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Tips from the Insur­ance Pros with Tom Hen­ning

Matt

Hello and welcome to Assurity's podcast, Tips from the Insurance Pros. In our podcast, we connect with industry sales pros from around the nation to tap into their insights on how to grow their business and redefine success. I'm your host, Matt, and I'm excited to be here today with Assurity's very own president and CEO Tom Henning, where we'll be talking about a central topic for any successful business creating a values based business. How things that are good for your organization should also be good for the customer. And how shared values can shape not only a company's culture but outcomes. So let's dig in. Welcome, Tom. It's a pleasure to have you here with us today.

Tom Henning

Well, thanks, Matt. It's great to be here.

Matt

So values. It's natural for any company to establish or re-establish a set of core fundamental beliefs upon which their business and its behaviors are based. But at a high level, why does having a set of company values matter so much to the organization? Ultimately, where is the impact greatest?

Tom Henning

Well, Matt, I think we need to think of a company's core values as the true North of its brand compass values. Don't describe what your company hopes to achieve or how it intends to achieve it, or even why it hopes to do so. Instead, core values get at the way in which your brand promises to act. It's what a company stands for. Values are foundational. Values are what makes a company's culture. And for most companies, culture is the only true differentiator. The impact your values have on your company include everything from who you hire, how you celebrate success or face failure, your moral retention and productivity as an organization and, of course, ultimately profits. The research is clear. Companies with outstanding marketplace performance tend to have outstanding cultures.

Matt

Now you just touched on this. It's not a news flash that our industry seems to exist in a commodity environment. In your blog to Assurity associates, you've talked about ways to combat the pressures of commoditization, to establish an emotional connection with our customers. Why is this so important?

Tom Henning

Well, emotions are a huge part of the customer experience. Over half of what a customer does in any organization is related to how they feel. A growing number of companies recognize emotions are a part of their customer experience. They realize the level of a customer's emotional engagement triggers different behavior, which also impacts customer loyalty and retention. But it's not only important we emotionally connect with customers, it's important we emotionally connect with each other, especially at work. The one unifying characteristic for most associates is their desire to connect with one another and to a cause greater than themselves. Now connectivity can come in two primary forms. The first involves connecting with other associates at work. The second is the desire to connect with a cause greater than anything that could be accomplished on your own. People inherently want to be part of something bigger than themselves. You know more and more, we conduct our business through machines, sophisticated voice response programs, artificial intelligence and algorithm-driven service standards. But if you're kept on hold long enough, the message “your call is important to us” starts to sound less and less true. Companies always need to remember to walk their talk as humans. We long for an emotional connection with the people we do business with. This value lived fully and internalized can definitely give us a competitive advantage in our very competitive marketplace.

Matt

Now let's talk about trust in the insurance industry. This word is tossed around a lot, but trust is extremely important when it comes to what we do and how we do it. What's your viewpoint on the value of trust in our industry? And how do you push Assurity to live this value every day?

Tom Henning

Matt, trust is fundamental as a mutual insurance organization. Trust that you will get what you pay for. That we'll do what we say. While as a CEO of Assurity, I think this is my most important responsibility. To be sure, we'll be able to honor our promises to our policyholders. You know, for Assurity, our number one value is integrity: doing what's right, being transparent and worthy of trust. And most companies list integrity or ethics as one of their core values. Listing the value and living up to what the value means, however, are two very different things. Let's take Wells Fargo as an example. Their code of conduct, their code of ethics, I should say, was in conflict with their actions. Words on paper do not mean much if it's not backed up by walking the talk. We need to walk our talk and demonstrate by all our daily activities that we're an organization who always conducts itself ethically, and we must be vigilant about it. That's how trust is earned. Transparency plays an important role in trust. If a company isn't transparent, it fosters negative speculation, gossip and politics. At Assurity were open, honest and inclusive with our associates and clients about our company's performance, the good and the bad and its future through transparency. You get respect. I've always liked this quote by Warren Buffett. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it.” If you think about that, you'll do things differently.

Matt

That's a great quote, I agree. Now, many believe that a company's value should be evergreen. While mission or vision statements can change with the years, your core values should be solid enough to stand the test of time. Do you agree with this?

Tom Henning

Yes. Core values should be stable. We recently engaged in about a year long effort to re examine our values. As a result, we expressed our values in a more succinct way, and in more contemporary language. We also included some aspirational values.

Matt

What is an aspirational value?

Tom Henning

Well, an aspirational value is a value which may not be fully developed in practice, but a value which management believes the organization needs to develop to be successful in the future. An example for us is two values, agility and ingenuity.

Matt

What's the one piece of advice that you would share with others who are possibly considering a refresh to their value set?

Tom Henning

Well, in an article, Harvard Business Review Management expert Patrick Laconi states, “If you're not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don't bother going into the trouble of formulating a value statement.” And this is so true. For values to mean something, they'll inflict some pain. They make some associates feel like outcasts. They limit an organization’s strategic and operational freedom, and constrain the behavior of its people. They leave executives open to heavy criticism for others to interpret your values differently, an attempt to twist the meaning of values to get what they want.

Matt

Well, thank you, Tom, for your thoughts and insights. Today we appreciate you taking the time to spend a few minutes with us as we help share ideas with our distribution on how to look at doing business through a shared values approach.

Tom Henning

Thanks, Matt. It's great to be part of the conversation, especially as we look to 2019 and what we'll do differently to continue building upon our success and to our listeners.

Matt

Thanks for tuning in to Assurity's podcast, Tips from the Insurance Pros. If you'd like to learn more about our company, head over to Assurity.com. You can also email us at podcast@Assurity.com and we'd be happy to connect you with one of our regional reps in your area to take a deeper dive. Thanks for listening.

Dislcaimer:

For producer use only. Not for use with the general public. Not for use in New York.

Assurity is a marketing name for the mutual holding company, Assurity Group Incorporated and its subsidiaries. Those subsidiaries include, but are not limited to, Assurity Life Insurance Company and Assurity Life Insurance Company of New York. Insurance products and services are offered by Assurity Life Insurance Company in all states except New York. In New York, insurance products and services are offered by Assurity Life Insurance Company of New York, Albany, New York. Product availability features and rates may vary by state.