Wednesday, 19 December 2012 13:16

Not All Insurance Executives Are Created Equal

Written by Insurance Insider

Being an insurance executive has its pros and cons. I guess it’s not really different from any other job – with one exception. We are the ones with the gold, and the evil body shops are the ones that are trying to get it. That makes my job unique because not everyone gets to play the role of the leprechaun.

Although I am joking, there are a lot of similarities between insurance company employees and the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow protecting the pot of gold. We are unique, misunderstood, deceptively sneaky at times – and continuously worried about someone taking our money.


With the holiday season here, perhaps I should be making comparisons between Santa Claus and insurance executives, but that would be ridiculous. We are nothing like Santa because we don’t give anything away. I guess we more closely resemble Ebenezer Scrooge, if trying to stay within the holiday theme.

Why am I telling you something you already know? After all, we all know that grass is green, there is no such thing as paint caps or Santa Claus, and insurance executives are all misers (present company excluded). Actually, I’m telling you all of this because not all insurance company executives are created equal. Even though it is fun to throw jabs at defenseless suits, the reality is that there are a few good ones among us (present company included).

But please meet Bob. Bob is an insurance executive who works with me. Although Bob doesn’t wear green, isn’t short and doesn’t have red hair, he is very much a leprechaun. I don’t know when or why he became so bitter and perpetually worried about the evil body shops stealing money. But he has more conspiracy theories than the George Bush administration.

It’s extremely difficult to work with guys like Bob because he lives in a different world. It’s people like Bob that cause lower-level insurance company employees that you have to work with to think and act like empowered dictators towards shops.

It isn’t a healthy situation but it’s one that is tolerated at various levels because Bob is a company man, and he watches our money and is helping to eliminate fraud. When Bob identifies a shop that he thinks is over-writing estimates or not properly repairing vehicles, his view is considered justified. Sadly, Bob’s word is taken as if it were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

An even sadder reality is that Bob never worked on a car in his life. He couldn’t tell you a weld nugget from a chicken McNugget, yet he is judge and jury on a proper repair and repair hours.

How is this possible? Because most insurance company executives are born on a different side of town and have years and years of drinking from the same water fountain. I’m not sure how I escaped because I was drinking the same stuff. But for most of us, all of our experience is insurance-related, so we don’t know what’s really on the other side of the wall. Depending upon your mentors within an insurance company, your vision of body shops can end up being tainted.

I am grateful that I’ve had many level-headed bosses over the years. I do recall one in the early 1980s that looked just like the nutty professor. I’ve never asked Bob, but I am willing to bet that he spent a lot of time working for that mad scientist. He despised body shops, and Bob is exactly the same. I think he wakes up every morning with sole purpose of penalizing shops. While Bob actually does find some shops that are thieves and couldn’t repair a Radio Flyer wagon correctly, the vast majority of his hysteria should be viewed as nothing short of a witch hunt.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending. Bob isn’t a mythical character. He is someone who is still very active in our business. I believe he will retire in a few years but the damage has already been done.

I think every insurance company has a Bob. Insurance companies have made positive changes over the past 30 years, but they’ve been unable to fully rid themselves of the cancers like Bob. They are the old-timers who are carry-overs from a time when shops and insurance companies were separated by the Berlin Wall. I’m grateful to have been there when both that wall was erected and when it was torn down. I found out that the people on the other side of the wall are just like me.

You can’t fight with the Bobs of the world because you won’t win. There is no answer or fix. The best you can do is to know your enemy. Debating, arguing and offering personal opinion will surely raise the ire of the cunning and deceptive leprechaun. Only facts and documentation are worth their weight in gold.

Just don’t tell Bob that. He might try taking both of them for his overflowing pot.

“The Insider” is an auto insurance company executive who wishes to remain anonymous. This column reflects solely the opinion of The Insider as it offers an unvarnished look at various issues impacting the collision industry.