Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Unveiling Our New TV Ads!

Here's a first look at our new TV ads!

Each ad comes in two parts. Each part is 15 seconds long, with the parts designed to bookend around a 30 second commercial by a different advertiser.

This is the first part of our firefighters ad:

And the second:

Now, the first part of our teachers ad:

And the second:

We're currently developing a law enforcement ad as well.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Philosophical Man in Blue

When a police officer chronicles their profession, one usually expect a fair amount of cops and robbers, good guys and bad guys. Some action, some drama, some excitement. Not a lot of intense reflection.

Unless you're Phil.

Phil, last name not given, is a patrol officer in Los Angeles. Hardly the easiest city to protect and serve. Yet he does so, taking time to record his thoughts on Twitter and his blog.

Phil writes with a dry wit that at first glance can come off as disaffected, yet upon further review reveals a level of thought seldom seen. He doesn't blog often, but when he does it's a treasure trove of expressed ideas and philosophy. For example:
The content of what I'm writing, the idea I'm toying with, is all expressed in the words you're reading on this page. And yet, imagine if I stripped out every period, comma, and paragraph spacing. Imagine how tedious and frustrating it would be to read without punctuation. Our holidays, whichever we choose, are the punctuation in our years. They are the pauses, the breaths, the dividers and emphasizers in our lives.
Another post talks about the futility of seeking revenge:
I think some people I deal with crave any form of power or control they can find in their own spheres of influence (in fact, this phenomenon takes place in various forms in any class or culture, I'm sure). The victim suffered a lack of control in being victimized, but in stoking the fires of a grudge, they've suddenly transformed it into power. They're the ones pulling their own strings now and the more passion they can wring from the offense, the longer they can keep that illusion of control.
Phil doesn't post very often in his blog: two, maybe three times a month. Each one, though, is a gem. Can't recommend his writing enough.

Monday, December 20, 2010

More Photos From Our Upcoming TV Ads

As mentioned last Thursday, we're filming some new television commercial to debut next year. Here are some more photos from filming:

Some photos from the filming of CSE's new commercials. Each commercial will feature either a firefighter, teacher or police officer talking about the advantages of being insured through CSE.

On this day (Wednesday December 15th), all parties took advantage of the sunshine to film the firefighter commercial.

The director checks the sound levels.

Almost there!

The firefighter relaxes between takes...

... and studies the script.

VP of Market Strategy & Business Development Matt Hull channels his inner Cecil B. DeMille as he checks out the sound and picture.


More filming.

And more filming!

Friday December 17th, while the weather outside was frightful - it poured rain all day - inside it was a perfect time to film the teacher ad.

Another view of the teacher ad set.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some Snapshots From Our Super-Secret Photo Shoot

Actually, it's part of our next round of television ads! More details coming soon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fruitcake From... When?

It sounds strange, but in many countries around the world fruitcake is a highly prized dessert. In the United States it's a fate worse than death.

Many a story has been told about the longevity of fruitcake, this stemming from two reasons: the lengthy shelf life fruit enjoys when treated with high concentrations of sugar, and the even lengthier life cake itself enjoys when soaked in brandy or variations thereof. This has led to many an interesting moment over the years when tee-totaling family members suddenly break into a rousing chorus of "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" shortly after dessert.

The unquestioned king, or queen, of fruitcakes belongs to the Ford family, no known relation to Henry Ford. The story goes that late in 1878 - yes, 1878, not 1978 - one Fidelia Ford baked her annual fruitcake for her children and grandchildren, with the idea it would be served the following Thanksgiving as many believe a properly preserved fruitcake improves with age. Alas, Filedia shuffled off this mortal coil prior to Thanksgiving 1879, one of the results being her grieving family deciding they would set her fruitcake aside until the following year as they couldn't bear to consume this memento. Next year, same thing. And the next. And the next. And the next. Next thing you knew... well, suffice it to say the fruitcake is still with us, something that anyone who's ever tried to actually eat one usually says for several hours afterward.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Should A Line Be Drawn When Looking At An Employee's Online Life?

As has been mentioned here several times, we're a big fan of social media. When used properly, it is a valuable tool to keep in touch with agents and insureds alike. The ease of instant communication through Facebook and Twitter make them perfect for the dissemination of information, along with views of and opinions on the topics of the day.

The issue of privacy online is a constant theme in social media circles. When someone posts something on the Internet, unless it is encrypted or hidden behind passwords and such it is out there for anyone who runs across it to do with as they please. Youth is constantly reminded to be more circumspect on what they share, and with whom.

Where things become clearer is in usage of social media by employees of any given company. When you're on the company network, the company has the right to monitor online activity to ensure their employees are not involved in illegal or time-wasting practices when they're on the clock. Some privacy advocates have cried foul, but the general acceptance is an employer is fully within its to keep tabs on, and if need be prevent, certain online behaviors.

But what about potential employees?

