Column: Roger's Soapbox

Desperately Seeking Service

By: | April 7, 2017 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Every financial services provider promises first-class service. Yet, broadly speaking, the 21st century service mantra is: The customer is always wrong. And is usually a pain in the neck.

The insurance industry has somewhat unfairly had a poor reputation in this regard since the 18th century, because it only pays claims for risks it has insured, which has not proved to be a hugely popular policy.

Customers have grown accustomed to the run-around (please hold); the denial (see paragraph 14b); the refusal (claim denied); and finally, if the stars are aligned, the settlement (now go away).

These tactics often offend retail customers who live in a delusional world where they expect attention, but lawyerless and ignorant, find that when service is denied, they do not stand equal in power to the giant corporations.

It’s based on a revolutionary model: treating customers as if they were not vermin. Imagine that!

The extent to which I expect laughably poor service has been driven home to me by my bank of the past 49 years, from whom, like Rodney Dangerfield, I don’t get no respect …
— in search of which I first visited another old-style retail bank. Wait three weeks for an appointment, they said. Nah, I thought.


On a whim, I waltzed into Metro Bank, a newcomer, and breezed out half an hour later with a new checking account — and a smile.

My old bank couldn’t tell me if my debit card would be renewed, and bridled when I suggested that was no help. Metro made me a card on the spot, and I’d never been in the store before. From customer services rep Michael Jones’s window, I could see my old bank, 200 years across the road.

Metro is the first national retail bank opened in Britain in a century, apparently. It’s based on a revolutionary model: treating customers as if they were not vermin. Imagine that!

Mr. Jones was downright friendly, even charming. He called my home later, to make sure everything was OK. Experiencing actual customer service almost brought me to tears, and I’m impermeable.

Oddly, Metro Bank doesn’t refer to itself as a bank. It’s a group of stores, which is exactly what retail banks are in the here and now. It’s where people who don’t bank online obtain the necessaries. American founder Vernon W. Hill II runs the stores, which are open seven days a week. Other banks, until recently, opened for only a few hours, five days a week.

If this sounds like an ad for Metro Bank, it isn’t. Come to think of it, I had to give them money (to put in my account).

It’s banking 2.01, an industry disrupter. The hardest part for Mr. Hill must have been persuading potential investors that treating customers as if they mattered made any kind of economic sense at all.

Insurers of personal lines, take note. We, the people, are widely starved of first-class service. Offer us some, and we’re yours. Do it soon, or someone will disrupt you.

Once the dust had settled, Metro sent me a letter. It said, “Thanks for joining the revolution.” Now I’m a comrade, not a customer. Dasvidaniya. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

Cyber Threat Will Get More Difficult

Companies should focus on response, resiliency and recovery when it comes to cyber risks.
By: | April 19, 2017 • 2 min read
Topics: Cyber Risks | RIMS

“The sky is not falling” when it comes to cyber security, but the threat is a growing challenge for companies.

“I am not a cyber apocalyptic kind of guy,” said Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, who currently is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy.

Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, and principal, The Chertoff Group

“There are lots of things to worry about in the cyber domain and you don’t have to be apocalyptic to be concerned,” said Hayden prior to his presentation at a Global Risk Forum sponsored by Lockton on Sunday afternoon on the geopolitical threats facing the United States.

“We have only begun to consider the threat as it currently exists in the cyber domain.”

Hayden said cyber risk is equal to the threat times your vulnerability to the threat, times the consequences of a successful attack.

At present, companies are focusing on the vulnerability aspect, and responding by building “high walls and deep moats” to keep attackers out, he said. If you do that successfully, it will prevent 80 percent of the attackers.

“It’s all about making yourself a tougher target than the next like target,” he said.

But that still leaves 20 percent vulnerability, so companies need to focus on the consequences: It’s about response, resiliency and recovery, he said.

The range of attackers is vast, including nations that have used cyber attacks to disrupt Sony (the North Koreans angry about a movie), the Sands Casino (Iranians angry about the owner’s comments about their country), and U.S. banks (Iranians seeking to disrupt iconic U.S. institutions after the Stuxnet attack on their nuclear program), he said.

“You don’t have to offend anybody to be a target,” he said. “It may be enough to be iconic.”

The world order that has existed for the past 75 years “is melting away” and the world is less stable.

And no matter how much private companies do, it may not be enough.

“The big questions in cyber now are law and policy,” Hayden said. “We have not yet decided as a people what we want or will allow our government to do to keep us safe in the cyber domain.”

The U.S. government defends the country’s land, sea and air, but when it comes to cyber, defenses have been mostly left to private enterprises, he said.

“I don’t know that we have quite decided the balance between the government’s role and the private sector’s role,” he said.

As for the government’s role in the geopolitical challenges facing it, Hayden said he has seen times that were more dangerous, but never more complicated.

The world order that has existed for the past 75 years “is melting away” and the world is less stable, he said.

Nations such as North Korea, Iran, Russia and Pakistan are “ambitious, brittle and nuclear.” The Islamic world is in a clash between secular and religious governance, and China, which he said is “competitive and occasionally confrontational” is facing its own demographic and economic challenges.

“It’s going to be a tough century,” Hayden said.

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]