an unsecured loan. If the borrower choses not to provide insurance for their property, either because they are financial unable to do so or because it is not available for their property or location, the lender is being responsible in providing that insurance for them.

Myth #3 – The borrower does not benefit from Force Placed Insurance. It’s true that the Lender Placed Policies primarily protect the financial institution’s interest in the property but the borrower also benefits. When the borrower is not able to provide insurance for their property, the lender placed policy will provide a measure of security. If catastrophe strikes and the property is destroyed, the lender placed policy may pay-off the loan so the borrower no longer owes money for a property they are now going to have to replace. Another possible scenario is that the property is severly damaged, the borrower will then have the right to file a claim against the lender policy to repair their property.

Myth #4 – If my financial institution forces insurance on me, I don’t have to pay it. Financial Institutions contractually have the right and responsibility to lender place insurance if the borrower does not protect the property securing their loan. This benefits the borrower in that they now have a measure of protection and it brings them into compliance with the original requirements of the loan. It is an expense they agreed to when they closed the loan and signed the ATPI – that is an agreement to provide insurance. The expense related to insuring the property belongs to the borrower.

Myth #5 – Force Placed Insurance is unreasonably expensive. It is expensive and we tell everyone who will listen that it’s expensive. It also provides less coverage than policies purchased in the market because there is no personal property coverage or liability coverage. However, it is not unreasonably expensive. Lender Placed Insurance is intended to insure high risk properties. There is an underlying assumption that if you could insure the property on the market you would do so…in fact, borrower’s are strongly encouraged to do so by our staff. However, if insurance is not available because the risk for that property or location is too high then a lender placed policy can be provided. Lender Placed Policies are only meant to be generated for those borrowers who could not provide the insurance on their own and that usually means the risk was too high for the insurance market to accept. Higher Risk means greater expense because it also means a higher likelihood of claims.

Lender Placed Insurance isn’t fun for anyone involved but it does provide a vital service to the financial industry as well as borrowers who are unable to provide insurance for their property on their own. We have had borrowers call in asking for a lender placed policy because they searched and searched and were unable to obtain insurance on their own but understand the benefits of risk management.

Tristar MGA services are personalized enough that, provided we have sufficient information, we are ready and able to do what it takes to get the documenation we need to prevent lender placed policies.

But if they are unable to obtain insurance, we are here to provide it.

Stacy Brown

Posted in Insurance Industry, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging’s Best

As many people diss internet activity, I’m finding more and more to love about it. I am an avid reader of blogs and every once in a while I find a gem worthy of sharing. To that end, I have added my Blog Roll which is the list of bloggers I consider the best of what’s out there.

I have been reading Michael Bissel’s Conquent blog for 3 years now. He is one of the first Corporate Philosophers I started reading and learning from. His company has blogs for each of their key company leaders that allow them to explore topics ranging from personal to corporate or governmental philosophies. I have never seen a company setup like his – as far as I can tell he is unique in his Corporate Philosophy. He is the inspiration for this blog and many other changes in my career path.

Another writer I learn from and have read for years is Billy Gotta Job. This writer’s expertise is in political and social philosophies. His insightful intelligence is a continuous inspiration to me to see the best in society and individuals. I’m afraid I have a bit of a crush on this guy…his gentle intelligence and depth is all I needed to know.

Christina is a comedian in Portland, Oregon and puts a delightful spin on everyday life as a Mother, Wife and social commentator. In her blog Ten Minute Missive, Christina writes about delights and difficulties in such a light-hearted and loving way that she’s a comfort to her readers as we make our way through life trying to understand family, relationships or even our place in society. Christina reminds me of Erma Bombeck who inspired me with her books on love, family and in the end her struggles with Cancer.

I am now also following Scott Berkun. His new book MindFire is going to be the next addition to my library. He starts his book with a warning/promise – He says he is self-published because he wants to write books that “no publisher in their right mind would release”…that sounds like something I want to read. I love individuals that push boundaries and challenge social, political and corporate cultural mores. He is very much in line with Michael Bissel’s philosophy and I’m looking forward to reading more of his writing. Mindfire is a book of the best blog posts from Scott Berkun’s 10 years of blogging, teaching and inspiring innovation.

If you have any interest in exploring different points-of-view and stretching your boundaries, you will enjoy and learn from the above writers/philosophers.

