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November 28, 2023

When the going gets tough, insurers get giving

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Kevin Smith

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Reprinted with permission from PropertyCasualty360.com © 2023 ALM Global Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877-256-2472 or asset-and-logo-licensing@alm.com

Pulling back in tough times is not the right approach for our business or our society.

You see a great deal over three decades of working in an industry. The insurance industry is in a radically different place today than we were when I first started. New technology, increased collaboration and greater opportunity are just some of the ways we have grown together. One factor that has not changed, and will not change, is our dedication to those in need.

Insurance is a business rooted in helping people in their time of need. In the wake of fires, hurricanes and more, our teams move quickly to get on the scene to help individuals, families and business owners get back on their feet. The very nature of what we do is about supporting our communities – and our communities seem to need us now more than at any previous point in my 30 years in the business.

Climate change, geopolitical unrest, inflation and general economic uncertainty are challenging our communities. And these concerns come as insurers grapple with market turmoil, losses related to extreme weather events and that same economic uncertainty. These dynamics are intense and will likely continue to grow. While it may be tempting for business leaders to focus resources elsewhere in a time of economic unrest, please keep in mind those most in need also need our support all the more in these situations.

A challenging atmosphere

The culmination of these difficulties has compounded to drive economic uncertainty and exacerbate food insecurity and homelessness rates across the United States.

These headwinds are not fading. While the industry is in a strong financial position, we are not immune to the challenges insureds are experiencing. The evolving insurance market has led to capacity shortages. Higher interest rates have also certainly had an impact on balance sheets. And catastrophes continue to be an issue, as global insured natural catastrophe losses in 2023 are expected to cost more than $100 billion for the sixth time since 2017.

In such times, it may be tempting to pull back on philanthropic endeavors. However, that is not the right approach for our business or our society. We have an opportunity now to work together and create a positive narrative through positive actions. This begins with leaning in and embracing a culture of giving.

Make it personal

The best way to manifest and nurture a culture of giving is by drawing on the passions of industry colleagues and friends. We should create an environment where team members feel they are able to support causes about which they are passionate. In my work with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), we have enjoyed getting creative in our efforts to get people involved.

As a founding member of the board of IICF’s Midwest Division, I was part of a team that organized Rock for Charity, an annual music night comprised of bands filled with industry members raising funds for their nonprofits of choice while playing their favorite song lists. In our first year at the Hard Rock in Chicago, we had several bands go on stage playing their favorite sets, including our own insurance band, as one of the guitarists. The event continues to grow, as just this past year, 400 people attended the event while raising more than $100,000 for nonprofit partners.

Similarly, at Liberty Mutual, we have created a people and community first mindset. Our programs are designed to drive engagement by giving our team a range of opportunities to get involved. Our Liberty Torchbearers program encourages thousands of our employees to give, with a 100% company match, and serve nonprofit causes they care about, ranging from aiding refugees to delivering meals, mentoring youth or writing letters to military servicemen and servicewomen overseas. Last year alone, we raised $15 million between employee donations and our company match, in addition to serving almost 7,000 nonprofits. This effort comes in addition to the $50 million given to nonprofits in the community from the Liberty Foundation.

Also, through Serve with Liberty, our program offering annual days of service during work hours, and Volunteer with Liberty, our program offering volunteerism outside of work, our staff have been able to volunteer 128,000 hours in 2022 and almost 140,000 hours so far in 2023.

Developing initiatives like these helps to drive that culture of giving. Importantly, a corporate and organizational commitment to charitable giving and volunteerism should be highly visible. Leadership should not only be giving back themselves and making time to support those in need, but they should be supporting the development of programs that encourage those within the organization to make a difference.

Collaborating as an industry can also help drive a dedication to giving. Year after year, the IICF rallies together all forms of businesses in the insurance industry to work together to make a difference in our communities. For example, this month, at the IICF’s Northeast Benefit Dinner, we will gather hundreds of insurance professionals to celebrate the industry’s incredible philanthropic achievement while continuing to raise major funds, well over $1 million in one evening, for those in need in the Northeast region. Events like the Northeast Benefit Dinner provide an opportunity to celebrate progress in a fun way, all while supporting the communities we serve.

Open the doors to fun, accessible giving back opportunities

At Liberty Mutual and with the IICF, we have created a vehicle and a conduit that makes it easy and accessible for people to engage with our culture of giving back at the ground level. Employees are invited to make monetary donations and/or have easy access to volunteering options that benefit those in need among causes for which they care. We began at the base level providing staff members with a range of opportunities to get involved, whether by volunteering at a local shelter, supporting the food kitchen or donating financially to a cause near and dear to home. Building these programs gets people involved and leads to a culture that motivates good deeds.

The insurance industry has a clear opportunity to make a difference and an obligation to promote social good. We can create counter programming to today’s challenges and provide those in need with critical resources. Good work is contagious. One volunteering initiative or one donation often leads to more and more. Across the industry, if we dedicate the time and resources to build a culture of giving and provide ample opportunity for our professionals to get involved, we can provide that much needed support to communities across the nation.

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is president of Liberty Mutual Global Risk Solutions in North America. Smith will accept the IICF’s Double I award, recognizing influence in the industry and impact in the community, on behalf of Liberty Mutual at the annual IICF Northeast Benefit Dinner on November 28.


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