A recent article in Insurance Journal examines how some companies specialize in the burgeoning field of online background checks. It searches for information posted in any one of several forums -- Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (yes, it still exists), blogs, comments on other people's blogs, message boards and so on -- to see if there is anything that indicates whether a given individual is someone worth hiring.

The problem is at what point does this cross over into an invasion of privacy. Does an employer, current or potential, have the right to use material posted online by a current or potential employee that is unrelated to the job as a consideration in regard to that job? The argument goes like this: if you and your friends quaffed a few last weekend, and someone grabbed their phone to snap some pictures and put them up somewhere, recording how things got a little crazy, unless you show up hung over, or don't show up at all, for your next scheduled day at the office is it anyone's concern but yours? The counter argument is that an employer has the right to know if an employee's off-duty habits are detrimental to their work performance, therefore it is acceptable to look around and see what people are up to on their free time.

What do you think? Is an employee's online life away from work something in which an employer should take interest? Or is it no one's concern but the individual? Leave a comment and let us know your opinion.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Presenting The Winners In Our 1st Annual Holiday Card and Calendar Contest!

There were a lot of tough calls, but here are the four youthful masterpieces that we're grateful to have adorn our holiday cards this year!

Grace Borg
Age 6
Daughter of Kyle Borg
Allegiance Alliance
Glendale, AZ
Isabella Rose Fraher
Age 6 1/2
Granddaughter of Bob Fraher
Philip J. Fraher and Company
San Francisco, CA
Sabrina Katarjian
Age 11
Daughter of Mireille Mary Katarjian
United Agencies, Inc.
Pasadena, CA
Melodie Lo
Age 9
Daughter of Ada Tang
All Homes Insurance Services
San Jose, CA

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Getting Ready To Select The Winners In Our 1st Annual Holiday Card and Calendar Contest!

We're approaching time to vote for our winners in our 1st Annual Holiday Card and Calendar Contest!

It's going to be a tough call as well have several excellent entries. Submitted for your consideration are the final two entries received:


Winners will be announced shortly!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If These Don't Warm Your Heart, Charles Dickens Wrote A Book About You

Check out these entries in our 1st Annual Holiday Card and Calendar Contest!

You can get the full details on the contest here.

A Slightly Unusual Auto Policy

A recent news article in Insurance Journal notes that Hulk Hogan has added his ex-wife in a lawsuit against his insurance broker for failing to adequately protect his fortune. Seems said broker neglected to mention to the Hulkster that given his wealth, an umbrella policy might be in order.

Although the case itself isn't all that interesting, it does bring up the issue of special insurance needs held by members of certain professions, which would no doubt cause some interesting moments should they come by an office to buy a policy. For example:

"Now, sir, I understand you'd like to purchase an auto policy with us."

"That is correct."

"And you say the car in question is an Aston Martin."


"Well, luxury sports cars do require a high premium, but I'll be glad to help you. I'll just need some basic information. The license plate number?"

"Which one?"

"Um... you car has more than one license plate?"

"Yes, it has several."

"Isn't that a bit unusual?"

"Well, I rotate them depending on where I am."

"I see. Now on your application form, sir, you indicated the car has some modifications that might require additional endorsements."


"Very well, let's take a look here... you want coverage for ancillary damage from weaponry?"

"Quite. Despite all efforts to avoid it, there are times when a missile or bullet might go astray."

"Your car shoots missiles and guns?"


"Sir, we don't insure military vehicles."

"Oh, I assure you it's not a military vehicle. Just a sports car."

"Do all sports cars come equipped with rocket launchers?"

"It is an unfortunate necessity in my line of work."

"Um... of course. Now, you say you also need a boat policy?"


"Very well then... name of boat manufacturer?"

"Aston Martin."

"Sir, Aston Martin doesn't make boats."

"I know. It's for the car."

"The car is a boat?"

"It has that capacity, yes."

"Sir, is this some kind of joke?"

"Oh, no. I'm quite serious. The car can be used as a boat if need be."

"Er... very well, sir. Now, it says here you're not interested in the glass replacement coverage."


"The reason being?"

"Bulletproof glass. Quite indestructible."

"But of course, sir. Oh, your name please?"

"Bond. James Bond."

"I should have known."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How To Argue

Given that we're all human, there will come a time or two (or three or four or more) when we'll find ourselves in an argument with someone else. It happens.

The question is how best to handle an argument. Which probably sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, since we're often taught the best method with which to approach disagreements is avoiding them. Certainly we should try to skip needless arguments. However, people being people disagreements will arise. How to handle them?