Stacy Brown

Posted in Blog, Blogging, Corporate America, Corporate Culture, Corporate Structure, Opinion, Personal Life, Professional Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s contagious about fish?!

Pikes Place Market…an iconic fish market that is world reknown…how does a fish market become world reknown? I’m not going to analyze that here, there is more than one factor determining success or failure but I am going to talk about Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and improve Results.

Northwestern Business practices are unique and not always accepted as “best practice” in other parts of the country but there are successful companies that have demonstrated how such methodologies work to create a company recognized worldwide.

For example, are your employees working for a paycheck or are they invested in your vision for the company? Does it matter, or do you just want them to do their job as pieces of a machine that provides the product or service you’re selling?

Of course it matters.

A cohesive company with a creative culture that allows for visionary thinking offers products and services that far exceed those of the machine companies. Individuals aren’t “employees” they become participants, driven by a feeling that they are part of something special or unique. That doesn’t negate the need for leadership and a captain to steer the flow of ideas and passion but it does allow the participant’s energy to feed the vision. The passion of one person can start a company but in order for it to grow, that passion needs to be contagious.

If your employees aren’t enthusiastic about what you’re doing then your clients aren’t likely to be either. Have you ever called a vendor and wondered to yourself whether or not you should apologize for interrupting this person’s day? Customer Service training can take you so far but you can’t teach someone to express a passion that isn’t there.

Are your employees doing what they’re told and no more or are they creatively looking for opportunities to make themselves and their company more valuable to your clients. If they’re passionate about what they’re doing then all teams will become part of the marketing team. An employee that becomes familiar with their client’s needs can potentially take your company beyond it’s original scope by looking for opportunities to provide new products and services.

I have a client that has successfully created enthusiasm for their brand. I’m proud to say we’re part of their “Sales Team” and fully capable of delivering that same enthusiasm as we represent them. By that I mean that my team works just as passionately as their people do to make their customer’s experience a positive one. As we represent them we are able to pass on the enthusiasm we have for our products and services to our client’s clients. My goal is to have someone say they “Love ‘Widgets Inc'” because of our contribution…because of an encounter they had with our people that reflects well on our client. Making our clients look good is part of our vision.

The difference between a company that has a contagious vision and one that is a machine is dramatic and will eventually show up in your bottom line.

Stacy Brown

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Technology is NOT a Bad Word

I sincerely hope technological advancement will become an active topic in our industry because the insurance industry is unnecessarily behind technologically. Technology has advanced far enough to automate many of the activities the insurance industry is still doing manually.

Proof of insurance, for example, should be an automated process. State Farm has made progress in this area with their b2b website and other automated delivery systems which allows insurance tracking companies to access policy information. Many other companies are still relying on faxed proof of insurance, or God help us, snail-mail. Acord forms are an antiquated methodology – this is a manual solution created by an industry that refuses to move into the 21st Century. Automating insurance notifications has been discussed for years so why has it not been implemented yet? We’re not waiting on technology to catch up with us – we have the technology in place now.

I read a blog this morning from Frank Heaps called Where Will We Find the Next Generation of Insurance IT Professionals? He is mainly discussing the incoming workforce and the technological know-how they bring with them. They not only have a deeper understanding of technological advancement but they communicate in a different way – virtually. As Frank Heaps points out in his blog, “This latest generation of employee doesn’t know a world without computers, social media, instant messaging and other modern technologies that they take for granted.” It will be interesting to see what this new generation does in the insurance industry…assuming we are able to attract them.

I was delighted to find an upcoming conference that will start with an exclusive LinkedIn group which will allow conference members an opportunity to discuss topics before the conference even begins. This virtual style of communicating is going to become the way of doing business in the future. We’ve already started with Work-From-Home employees who communicate with their office virtually and I see signs that this is going to expand beyond what we’ve conceived of at this time.

We’re catching up slowly and there are companies in the insurance industry that are starting to take notice of the technological advancement that has been ignored for too long. Those who want to be industry leaders will be the ones who are taking advantage of the money-saving technologies that are available to us now and implementing them successfully in their arena.

