Blog

The secret to our success

I just finished reading Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short”, which deals with the fascinating and ultimately devastating details of the subprime mortgage trading industry and how it brought our financial system to its knees. Lewis describes how financial institutions created and sold worthless derivatives simply because they could make a lot of money doing it – at the expense of their investors and inevitably many of their own organizations. They were fueled by greed and hubris, with little thought or concern for anything else.

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Cloud Computing

If you follow technology trends you have probably heard how “cloud computing” is going to take over the world. Cloud computing is an exciting concept that is changing the computer industry, but because it has been with us so long and in so many forms it is difficult to differentiate from what we are already doing and how it might truly change systems already in place.

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No Quick Fix

In this Podcast Doug Pullman, a member of the Parker, Smith & Feek marketing team, describes the planning and process this top 100 broker went through to prepare for their launch into the world of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and blogging. Doug discusses the very deliberate and measured approach the brokerage took, the importance of getting not only support but participation by senior management, and how success is tied to having a unified and comprehensive strategy.
Doug explains that the agency goal was to use social networking to help customers and prospects build a personal and emotional connection with the broker. They knew that they needed to be where 25% of their customer base was – the social web. His advice to other agencies wanting to tap into the opportunity the social web offers: take it slow, learn from others, and add your own voice. – From Insurance Journal

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What makes you happy?

I was having lunch with a client recently and we were talking about how tough the economy is today. Given all these challenges, I asked, “What makes you happy, what gives you a sense of fulfillment?” She said, “it’s all about making a difference in the lives of our customers, our community and our employees”. She gave me a current example. She is the wellness champion in their company and she believes their efforts to promote healthy lifestyles among their employees has saved lives.
Irrespective of the challenges we all face in business (and in life) we still have the power to make a difference. That was a huge motivation to Parker, Smith & Feek in launching our own company wellness initiative three years ago. In case you’re not familiar with the wellness concept, it is using the workplace to actively promote and educate healthy lifestyles. We’ve gotten traction and had some fun and success, but still fully half of our employees don’t participate in this voluntary program.
Clearly, it doesn’t resonate with everyone and I know some wonder why we bring this issue into the workplace. My answer is simple: First, we care about the health and well being of our staff, and if we can change a few lives (and I believe we have already) it will be well worth it. Second, a big part of our business is consulting on employer provided health benefits. Wellness, we feel, is a key strategy to managing the cost of healthcare on a long term basis. How can we consult on what we don’t do ourselves?
Of Steven Covey’s famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, my favorite habit has always been, “Begin with the end in mind.” Perhaps the greatest legacy any business can have isn’t the products or services they provide, but how they give back to their employees, their families, and their community, and in the process make their part of the world a little better.

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Passport to Wellness

Late last week we finished our latest Wellness challenge. Employees were challenged to complete 6 out of 14 activities such as, losing 5% body weight; lowering our BMI to 25 or lower; participating in one of the local community walking/running events; having our annual physical or dental exam. There were smaller but just as challenging tasks such as drinking 8 glasses of water 5 days per week; exercising 30 minutes a day or sleeping for 8 hours at least 4 days each week.
75 employees completed the 6 week challenge, with some departments adding their own internal challenges.  Two creative ideas that encouraged participation included a “Chairiot” race around the office and a “No eating out for lunch” challenge.
The level of participation was outstanding; now we have to wait for the next exciting wellness challenge!

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Compliance Alert – No COBRA Subsidy Extension

Yesterday (Thursday 7/22/2010) Congress passed, and the President has signed, The Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010 (H.R.4213). The Act does not include an extension of the COBRA subsidy. Without the extension individuals terminated after May 31, 2010 are not eligible for the COBRA subsidy. Eligible individuals, whose COBRA event was an involuntary termination prior to that date, are still eligible for the subsidy for up to 15 months.

Some legislators are attempting to bring forward separate legislation to extend the COBRA subsidy so stay tuned. However, political interest in another extension seems to be diminishing as the economy continues to improve , albeit slowly.

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…let’s take the rest of the summer off to read the Dodd-Frank Act!

Mid July saw BP’s runaway oil well in the Gulf finally capped, but with clear warnings that the mounting drill pipe pressure poses new challenges, the Dodd-Frank Act (2,500 pages of financial reform) that was recently passed in the senate also poses some new challenges – reading it first, and then implementing it!

The legislation requires regulators to write hundreds of new rules and conduct numerous studies which could itself launch a new job creation program and help lower unemployment, at least in DC.

The 2Q10 earnings season arrived with some banks reporting higher earnings mostly due to revenues from higher credit card fees and revised downward estimates on problem mortgage loans.

