The world used to be a simpler place. Yet as America’s population ages and death rates continue to rise, discussions about death have become far less taboo. People are looking for more meaningful and unique ways to remember their loved ones. Green burials, cremations, sports-themed ceremonies, digital tributes are just a few ways families establish an emotional connection with the lives and preferences of their loved ones.
The modern funeral industry is now forced to respond to these tremulous shifts. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the trend from burial to cremation is expected to climb in a sharp uptake for the next 20 years, reaching 78.8 percent of deaths by 2035. These new traditions have left leaders in the industry scouring to creatively keep up with demands and develop new ways to embrace the consumer.
Tammy Schultz, President of Assurant’s Global Preneed, is adept to this reality. Schultz, Board Chair for the Life Insurers Council, understands that the key to continued relevance in the industry is in finding a way to develop a message that resonates with the customer, crafting a path that aligns with their values.
“One of the things that I talk a lot about is relevance. Relevance as a leader, relevance in the industry. Those that embrace the fact that customers have a preference of burial or cremation and tailor options to meet their desired wishes, then the focus shifts more to the experience the customer and their family has verses whether they chose a burial or cremation. We ought to look at how they want their life celebrated.”
Schultz continues, “Those who have considered this approach in changing times, are going to be just fine.”
Empowerment and Understanding through Networking
For more than a century, LOMA’s Life Insurers Council has served as a collective of senior-level leadership for small and medium sized insurance businesses to gain insights and share ideas. Member companies can network with their peers and adapt strategies to help them run and grow their business.
Technology, marketing and risk management are among several pointed discipline areas addressed by the group. In her role as Chair of Board of Directors, Schultz has leveraged the practices of the council by targeting its approach in three ways:
- Position the council at the forefront of the industry, as an organization that helps navigate the waters of challenges and opportunities for small companies
- Allow small business owners the opportunity to leverage one another for potential solutions
- Work with vendors who can provide solutions to member organizations in the form of strategies, key customer insights and technology, to name a few
“This group is not only made up of mid and small sized insurance companies, but also different types of insurers,“ Schultz confirms. “The reality is that we have the same underlying challenges around technology, being able to execute effectively, managing through change and staying relevant.”
When managed effectively, networking is a reciprocal relationship that promises to lead to better opportunities and increased business. “It’s almost like being able to put something on Instagram or Facebook where you can put out what you want and get the right recommendation. That’s what the LIC is about, to help these small businesses get bigger and have information and best practices that they can share.”
“Our board members and membership are all part of promoting awareness of the organization. We have to get the word out. You have [these] organizations that talk about having HR issues, technology challenges, change management issues or putting together a strategy and executing on it - all problems that all companies, no matter the size, fundamentally have.”
Sharing a Vision with Purpose
Schultz’s vision for the future of the LIC is set and clear. “What excites me the most is that I think we are right at the time where our strategy and mission is solid. So now it’s about growing that membership and creating those networking opportunities.”
An increase in membership leads to more participation, deeper insights and more comprehensive best practices. That leads to more perspectives to share. “The more diverse and active members we have, the more we all benefit,” she states.
“I want to leverage people’s experiences and their realistic take on views. Then it’s up to the member companies to see how those insights may or may not relate to their business.” Schultz adds, “It’s about listening, sharing, asking questions, and actively participating that helps the pieces come together.”