Stacy Brown

Posted in Acord Forms, Communication, Corporate America, Corporate Culture, Expansion, Insurance Industry, Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Acord Forms

There is a battle going on between insurance agents and financial institutions over what is acceptable proof of insurance and what is not. Agents want to use the Acord forms and Financial Institutions can’t accept them because they aren’t binding. One agent told a banker that he wasn’t going to play those games anymore …I guess we’ll keep playing without him because when banks are asking for proof of insurance they don’t want a “it-may-be-true-but-don’t-hold-us-to-it” document. If the Acord forms were equally binding, or a reliably accurate representation of a binding policy we wouldn’t be having this discussion…but here we are….so let’s continue….

Let me just say, this isn’t about condominium association policies…those are handled differently and are not a part of this discussion, maybe we’ll talk about those later but hopefully not…there are far more interesting topics to explore.

There is a place for the Acord form but it’s being used more often than it should be. We accept them but don’t like them for a very good reason. The number one reason is why can’t we get a copy of the Declarations Page? If the financial institution is listed on the policy then we should have gotten a copy, so why didn’t we? It’s a red flag and one that doesn’t get fixed by getting an Acord form…I still want to know what the Declarations Page says. Here are some other red flags around Acord forms:

New Verbiage: The Acord 27 Evidence of Property Insurance used to state “…CONVEYS ALL THE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES AFFORDED UNDER THE POLICY.” which is why it was grudgingly considered acceptable documentation. However, it now states “…INFORMATION ONLY AND CONFERS NO RIGHTS…” The original document conferred rights, i.e. was binding, and the new document specifically states that it confers no rights. The purpose of a document that confers no rights escapes me…

Manually Generated Forms: If an agent intends to make a change on a policy they can represent that intended change on an acord form whether or not any change request has been, or will ever be submitted to the insurer. I have received Acord forms that represent a change that should have been made but never got done. When pressed, the agent wants you to accept yet another Acord form which represents yet another intention to change the policy. It is safer and more prudent to wait for the change to be reflected on the Declarations Page. If the agent knows you require the change to be reflected on the Declarations Page they are not only more likely to follow through with the request but will expedite the process.

Human Error. Human error occurs even on a Declarations Page but they are automatically generated documents which accurately reflect the policy as it was written. An Acord form is a manually generated document and the possibility of human error is far greater.

I understand how convenient Acord forms are but they simply do not fill the need to track proof of insurance in the same way a Declarations Page does…bottom line – I’d rather have a Declarations Page and if you send me an Acord form I’m going to take it with a grain of salt…

Stacy Brown

Posted in Acord Forms, Insurance Industry | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Organizational Contributors

Corporations are small communities, each one has its own government and various contributors that make it work. They have their own social structure and culture as well, within which each citizen must find their place. Just as a community has a farmer, baker, grocer, doctor, teacher, etc, a company has its contributors and each one is just as vital to the success of the company as the others.

Leadership – without leadership the company looses its direction. Leadership provides the government within the organization as well as defines the company culture and social structure. This is the driving force that keeps the company on course and makes decisions that impact the future direction of the company.

Expansion Team – without it the company will stagnate. Their concerns are online branding, outreach, building relationships within the community, etc. All the things that allow a company to be seen and heard so it’s products/services can reach those who would benefit from them.

Delivery Team – without this team there is no product or service. Within the Delivery Team there is another sub-community and hierarchy of contributors. Here you have your technical experts, qualified individuals who can produce the widget or service to fill the clients’ needs.

There are greater complexities and sometimes a company is small enough to have individuals filling multiple roles but each role needs to be filled by someone. In a community, if the farmer stopped growing crops and instead went to help the grocer then the grocer would eventually have no product to sell. Likewise, if the grocer stopped selling groceries and went instead to sew crops then there would be no delivery system in place when the crops are ready.

If the Expansion Team neglects their role and works instead to help the Delivery Team then the company looses its future. If the Delivery Team works primarily on expansion and in the area of Marketing then the company looses its present. Leadership’s temptation is to dive into the details – if, in doing so, they lose control of the rudder the company looses its vision – the “can’t see the forest for the trees” problem. Although there may be some cross over, each role must be filled. The extent to which any of these roles are neglected will be reflected in the strength, or lack of strength, of the company.

It seems so simplistic, so obvious, and it is. But sometimes we need a reminder that some things are just not that complex.

Stacy Brown

Posted in Corporate America, Corporate Culture, Corporate Structure, Expansion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment