By Cassie Masone
What a year 2017 was in the flood insurance business:
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season delivered 17 named storms. Ten reached hurricane strength, while six became major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That was the most major hurricanes since 2005.
2017 saw the first major hurricane to reach the continental U.S. since 2005. And for the first time, two Atlantic Category 4 hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) made landfall in the same season.
Some 8% of the U.S. population was affected by a natural disaster in 2017. Insurance Journal took a look at that number, (and other numbers, such as the $7 billion in federal disaster funds) to show the widespread impact of natural disaster risk.
What do I make of all this, working as I do for the nation’s fifth-largest flood insurance carrier? I learned a great deal in 2017 as we helped thousands of customers impacted by these storms rebuild their lives.
Rather than making new resolutions, I am carrying four priorities with me throughout 2018. I consider these to be recommitments of what I believe in as a professional serving the flood insurance marketplace:
America needs flood insurance more than ever. If you’re not on board as an insurance professional, why not? As insurance professionals, it’s up to us to deal with the reality of facts like these:
- Only 12% of American homeowners have a flood insurance policy (according to a 2016 poll by the Insurance Information Institute). This is lower than the 14% who had flood coverage in 2015.
70% of the estimated $25-$37 billion in flood damage from Hurricane Harvey in and around Houston was incurred by properties without flood insurance, according to CoreLogic’s estimate.
Commercial flood risk is too often neglected. Commercial flood insurance can and should be a key consideration for independent agents as they assess needs and make coverage recommendations for their commercial customers.
- Private flood insurance is on the rise. The federal government can’t do it all. Flood risk represents a $40 billion potential new market for private insurers in the United States, by one estimate. In 2017, the industry saw new products and new players emerge, and that can – and should – continue.
- Updating digital tools is essential. Our industry, engrained as it is in tradition, must move more relentlessly toward digital tools. Yes, we’ve made a lot of progress in agent service and communications as well as customer service and communications. I saw advances large and small this past year, ranging from streamlined processes using certified digital forms to interactive voice response systems that improve a customer’s experience. That’s all good. It’s got to continue.
- Keep the human touch. Even as the industry looks for advances in technology, it’s imperative that insurance professionals keep and foster the human touch. We work with customers who are affected by natural disasters. And recovery may take 6-12 more months before a flooding event is behind most people. It’s up to us to offer compassion and assistance to help them get their lives back to normal as soon as possible. The human touch can make the difference, even as we deliver the essential and indispensable benefits of flood insurance.
What commitment(s) or recommitment(s) do you have as an insurance professional for 2018?
Cassie Masone is Vice President, Flood Insurance Operations, for Selective Insurance Company of America (selective.com), a super-regional property-casualty insurance carrier providing commercial lines and personal lines coverage’s through independent agent partners and excess & surplus lines distribution partners.