May 15, 2007

The Prime Minister And The Producers

Well, the annual CALU meeting is over for another year. Next year's theme is "Share The Wisdom" --- this blog's goal. I'm amazed at how sharing CALU members are. That's motivated me to reciprocate.

The Prime Minister Returns
Prime Ministers don’t address many organizations. Stephen Harper was back again for his second time as PM. Liberal leader Stephane Dion also spoke. That alone tells you the political influence that CALU wields. The Department of Finance sends a representative every two years. The reception for Members of Parliament and Senators was well attended.

Meet The Producers
The conference ends with Meet The Producers, in which three noteworthy advisors share their wisdom. I especially valued Barry Pascal of Bell Pascal Financial Services, who gave insights from his 24 years of experience. He initially had a product focus, concentrating on contract wording, spreadsheets and technical analysis. He realized that while looking down at the pages of details, he wasn’t looking at the right place: into his client’s eyes. He wasn’t understanding their goals, where they wanted to be.

The technical skills were not wasted. When clients receive an insurance proposal, they often turn to their accountant or lawyer for advice. Barry helped those professionals by decoding the proposals free of charge. Sometimes he’d get referrals. By reviewing files and asking questions, he saw needs and opportunities. By working with professionals, he could build consensus on solutions before the client saw them. This team-based approach has proven very effective.

The competition is not other advisors. It’s the markets, land zoning, family issues, lack of time. Whatever's on the client's mind. Clients build what they know how to build. Understanding their priorities helps in building a plan of action for them. Clients want future security for what is most precious to them. Insurance can be a big part of the solution. It’s magical when a client says, “I’ve never told this to anyone before …”

Why did Barry’s message resonate so deeply with me? I didn’t understand until writing this post. It’s because my path has been so similar. Actuaries start as skilled technicians. I naively thought that what I did in head office mattered most to clients:

  • designing innovative products
  • drafting clear policy contracts
  • making accountable illustration systems

Spending the last two years in the field has shown how wrong I was. What really matters is sitting with the client, listening with your heart and creating proposals with your head.

The old man had a vision but it was hard for me to follow.
I do things my way and I pay a high price.
When I think back on the old man and the bus ride
Now that I’m older I can see he was right.
— John Mellencamp, Minutes to Memories

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