11:30 AM
Brad Cummins
Brad Cummins

Educating the Public on Data Security

Insurers can provide the peace of mind their customers crave by sharing information on security practices.

Insurance and technology are part of a transformational union, remaking the way agents, current and prospective clients, and policyholders access information for the better.

At the same time, external threats -- the attempts by hackers and cyberthieves to steal confidential material -- require a more effective response from insurers. The public has a better understanding of this challenge, which demands a more thorough series of answers from both insurers and agents.

We can no longer afford to ignore the technology component of the insurance industry. We do not have the luxury, or the freedom, to indulge in false assumptions of indifference, as though clients will not ask us questions about data security, encryption, firewalls, and the safety of their individual accounts.

The good news is that, far from being a liability that agents should avoid, we can seize this chance to educate and reassure clients. I offer these words from experience. In my role as founder of Local Life Agents, I make transparency my guiding principle.

I anticipate queries of all sorts from clients, including the one question I know more people will ask me in the weeks and months ahead: “How safe is my personal information?” or, in other words, “How safe will my financial and medical records be if I buy a policy from this insurer, versus one from its closest competitor?”

[What SIUs Want: An Easier Way to Take Aim at Soft Fraud.]

Preparation enables me to address this matter. In the same spirit of transparency I offer my clients, insurers should do likewise. Each company's website should have a declarative statement, strong in its wording and clear in its intent, regarding the effort to thwart any and all cyber criminals.

Indeed, insurers should launch a security awareness campaign to do just that. This is an online and offline project that details how and why data security is a top priority for the industry. That endeavor would also empower agents to operate from a position of strength. It would give us a powerful introduction to potential clients, a way to start a conversation by saying something along the lines of the following:

Before I go into detail about rate classes, monthly premiums and payouts, I would like to call your attention to something more immediate. I want you to know that, should you select this policy, the insurer has one of the most sophisticated data protection programs of its kind. In other words, your personal information will be safe.

Promoting smart technology: the lesson of leadership
The takeaway theme of this discussion, which applies to executives in all industries, is one of straightforward leadership. If you invest in innovative technology -- and if technology is the cornerstone of your business, which it is for insurers -- then do not hide or dismiss the fact.

Instead, promote this point. Share it with policyholders, agents, and members of the press. Treat the measures already in place to stop cyber criminals as insurance for insurance -- additional coverage people would want to receive.

To prove this mission is a dual assignment for insurers and agents alike, we -- the men and women in this industry -- must lead by example. Show that your site is secure, that there is a Web Server Certificate with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. Maintain the validity of your site. This is something I make very clear on my own site, that everything from the domain name to the certification status is valid.

Look for these signs of legitimacy because, absent the right measures, consumers risk opening themselves to attack by simply running a quote for a life insurance policy. Think of technology as an insurance policy unto itself. Move away from abstract references to "technology," and speak to the public with greater depth and nuance. These actions will yield long-term dividends, enhancing an insurer’s reputation and its goodwill with clients.

This undertaking is also a warning to those who would try to do us harm. It is an announcement, born of conviction and fearlessness, that we will not allow our most sensitive data to be corrupted by society’s most vicious enemies. Ultimately, technology is an asset. Security is a necessity.

As the founder of Local Life Agents, which he launched nationwide, Brad offers customized solutions and personalized service to his clients. Brad started his own agency from scratch for Farmers Insurance Group in 2005, which he later sold in 2014. He graduated from Ohio State ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
12/11/2014 | 3:37:51 PM
Re: Let Agents Be the Voice of Data Security
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lewis. As cyberattacks and security fears continue to escalate, it's true that customers want to be sure their data is protected. Independent agents are in a good position to give them that reassurance, and it's important that they have the necessary information to do so.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2014 | 1:45:42 PM
Let Agents Be the Voice of Data Security
Brad's column is spot-on because it respects the reader, who may also be a prospective client. 

He recognizes that current and potential clients want assurances (from the insurance industry) that programs exist to safeguard personal data.

Independent agents, of which Brad is one, should be at the forefront of this movement because they meet with or talk to clients on a daily basis.

Insurance companies should empower these agents with relevant information, so someone like Brad can answer a client's questions and assuage his or her concerns with facts, not slogans or buzzwords.

This article is a summons to action.
User Rank: Author
12/3/2014 | 3:39:08 PM
Keep customers informed
Thanks, Brad, you make a lot of good points here. Today's customers are very aware of the rise in data breaches and will want to know their information is secure. Insurers who share their efforts to invest in new technologies and promote data security will make their policyholders feel safer in trusting them with their personal information.
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