Author Barry Eisler recently offered some suggestions:

  • Insults and the Golden Rule. Speak to the other person in the manner to which you wish to be spoken. Lay off the sarcasm.
  • No one cares about your opinion. This sounds harsh, but it is often the case. Argue with logic, reason and facts as your basis, not "want to know what I think?"
  • Your ego is your enemy. The moment you make an argument about yourself, or take things too personally, you're tap-dancing in a minefield. Remain detached.
  • Good argument is good conversation. Keep the tone and demeanor warm. As my Mom often said, you catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar.
  • Avoid false binaries. If you employ an either/or scenario in your argument, make sure it's logically and factually sound. "Either we lower taxes or the blue meanies will invade Pepperland" notions should be avoided.
  • Avoid sham arguments. A prime example of this is using a truism as the basis of your argument. This is a none-too transparent way of saying the person you're arguing with is so dense they can't grasp basic facts. Refer back to the first rule. You don't score points by insinuating the other person is a moron. Also, avoid the straw man technique, which consists of creating someone or something to first attach to the argument, then attack, that has no genuine bearing on the subject at hand.
  • Avoid cliches. They speak of only unoriginality. If you can't come up with anything fresh to express your point of view, why should you expect the other person to accept your point of view as something other than a rehash?
  • Don't digress. Stay on target.
  • Separate the subjective from the objective. Don't dispute the other person's opinion. They have as much right to one as you. Instead, focus on facts.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Risks Of Public Service

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil servants run a significantly higher risk of job-related injuries than private employees. 1.85% of public employees require time away from the job due to workplace-related injuries and/or illnesses, as compared to 1.06% for private firms.

The occupations with the highest occurrence of workplace-related injuries and/or illnesses are:

  • Transit and intercity bus drivers

  • Law enforcement officers

  • Emergency response workers, such as firefighters

  • Nursing aides and orderlies

Understandable, given the natures of said professions.

Yet another reminder of why CSE serves the people who serve the people.

They deserve it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Risks Of Public Service

Picking up from yesterday:

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil servants run a significantly higher risk of job-related injuries than private employees. 1.85% of public employees require time away from the job due to workplace-related injuries and/or illnesses, as compared to 1.06% for private firms.

The occupations with the highest occurrence of workplace-related injuries and/or illnesses are:

  • Transit and intercity bus drivers
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Emergency response workers, such as firefighters
  • Nursing aides and orderlies

Understandable, given the natures of said professions.

Yet another reminder of why CSE serves the people who serve the people.

They deserve it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are Public Employees At Greater Risk On The Job Than Private Employees?

Given our string connection with public employees, here's a note of interest. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil servants have a much higher rate of workplace-related injuries than workers in the private sector.

More on this tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tips For Saving Money During The Holidays (And All Year 'Round)

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them the one thought that consumes hearts and minds across the land:

How am I going to pay for all this stuff?

Short of giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to your MasterCard, one way to beat the holiday budget blues is by tightening up elsewhere. Naturally, this means you can afford to spend more on others, who in return will do the same for you. Either that, or you can make them feel like a heel throughout the upcoming year.

Here, according to the fine folk at WalletPop, are ten areas in which you can save some serious scratch by going the do-it-yourself route:

  • Text messaging. Unless you text a ton and have an unlimited plan, those OMG's will leave you saying just that when you get the bill. According to the Chicago Tribune, the average phone carrier realizes a profit of 6,000% on each message. Which is nothing to LOL about when you're paying for it.

  • Bottled water. No, this isn't some PC environmental deal, although that does figure into the matter. It's more the 4,000% markup we pay every time we buy a bottle of water instead of drinking from the tap. Granted, sometimes there's little choice in the matter. However, whenever possible grab a glass or refillable bottle.

  • Popcorn at a movie theater. Yes, eating popcorn while watching the latest flick is almost mandatory behavior. But the 1,275% markup should be enough to make anyone decide they can live without for a couple of hours.

  • Brand name prescription drugs. Unless there is no generic for whatever your doctor prescribes, always ask for the generic. In the past year, brand name drugs have increased in price by an average of 10% while generics have had a price decrease. Add this to the already far higher cost of brand names (anywhere from 200% to 3,000%)... you get the idea.

  • Mini bar in a hotel room. Unless shelling out a 300% to 400% markup is your idea of a fun time, do not open that door!

  • Coffee. No, no one's suggesting you abstain altogether from the stuff. (Unless you're like me and allergic to caffeine. But I digress.) No, where to steer clear is coffee shops. At a 300% markup over what you'd pay to brew a cup at home, a thermos would be a wise investment.

  • Wine at a restaurant. If ever you wanted a reason to stop drinking, the 300% markup should do the trick.

  • Greeting cards. 200% markup, or sending someone a hand-written note? Your call.

  • In-room movies at a hotel. At a 200% markup, you're better off watching the local news. Or movies on your laptop.

  • Pre-cut fruit and vegetable platters. Save 40% by doing your own chopping, slicing and dicing.

Now, there is one area the story missed...

