Thursday, June 11, 2009

(No.32) Blogging & fighting

I was the keynote speaker last week at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (CAILBA) whose members are managing general agents.

Before I delivered my analysis and advice I shared with them a few personal comments about both blogging and fighting.  

I have spent more than three decades speaking and writing about life insurance industry issues (among other topics) within the companies by which I was employed, in my own magazine as well as in publications like the Globe and Mail. Thus when I left Sun Life at the end of 2008 I had reached the point where there were many days when I felt as if I said everything I ever wanted to say about the life insurance business and financial services -- at least twice.

And yet, once I had left my perspective changed a bit. 

I was not prepared to make the sort of commitment of time and energy necessary to restart the Canadian Journal of Life Insurance. I had started CJLI in 1978 as a spare time avocation and as my contribution to the industry's mental health. It quietly and gradually went to sleep years later as personal spare time from the demands of my employment largely disappeared. 

But I did decide that for therapeutic reasons (among others) I would start a blog: What you are now reading is my 32nd 'post' so far this year of columns on various subjects. I must admit that for me the beneficial effect has been rather like that experienced by a deep sea diver decompressing. 

Among other matters I use this blog to offer publicly to the life insurance industry opinions and advice of the sort for which I gained only sporadic agreement over the years from within life insurance companies, trade associations and the regulatory community. The continuity of such consistent disagreement I still find satisfying.

I fought many editorial battles over the years involving life companies, their managements and decisions and in particular their handling and mishandling of agency distribution -- both career agency and brokerage. A couple of months ago I was a guest lecturer at the business school of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa where I met with insurance studies students. It is not unusual in Q & A sessions to be asked how many of my 'fights' I have won. 

My answer to such a question depends for its appreciation on a hockey analogy and it is this:

I recall fondly the career of a combative NHL player of the 1970s and early 1980s named Dan Maloney. He was asked by a journalist how many of his fights he had won. His answer pretty much sums up my own view then and now: "It's not how many you win," replied Maloney, "it's how many you show up for."

It is to that attitude that I attribute both my universal popularity in the industry and having been kept out of the big money.