Thursday, July 29, 2010

Take Me Out To (And Put Me In) The Ballgame

There are certain dreams most every red-blooded American boy harbors of what they'd like to be when they grow up. Cowboy. Astronaut. Race car driver. Baseball player.

As we grow older, while the pursuit of dreams are often set aside in favor of more mundane professions, the dreams themselves remain. A few years back, Tom Selleck was invited to take batting practice with the Los Angeles Dodgers before a home game. Tommy Lasorda, and a camera crew, were there to commemorate the occasion. After he had taken his swings in the batters box, Lasorda asked Selleck if he had to choose between the two which he'd prefer: his lengthy and successful acting career, or one day as a major league baseball player. Without hesitation he replied, "Ballplayer."

Most of us will never so much as set foot on the field of a major league ballpark. Yet for some, not only have they done so, they've been fortunate enough to actually play ball there. Recently, our own Larry Friel from our Claims department had such an opportunity.

When he's not performing his duties on the job or home as husband and father, Larry enjoys keeping active by playing a little baseball. No slow-pitch softball either; this is the real deal. He pitches for Benecia in the Norcal Oldtimers Baseball League, which since 1941 has served as an outlet for players 35 and older to participate in the game they love at a level a notch above your average recreational league. A few days ago, Benecia played San Jose on a field more than a few notches above the norm.

As in AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.

Honoring America during the National Anthem

Larry tells the story:

My baseball team, Benicia Oldtimers Baseball (not softball -- real baseball), was given the opportunity to play a game at AT&T Park. We played the West Coast Giants out of San Jose.

Larry makes contact!

We were allowed three hours to play our game. We finished nine innings with a 7-2 win.

Not quite a splash hit, but a solid single.

It was great to be able to play on a field of this caliber. They tried as much as they could to make it seem like a real San Francisco Giants game. They had an announcer, scorekeeper, line-up on the big board, four umpires, and ushers.

Warming up in the bullpen.

As you could guess, the field was in spectacular conditions. The field did not seem a whole lot different from what we normally play on, but the outfield area seemed enormous.

Dealing the heat.

We had about 200 people attend from Benicia. Mostly family and friends, but a few people who read about it in the local paper.

How could you not enjoy yourself?

We are a team of baseball players over the age of 35. We have 9 players over 50 years old that have been playing with this team anywhere from 19-28 years. Our oldest guy is 62 and he has been playing with me for 19 years. In fact, he was my Little League coach when I was 10 years old back in 1968. Our team was formed in 1941 along with the league.

Congratulations on fulfilling a dream, Larry!

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What We Do Is What We Do

If the name rings a bell at all, DEVO conjures up images of a quirky pop hit from 1980 titled "Whip It," sung by a band wearing upside down flower pots on their heads:

And what could this possibly have to do with insurance, one may ask?

Although as noted DEVO is generally known for one song and not much else, to the band's fan base DEVO was something far more significant than one-hit wonders. Actually, that should be "is" and not "was," since DEVO is back in action with a new album released a few weeks ago. More on that in a bit; back to the band.

DEVO espouses a belief in "de-evolution." The band defines this as instead of humanity evolving and growing, it is going backwards in terms of social development and overall intelligence. This philosophy, along with a penchant for sardonic swipes at most every rock'n'roll cliche imaginable, is the foundation upon which DEVO has built a career that's seen the release of several albums cherished by fans for their mixture of wit, sarcasm and a musical strength which surprises many who judge the band solely on the basis of its self-created public image as anything but your typical rock ensemble.

Now, making all this relevant to insurance.

As noted, DEVO has re-formed and released a new album titled Something For Everyone. It's quite good, actually, if you're a fan of slightly offbeat synthesizer-dominated rock/pop. Which is beside the point, but thought I'd throw that in. Back to the subject.

Given DEVO's fondness for lampooning assorted elements of society, it comes as no surprise that a large part of the new album's marketing campaign has consisted of a set of videos which together form a "mockumentary." A mockumentary is a satirical film made to look like a documentary, but which in reality is a spoof of the chosen target. In DEVO's case, it has put together a mockumentary of... the marketing of its new record, complete with actors playing the parts of its record label's marketing director, the head of an outside marketing consulting firm, and members of focus groups.

What ties this into insurance is a combination of factors:

  • DEVO's philosophy that despite the technical advances of humanity, humanity itself isn't progressing -- in fact, it's regressing;

  • The notion of a band returning to the public eye thirty years after most people last heard from, or about, it -- and with new material that is relevant to the current music scene;

  • The concept of following the "standard" mainstream marketing plan for a new album by a band whose fan base is anything but mainstream.