  • Not having both your Auto and Homeowners insurance with CSE. Do you really want to miss out on taking 14% off your Auto policy and 10% off your Homeowners policy? Didn't think so.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Things You Can Do On Twitter

One of the more popular hobbies for folk on Twitter is the hashtag game. On Twitter, a hashtag (#) when placed directly in front of a word, or words strung together into one, creates a link which when selected will pull up a list of all tweets by all users who have the hashtag in one of their tweets. As an example, if you have a Twitter account (and if not, you need one), try searching the hashtag #insurance sometime. You'll get some interesting results.

The game aspect of hashtags comes when someone makes up one and it catches on. Occasionally they can be rather risque, but for the most part they're harmless.

One that's been going around today is #tweetyour16yearoldself. It's a way of doing what we all wish we could do; namely, warn ourselves about what we should and shouldn't do during our hazy, crazy teen years. It's also providing the opportunity for some rather witty statements:

  • Do NOT alienate that history teacher! It will cost you an extra year of high school. You never listen. Ever.

  • I think if I could just meet Rick Springfield, he'd see we were meant to be together! (Good Grief!)

  • Try being a miserable teenager now instead of when you're 20 - it's much more socially acceptable.

  • It gets better... but your hair doesn't.

  • Keep putting money into $AAPL and don't sell. Trust me on this one.

  • Irrespective of what your PE report suggests, learning to throw & catch is not an essential life skill.

  • For the September 4th, 1986 lottery drawing, have Mom buy a ticket with the numbers 3-14-17-23-39-47.

  • Keep the supermodelling up. You'll need something to fall back on if the neuroscience & astrophysics don't work out.

  • Write a novel about a boy wizard learning magic at an old British boarding school.

  • Keep ALL of your old video games and consoles. No point buying them twice, you idiot.

  • Trust me, you'll be glad you grew up before the age where everyone has a cellphone camera & twitter account.

And my favorite thus far:

  • #tweetyour16yearoldself has reminded me of what a self-pitying, self-righteous, whiny, know-it-all little snot I was at 16.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day is Cupcakes and Cocktails Time -- Honest

As you hopefully know, today is Election Day across the nation.

The privilege of being allowed to freely select those who hold positions in government is not one to be taken lightly. Many a soldier, sailor, Marine and airman over the past two hundred and thirty years has paid the ultimate price so we can vote for the candidate of our choice. And then complain about them all the way up to the next election.

And if you don't vote, turn in your 'right to complain' card immediately.

A few enterprising individuals have added culinary enticements to the appeal to vote. For example, locations of The Counter hamburger chain are offering a free side of fries today with proof of voting, otherwise known as your "I Voted" sticker. Meanwhile, assorted bars in San Francisco (I'm personally amazed they have anything left to serve after last night, but whatever) are offering fifty cent drink specials to people who've voted. For those whose taste run more toward frosting than the foam atop a glass of beer, various shops are devoted to enticing your sweet tooth with the offer of a free cupcake upon proof of voting.

In any case, free food or not... please vote. Thanks!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

CSE Insurance With IICF Serving The People

Bob Pick was kind enough to provide some details of this year's volunteer efforts on behalf of IICF.

On Thursday the 21st of October, 13 of us went to the Alameda County Community Food Bank. The food bank distributes food to other agencies in Alameda County, who then feed the needy. Our job was to bag a few carrots. 2500 pounds of them to be precise. They brought in about four boxes of loose carrots, grown specifically for the food bank. We put the carrots into bags, and put them into other boxes, after tying off the ends - the hardest part of the job. Lori Velasco and I thank everyone for a job well done.

Those who participated at the food bank were Lana Hee, John Conduracki, Craig Martinelli, Keenan Wong, Lori Velasco, Nick Chuinklin, Melissa Frasier, Antonette Caren, Sebastian Lopez, Maureen Boesch, Gigi Rayos, Ken Grant, and Bob Pick.

Special thanks go to John Conduracki and Craig Martinelli for providing rides to those who needed them, even going out of their ways, sometimes by intent.

The previous day, a smaller group including Tony Razo, Gordon Ching and I went to near the Caldecott Tunnel to the Gateway Gardens Vegetation project - in the area of the Oakland Hills Fire. We took a pile of mulch and spread it around to prevent growth of fireweed and other burnable plants. These guys worked hard - shoveling mulch into wheelbarrows, taking the wheelbarrows where the mulch was needed, and spreading it out. In just 3 hours, we got rid of a dump truck's worth of mulch.

A few photos from Thursday's carrot caper:

The gang gathers for a group photo. (L to R) Maureen Bosch, Melissa Frasier, John Conduracki, Craig Martinelli, Ken Grant, Bob Pick, Keenan Wong, Gigi Rayos, Lana Hee, Nick Chuinklin, Lori Velasco, Antonette Caren (Sebastian Lopez was hiding).

Lori, Gigi and Antonette smilingly note how much faster their box is emptying than...

... the one belonging to Nick, Keenan and Ken.