Major Banks are estimating that this new legislation will reduce its future earnings by 11%. One bank, Bank of America, has even started using a five letter acronym “GUEST” for G ’genuine welcome’, U ‘undivided attention’, E ‘empowered’, S solutions and T for ‘thank you’. Is this the new regulatory climate which apparently requires treating customers differently as it seeks to pass thru new fees to offset the loss in revenue?

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Gadget Distractions

Individually we can justify nearly any gadget use and thanks to new technology the world has become a gadget superhighway that has no barriers. However, this new world in information access has many of us asking exactly what the limits should be. Just because our technology allows us to electronically connect no matter where we are does not necessarily make it okay to do so.

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Visit BAM for Free!

Parker, Smith & Feek is once again pleased to be a supporting sponsor of the Bellevue Art Museum’s artsfair. Our support means that admission to the Museum will be free Friday through Sunday, July 23rd, 24th and 25th during the fair.

The 64th annual artsfair will be held at the Bellevue Arts Museum and at Bellevue Square. 325 exhibitors will offer unique, handmade arts & crafts that are seldom seen anywhere else. Media include drawing/pastels, fiber, furniture, glass, jewelry, metal work, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, wearable and wood.

For more information please visit: http://www.bellevuearts.org/fair/index.htm

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Summer finally hits the Pacific Northwest

After several months of rain we are finally seeing a prolonged period of warm summer weather. I always find it funny that some of us in the Pacific Northwest will lament about the rain and cold weather for months, but if the temperature raises to above 80 for more than a couple of days, there will be people complaining about the heat as well.

We seem to forget that we need a good mix of both sun and rain to create all of the lavish green surroundings that we all cherish.

This reminds me a little of purchasing insurance, as we can lose sight of the long-term picture.

During my career I have never seen the focus on price so heightened as it is during today’s tough economic times. And while I understand the need to focus on price, we continue to ensure that our account teams also keep focused on other variables such as claims service, contract language and risk management support that combine to make a robust insurance program.

Our mission is to “guide our clients to make informed risk management decisions and develop innovative insurance, surety and employee benefits solutions uniquely suited to their needs”. This includes looking at all variables that allows us to advise clients on both the short-term and long-term aspects of your insurance program.

Enjoy the weather, and let’s hope that it lasts just a little bit longer.

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Happy Fourth of July

 
Six months into the New Year we find the insurance marketplace and the economy just as challenging as we predicted. It seems many of our clients are still shedding jobs and are not seeing any indication of substantial change this year or next. Coupled with what we see on the news these days, it’s easy to feel depressed. Still, there are many positive things happening that give me encouragement. One that especially struck me.
My family attended a wedding recently. We have been good friends of the bride’s family for 25 years and watched her grow up. She and her new husband had both graduated from the Naval Academy just the week before. The wedding party and the guests were full of recent Academy graduates. The minister – who was also the father of the groom – took a few minutes during the ceremony to introduce these extraordinary young people, including the duty assignments to which they would soon be reporting. Surface warfare, aviation, submarines, Marine Corp. Looking at them filled you with a sense of optimism about the future of our country and the quality of our next generation.
In the 73 years PS&F has been in business we have seen some difficult times and conditions. I firmly believe these too shall pass. I like to think of business, like life, as a sine wave. It has its ups and downs and you learn not to live at the top or the bottom of the wave for it is ever changing. Great things are happening, even in this environment, and it’s important that we don’t overlook them.
Happy 4th of July. I hope for you, your business, and your family that the wave is trending up.

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This Boomer to go out Tweeting

Parker, Smith & Feek’s launch into the world of social media has highlighted more clearly the delineation of the generations within our firm. Not surprisingly those of us nearing the end of our careers are skeptical of any benefit. This is the same group, however, that championed the purchase of the first personal computer, the first fax machine, and introduced voice mail. Time has a way of taking the pioneering spirit out of us and it is hard to imagine how Facebook will help my golf swing in retirement.
The Gen Xer’s are at peace and accepting of social media, they tend to focus on the policies that govern its office use (many of them have dealt with their children’s use of the internet and communications technologies), if it will add any additional expenses to operations, and how to leverage the technology to improve the bottom line.
The Millenials seem mildly annoyed that we are making any fuss over the launch at all, then yawn and go back to texting their lunch appointment. They do bring up one significant point in that they will one day be the leaders of the firm and their peers will be our CLIENTS, and their style of communication will be very different than that of letters and phone calls.
But at all ages, each of us agrees that Parker, Smith & Feek has a tradition of being an early adopter of technologies and it is in this vein that we are embracing the social media channels as tools to tell our story. We enjoy a distinct and unique place in the insurance brokerage world and if can share our way of doing business with a wider audience and learn to communicate in new ways, then bring on the tweets.

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