How is the image of insurers after Katrina?

I find it hard to believe I didn’t comment on this before, but apparently I didn’t.  I saved this story by Lavonne Kuykendall of Dow Jones Newswires in my feedreader about two weeks ago, evidently with the intent of writing something about it, but I never did, probably because some other excitement came along to write about and I forgot.

Now, this story is really going to disappoint the Scruggs Katrina Group, but it says State Farm’s brand is doing pretty well, better than publicly traded insurers.  Here’s an interesting fact from the story:

In Mississippi, where state Attorney General Jim Hood filed a lawsuit [in June] charging State Farm with underpaying storm victims, the insurer actually picked up market share after the storm, Freed said. That happened even though the insurer said in February it will no longer write any new homeowners or commercial property business within the state, citing the unpredictable legal environment.

Overall and unsurprisingly, however, the story says insurers’ images have taken a beating and there is recognition in the industry that work needs to be done with public perception.  It’s occurred to me that many people have general distrust and disdain for insurance companies, but that these feelings are spread across the board, rather than applied only to one insurance brand.  For example, if a policyholder believes she has been cheated out of homeowners insurance money by Company X, does that person really think that companies Y and Z are much better?  I’d say not.  Yet if you need homeowners insurance, you have to choose one of them.  So if they all sink together, it does not  produce a net loss in revenue.  It would shock me if folks in the industry haven’t thought of, analyzed and tested this phenomenon through brand strength research.

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One Response to How is the image of insurers after Katrina?

  1. RE: State Farm picking up market share.
    That was one of the most interesting things regarding Hood, and Scruggs lambasting of the “big, bad insurer”.
    Until State Farm cut it off, they were one of the few companies taking on new policies in Missippi.
    Hood wanted to make it out that State Farm was playing “hardball”, which probably played a part of the decision, but I imagine that market share played as much of a role, if not more. Yes, State Farm doesn’t like the legal environment, but they don’t want too much exposure in a catastrophe prone area either.
    Even without the legal battles, I’m guessing that State Farm would have been forced to slow down the growth in this area (i.e. stop writing new policies), just as Allstate has moved to distance itself from most of the East Coast.