Ken silently reminds Nick and Maureen that if he hears "what's up doc" one more time...

John and Lana bag away.

See? There really is a bottom of the box!

Nick's future is so bright he's gotta wear shades.

One more group photo, this time with Sebastian.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't forget our Holiday Card and Calendar Design Contest!

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

One of those "talk about that in order to talk insurance" posts, so please bear with.

There's been word of some sporting event taking place tomorrow in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anyone heard about that? I know the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils are playing tomorrow night in San Jose...

Seriously, it is well nigh impossible to go anywhere or do anything up here without being reminded the Giants are in the World Series. Orange and black are the colors du jour, and at least one-fifth of the population in these parts know how to spell Lincecum. Whether they know who he is is a matter of debate. But one thing at a time.

The problem with all the excitement is that for those of us who every time we hear the phrase "your San Francisco Giants" immediately reply "they ain't mine," the hype is highly distracting from assorted tasks at hand. Like, oh, this election thing coming up next Tuesday? If the Series goes to a Game Six, be thankful it'll be the day after or else all campaigns in the City by the Bay will have to be decided by coin toss due to lack of ballots cast.

Luckily, I have the aforementioned Sharks-Devils game to fill time tomorrow evening, although given how it'll be starting when the baseball game will be drawing to a close I imagine the only people paying attention to hockey when the puck drops will be me and hopefully the players. The rest of the time? I'm predicting a lot of reading, or guitar practice or similar activities.

Anyway, went through all of the above to discuss the danger of preoccupation.

We all get carried away with, at various points in time, certain events to the exclusion of most everything else in life. Which is okay. To a point. However, we must never allow ourselves the unaffordable luxury of sailing blissfully and merrily along, living solely in whatever moment is most appealing. Life happens regardless of whether we approve. Or appreciate the interruption.

Be prepared. That's where we come in.

That all said, sometimes we do need to blow off some steam...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Penalty For Honesty

It's happened more than a few times. I've been in conversation with someone I've either just met, or know through casual contact online or elsewhere. The dialog goes something like this...

"So, where do you work?"

"It's an insurance company."

"Oh." At which point the room temperature suddenly drops a few degrees.

There is definitely a reality gap when it comes to popular conceptions -- misconceptions, really -- and the truth about insurance companies. I'd like to dispel a few myths:

No, our role model isn't Snidely Whiplash.

We do not in our spare time tie the heroine to the railroad tracks just before foreclosing the mortgage on the orphanage, preferably in the middle of a snowstorm.

We pet puppies and kitties. In fact, most of us are diehard animal lovers who own dogs and cats. Well, in the case of the latter owned by them.

We did not invent disco, polyester leisure suits or the Macarena.

We cannot pay off the national debt with our pocket change.

We do not have piranha in our fish tanks, nor did we root for the shark in "Jaws." Although the Sharks did win tonight (shameless plug for my team).

Our customer service representatives do not have a running contest to see how long they can leave someone on hold.

We don't get our jollies out of denying claims.

We don't know where Waldo is either.

Yes, sometimes there is a penalty for honesty when you tell people the truth about insurance. But we've learned to live with it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Remember the joy of coloring books?

This might sound like a rather odd title for an insurance company blog post, but allow me to explain.

Every year, we send out holiday cards in December. Starting last year, we also send a calendar to our agents.

This year, we're kicking it up a notch. Instead of the usual photos and what not, we're letting you design our holiday card and 2011 calendar!

Well, not you specifically. The calendar contest is for children 12 and younger who are either the children or grandchildren of agents, or employees of an agency, that are appointed with CSE. The holiday card contest is for children 12 and younger who are either the children or grandchildren of a CSE employee or the children or grandchildren of agents, or employees of an agency, that are appointed with CSE.

Here's how it works:

    1. The contest will run from November 1st through November 15th.

    2. The Calendar contest will be open to all children and grandchildren, aged 12 and under, for all employees of CSE appointed agencies.

    3. The Holiday Card contest will be open to all children and grandchildren, aged 12 and under, for all employees of CSE and all employees of CSE appointed agencies.

    4. Design criteria:

      - The holiday card designs should be of a generic holiday theme.

      - The calendar designs should feature one or more of our targeted Educator, Law Enforcement and Firefighter occupations.

      - Designs must be on a white, unlined piece of 8.5”x11” paper and may be in black and white or color (color preferred).

    5. Each child/ grandchild is allowed only one (1) entry for the holiday card and only one (1) entry for the calendar.

    6. It is preferable that the designs be sent unfolded.

    7. Designs must be postmarked no later than Monday, November 15th to be eligible.

    8. Please submit all designs to:

      CSE Insurance

      Attention: Corporate Communications

      2121 N. California Blvd., Ste. 555

      Walnut Creek, CA 94596-3501

    9. Please include child/ children’s name and age, CSE appointed agents name, agency, and contact information (address and phone number) on all designs submitted.

