Do You RTFP?

I first heard about the above acronym when listening to Bill Wilson’s farewell webinar earlier this month.  For those of my readers who don’t know, Mr. Wilson was one of the founders of the IIABA’s Virtual University and has been largely responsible for its growth into one of the premier educational tools for independent insurance agents since its beginning around the turn of the century.  He is retiring from IIABA at the end of this year and for his last webinar, chose to speak about the six worst things to happen in the insurance industry during his almost 50 year involvement with it.  Mr Wilson has many interesting and thought provoking things to say about that and other subjects in his webinar, which lasts a little over an hour.  For those of you who don’t have the time for that, Mr. Wilson also wrote an article in the current IA Magazine that summarizes his thoughts about the main topic of his webinar.

The acronym RTFP recurs in many of Mr. Wilson’s observations as a cure for the bad things he sees happening in the insurance industry.  They range from the increasing belief that insurance is a commodity to the rise of disruptors who claim to have a better way to provide insurance to what he refers to as the “dumbing down” of the industry.  A response to these trends is to remind the consumer that what they are buying for their premium payment is not what appears on a TV ad or smart phone app, but what is contained in the language of the insurance policy itself.  With respect to the Farmer’s Insurance TV ad about dogs swimming in a flooded living room that was caused by a pet, Mr. Wilson made the point that after actually reading its basic homeowner’s policy, he could not find anything in the policy that would provide coverage for such an event.

By now, you have probably guessed what RTFP stands for, if you did not already know. Although it could be “Read the Fine Print”, that does not pertain specifically to the insurance industry.  The industry specific meaning is “Read the F***king Policy”, or for those who prefer a less vulgar interpretation, “Read the Freaking Policy.”  By doing so, both an agent and the consumer will realize that every insurance company’s policy is different in some way.  They may well find out that the policies of the so-called disruptors provide much less coverage than those of the established insurance companies.  What better way for an agent to convince a customer to buy a policy through him or her than to point that out and how that lack of coverage can come back to haunt the customer if the unexpected happens.

Discovering the differences in the coverage provided by both the policies that an agent sells and those of his or her competitors is at the heart of providing the “added value” that distinguishes the services of an independent insurance agent.  Providing all the coverage needed by a particular potential customer can only be done if the agent knows what coverages are provided by the policies offered by the companies he or she represents, which requires the agent to RTFP.  Being able to explain why such policies are better than those of a competitor or a disruptor also requires the agent to RTFP of those entities. (For those who would like a reminder of this essential fact, an agent in Missouri sells t-shirts with this logo here.)