    10. All designs will become the property of CSE and will not be returned to the participant.

    11. Winners will be selected on Friday, November 19th, by the Corporate Communications Department, located in the Walnut Creek office.

    12. CSE will select the winners based on the design criteria explained above. A total of four (4) holiday cards and twelve (12) calendar designs will be selected.

    13. All designs will also be posted on CSE’s Facebook page ( http://tinyurl.com/cse-facebook ). CSE’s fans will be able to “like” their favorite designs through Friday, November 19th.

    14. The name, age, and parent of the winner plus the parent’s agency will be printed on the card and calendar.

    15. All winners of both the holiday cards and calendar designs will receive a $25 Toys R Us® gift card. Please allow up to 4 weeks for delivery of the gift card.

    16. The design (combination of holiday and calendar designs) that receives the highest number of “likes” on CSE’s Facebook page, will also receive a $25 Toys R Us® gift card.

Please allow up to 4 weeks for delivery of the gift card.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Makes An Effective Ad?

Other than a truly awesome voiceover, of course:

Raging ego aside, what makes an effective ad?

For me, the key is often humor. A couple of excellent examples from NASCAR:

And a non-NASCAR classic from earlier this year:

Finally, what is commonly regarded as the most memorable television commercial ever made. Little known secret: it was aired only once.

Friday, October 8, 2010

You're #1 With Us

Some companies say their customers are #1. We prove it!

Starting today, we’ve lowered the down payment requirement on all new Auto policies in California, paid for through EFT, from three months to one!

Now, the quality and peace of mind that comes through insuring your car through CSE is even more affordable!

CSE. Where you are #1 every day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wonder How That Claim Worked Out

One evening in 2001, a doctor in Australia, who was also a pilot, prepared to make a night flight over water. Unfortunately, when he attempted to start his plane, he discovered it had a dead battery.

Undaunted, the doctor decided to to things the old-fashioned way and start the engine by hand-turning the propeller. Unfortunately, it worked.

While the doctor avoided being sliced and diced, he now faced the dilemma of realizing he had managed to start the plane without the handbrake being engaged. For the plane's part, it dutifully started taxying down the runway...

... with the pilot hanging on to the tail for dear life.

The plane, left to its own devices, merrily chugged down the runway blissfully unaware of anyone or anything in its path. Thankfully, there was no one else around.

However, there was another plane in the area...

His insurer was out around $1.5 million.

The doctor later went to court, claiming that the handbrake was indeed engaged at the time he started the plane.

No word on how that came out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

California Residential Property Bill of Rights (With Commentary)

Although the California state legislature remains thoroughly incapable of passing a budget, it has managed to get more than a few bills through to Governor Schwarzenegger's desk for his yea or nay. A few days ago, he said yea -- well, signed anyway -- a bill related to how property insurance in California is sold.

The bill, AB2022, takes effect on July first of 2011. It reads as follows... actually, it's rather dry reading material. So...

Instead, in our never-ending effort to make insurance more enjoyable for all, here is the new California Residential Property Bill of Rights. It must be given to all purchasers for residential property insurance starting July 1, 2011. Minus the, shall we say, editorial comments added:

California Residential Property Insurance Bill of Rights

A consumer is entitled to receive information regarding homeowner's insurance.

Honest, just ask us. We'll tell you what it's about!

The following is a limited overview of information that your insurance company can provide:

Note the word "limited." As opposed to "unlimited," which is often used in conjunction with "imagination." As in the unlimited imagination some people use in believing what insurance covers.

The insurance company's customer service telephone number for underwriting, rating, and claims inquiries.

Sorry, pizza delivery not included.

A written explanation for any cancellation or nonrenewal of your policy.

Please ignore the urban legend about how grounds for canceling a policy includes owning a Justin Bieber CD.

A copy of the insurance policy.

No, there isn't a coloring book version.

An explanation of how your policy limits were established.

Which, contrary to public opinion, did not involve the usage of an Ouija board.

In the event of a claim, an itemized, written scope of loss report prepared by the insurer or its adjuster within a reasonable time period.

Please note that "reasonable" does not mean five minutes after the claim is filed.

In the event of a claim, a copy of the Unfair Practices Act and, if requested, a copy of the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations.

Now there's some exciting reading material!

In the event of a claim, notification of a consumer's rights with respect to the appraisal process for resolving claims disputes.

It's a little more involved than a coin toss.

An offer of coverage and premium quote for earthquake coverage, if eligible.

Earthquakes? In California? When did that start?

A consumer is also entitled to select a licensed contractor or vendor to repair, replace, or rebuild damaged property covered by the insurance policy.

Choose... wisely.

The information provided herein is not all inclusive and does not negate or preempt existing California law. If you have any concerns or questions, contact your agent, broker, insurance company, or the California Department of Insurance consumer information line at (800) 927-HELP (4357) or at www.insurance.ca.gov for free insurance assistance.

Contact your agent first. Trust us.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who Can Best Administer Insurance?

Getting back to the subject mentioned earlier this week, the subject of government-provided insurance comes to mind.

The case for some forms of government-provided insurance is that the nature of a major catastrophe -- hurricanes, earthquakes and the like -- is far too great for private insurers to bear. Which is true.

Where the problem with government-provided insurance lies is in how it's administered. More specifically, by whom it is administered.

There are very, very few things the government can do more efficiently, either in terms of cost or service, than the private sector. Why? Simple. The private sector in an open market is actively competing for the consumer dollar. Therefore, each organization striving to be the end recipient of that dollar will expend maximum energy to be the best choice.

The government has no such pressure. It is the ultimate monopoly.

A strong case can be made for the government to act as a reinsurer in case a catastrophe strikes. But as a primary provider? It would be well advised to leave such matters to the professionals.

Sadly, it's advice that is seldom taken.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Is CLCA A Solution In Search Of A Problem, Or Is It A Solution At All?

Earlier today, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law an extension to the California Low Cost Auto Insurance plan, or CLCA. The plan provides a very basic level of coverage at rates lower than offered by most carriers.

Sounds great, considering how auto insurance is mandatory in California. However, when the estimated number of uninsured drivers in California is presently floating around one-quarter of all drivers, one has to wonder whether CLCA, with presently less than 57,000 policyholders, is of any genuine effectiveness in its goal.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Hint Of What's To Come

In the post earlier this week, mention was made of Carriers Who Shall Not Be Named and their plastering the airwaves with advertisements.

Advertising is good when done well. By saying an ad is done well, a wide spectrum of factors are involved: the attractiveness/effectiveness of the ad itself, how easily it can be measured in terms of direct effect and so on.

Speaking of ads...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Caffeine Insanity?

A brief personal note with which to begin this post.

I apologize for not posting anything last week. There was a reason. Last Tuesday morning, I found myself in quite the state -- heart racing, confused, difficulty breathing. Either I had just fallen head over heels in love, or something was seriously awry. It was door number two. A battery of tests later, and the answer became clear: I had suffered an allergic reaction.

To caffeine.

While the thought of getting through the day -- every day, actually -- minus coffee isn't the most pleasant thought, going through another allergic reaction has even less appeal. I liken it to some food allergies I've known about for years, namely corn and tree nuts. I can handle foregoing visits to Starbucks forever and anon. But a life without popcorn and Cap'n Crunch? It's been brutal. Still, given the alternative, namely being sick, it's a sacrifice relatively easily made.

Moving away from personal diet issues to matters of far greater general interest, coffee is deeply embedded in the business culture. We pour ourselves a cup first thing in the morning, then have another one later. What's the first thing we do when someone comes to call? We ask them if they want a cup of coffee. It's how the business world rolls.

No, this isn't going to devolve into a sermon on healthy diet and all that. Rather, it's more of a comment on what coffee symbolizes, rather than coffee itself.

We exist in an industry that is at one static and fluid. The static nature of insurance is rooted in the immovable nature of key elements: determining appropriate premiums, maintaining sufficient reserves, the mechanics of claims handling and the like. Where the fluidity comes into play is in its customers.

We all want the most coverage at the least price. Some gamble by carrying less insurance than they ought to, while others go the opposite route and purchase far more coverage than they could possibly need. For the most part, people choose the middle path, carrying enough insurance and no more. And we'll go to whoever offers the aforementioned most coverage at the least price.

The constant barrage of advertisements for carriers who shall not be named has seen a paradigm shift the past year or so. Whereas before it was price price price and do it all yourself online, the emphasis has gone to selling service along with price. Apparently the carriers who thought their customers could do it all realized you can't expect people to take care of their insurance needs in the same manner as buying a book from Amazon.

A cup of coffee, offered to a guest at your place of business, is a symbol of the welcoming side of service. Helping someone with their insurance needs from a purely technical standpoint is good and necessary. However, it's also lacking.

Service also entails empathy, the gift of genuine concern for the person purchasing goods and services from you. We've all dealt with "those people," the kind who on the surface ooze compassion, but at their core are interested solely in your wallet. Sure, they'll offer you a cup of coffee. But they'll also do their best to charge you for it. Don't be one of "those people." Be genuine in what you do. Be generous with the coffee.

Just make mine decaf, thanks.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

California Processes 15.5% Fewer Surplus Line Premiums

(Courtesy Insurance Journal)

The Surplus Line Association of California has processed $1.9 billion in premium for the first six months of 2010, a decrease of 15.5 percent compared to the same period in 2009. The total number of policies filed with the SLA from January 1 through June 30, 2010, was 209,545, representing a 4 percent decrease compared to the 2009 six month policy count.

If the trend continues, SLA expects it will process $3.8 billion in premium for the year, according to Joy Erven, stamping office director.

Year-to-date, U.S. domiciled insurers wrote 76.4 percent of the California surplus line premiums, while Lloyd's wrote 17.1 percent and all other alien insurers wrote 5.4 percent.

The top 10 surplus line brokers in California are:

Rank   BrokerPremiums Processed (in Millions)   % of Total

Risk Specialists Companies Insurance Agency Inc.   $131.86.92%

Swett & Crawford$114.25.99%

Aon Risk Insurance Services West Inc.$112.65.91%

AMWINS Insurance Brokerage of California LLC$105.75.55%

Marsh USA Inc.$105.35.52%

Hart, Anthony Joseph$90.54.75%

CRC Insurance Services Inc.$58.83.08%

Crump Insurance Services Inc.$51.72.71%

Worldwide Facilities$48.82.56%

Lockton Companies LLC$47.82.51%

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Auto Insurance and Our Nation's Infrastructure

An illustration, if you don't mind.

When an experienced carpenter is building a house, and turns to their apprentice to say, “I need a hammer,” it is safe to assume the carpenter needs a hammer. Not a saw. Not a wrench. A hammer.

And why is it safe to assume the carpenter needs a hammer?

They have the experience needed to know what tool is required at any given point during the construction of a house. Therefore, you trust their judgment. After all, they know better than you what goes into the construction of a house. They’ve done it, and they’ve done so successfully. If this was not the case, they wouldn’t be able to find work in their chosen field.

Now, when the experienced carpenter turns to their apprentice and says, “I need a hammer,” does the apprentice get them a hammer? Or do they argue with the carpenter about what tool is required, doing so based on the belief they know better?

Logic says no. They cannot know more than, or better than, the carpenter.

Yet in reality, far too often this is precisely what happens. Whether the root cause is the apprentice believing they know far more than is actually the case, or believing that while the carpenter may have experience on their side they are so much smarter than the carpenter it more than negates the experience factor, tremendous amounts of time and energy are wasted debating what ought not to be so much as a point of discussion.

Meanwhile, the house sits uncompleted.

Breaking this down into specifics, few can argue the wisdom of investing in the nation’s infrastructure. Any one whose daily commute includes a crumbling highway, or who insures the vehicles receiving an unnecessary pounding from chewed-up roads, knows full well the vital nature of this work. There's no argument there.

But you still have to pay for it.

Believing that, as it was outlined yesterday by President Obama, the fifty billion dollars required for this effort can be conjured without adding to an already ruinous national debt is quite the leap of faith. If the President and Congress can pull it off, more power to them. Now, reveal any indication this can be done. The track record isn't encouraging.

Were we to see a better breakdown of price and effect when it comes to public projects such as what has been proposed, it would be far easier to sell. Here are the roads, here is the number of cars that drive over them daily, here is the shape they are in, here is what it costs to repair and/or improve them. There will always be complaints about any amount of taxes taken, but when there is a clear definition of what is needed, it becomes far easier to gain public support.

Which, reportedly, is something politicians prefer having, especially around election time.

That said, you still have to pay for it all. It is critical this project be done both efficiently and with fiscal responsibility at the fore.

Our roads and highways are one house that must not be allowed to sit uncompleted.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Journey Through Time... Well, The All-Employee Meeting

Here at the Walnut Creek office, we've just concluded our monthly all-employee meeting. It's the first one we've held since reunification of our San Francisco and Walnut Creek offices, so not only did we have a bigger crowd, but more energy.

And what would an all-employee meeting be without pictures? Once the business discussions were concluded, the fun began. First, we bid a reluctant farewell to the three interns who've been here this summer:

Alex Seys;

Damien LeClerc;

and Amanda Mournier.

Next, a warm CSE welcome to our two newest members of the family:

Eda Gotterup, our Director of Accounting;

and Sarah Ferrucci, our new Marketing Manager.
(Also this author's new supervisor.)

Following the introductions, it was time for service awards marking special anniversaries with the company. First up, celebrating ten years was our resident mail room master Rizal Udan. Rizal is with our President and CEO Pierre Bize (L) and Rizal's supervisor Mario Ubaldi (R).

Also celebrating ten years with the company, ol' what's-his-name, standing in-between VP of Market Strategy & Business Development Matt Hull (L) and Pierre (R).

"I would like to thank the members of the Academy..."

Another member of the ten year team was Senior Data Entry Operator Maria Machek, with Pierre on her left and Maria's boss Operations Manager Romey Dalisay on the right.

Commemorating fifteen years, Product Development Supervisor Bob Pick receives his well-deserved recognition from Pierre and Bob's boss Vice President of External Relations Greg Parini.

Finally, marking twenty years of service was Senior Business Analyst Kevin Johnson, standing in-between Pierre and Kevin's boss Manager of Computer Operations Vicki George.

Finally, we wish Elpidio Cruz a happy retirement!