When it comes to selling insurance, by far the heaviest push the past several years has been by providers emphasizing a do-it-yourself approach. Get on the Internet, get a quote, buy a policy. Everything is but a few mouse clicks away. Ultra-easy and convenient, right?

No, not really.

It's amusing how the same companies which had been incessantly pushing the meme of an insured being the original one-person gang, capable of doing it all online, are now with equal fervor pushing the notion of either talking to one of their agents, or how they have people available whenever you need them. In short, all the boasts about advancement are now being pushed aside in favor of extolling the virtues of doing things the old-fashioned way.

Which isn't old-fashioned in the least.

Here at CSE, while we're working feverishly on making services and information available online to our agents and customers alike, we also have never lost faith in the belief that nothing beats experienced professionals working directly with the people who need their expertise. We don't need focus groups to tell us this is the way to do business. Instead, we trust in the experience of being in business for over sixty years.

When we tell people to contact their local agent, we do so with the full confidence they will have their needs met, both when buying a policy and should they ever need the coverage provided in that policy. It's how we've always done things. Not because we're stuck in a loop, but because it works.

And we've never needed to wear upside-down flower pots. (For the record, DEVO calls them "energy domes." In case you were wondering.)

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Would You Collect Damages?

CSE offers boaters insurance for different kinds of private vessels. I'm pretty sure the boat -- ship, really -- in this story isn't eligible for coverage from us. Which is probably a good thing, because I'm pretty sure the other party doesn't carry insurance:

A couple on a whale-watching trip off Cape Town, South Africa, say they had a lucky escape when a 10m (33ft) specimen lept on to their yacht.

The southern right whale, a species known for poor eyesight, snapped the mast before sliding back into the water.

Here's the money quote from one of the people on board:

"We were just the wrong boat, in the wrong place at the wrong time."


The damages look to be around $13,000.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interested In Making A Splash?

Then sign up (deadline is this Friday) to participate in this year's JP Morgan Chase Challenge, being held Wednesday, August 4th starting at Piers 30 and 32 in San Francisco.

You can run 3.5 miles, right? If not, you can also walk the course. No one will mind.

You'll be raising money for worthy charities while having fun. And getting in shape. Or showing off what great shape you're in. It's up to you.

You'll be running along the beautiful San Francisco waterfront, going past such landmarks as AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. No, they're not playing that night, but as you go past you'll have a tremendous opportunity to imagine yourself circling the bases after dropping a splash hit into McCovey Cove.

Seriously, we'd love for you to join us. If you're an employee of CSE, or one of our agents, contact Lori Velasco at our San Francisco office (loriv at cseinsurance dot com) or Dave Brinker at our Walnut Creek office (dbrinker at cseinsurance dot com).

The cost to sign up? Nothing, nada, zip, zilch. There will be a nominal fee for your team t-shirt, but once you see it you'll know it's more than worth the price. No, no hints on what it looks like. But trust us. It's a good one.

Come join us. Working up a sweat never felt so sweet.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

CSE Records Second Straight Year Of Zero Justified Complaints With The CA Department of Insurance

From the press release:

CSE Insurance Group (, for over sixty years a leader in providing civil service employees with quality protection at affordable rates, today announced that Civil Service Employees Insurance Company had no justified complaints from any of its Homeowners policy holders filed with the California Department of Insurance in 2009. This is the second year in a row this has been accomplished.

Jim Williamson, Senior Vice President of Claims for CSE, states, “We have been constantly upgrading and scrutinizing our claims handling procedures, looking for areas in which we can improve. In addition, we have invited our insured who have filed claims to fill out online surveys so we can hear directly from them about the service they have received. The results testify to our success, and challenge us to become even more efficient in taking care of our insured’s needs.”

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CSE has been named to the Ward’s 50 Top Performers List!

From the press release:

CSE Insurance Group (, a leader in providing civil service employees with quality protection at affordable rates, today announced that the Ward Group has named CSE to its elite Ward’s 50 group of top performing companies in the Property Casualty field.

This prestigious accomplishment is awarded only to those companies meeting the Ward Group’s strict standards of excellence. An insurance provider must pass a series of stringent performance, safety, and consistency tests before it is considered for inclusion on the list. The company must pass all of these tests for a minimum of five consecutive years, thus demonstrating it is a solid, secure provider in which its customers can place their trust.

The Ward Group ( has, since 1991, measured the strength and business sense of insurance providers throughout the United States. It is recognized as a leader in establishing benchmarks against which companies can measure their performance. To be included on the Ward’s 50 Group list means an insurance provider has exceeded the Ward Group’s high standards.

Pierre Bize, President and CEO of CSE Insurance Group, comments on the award, “This honor is the culmination of years of hard work by everyone involved with the company’s efforts to provide the best products and service for our insureds. Congratulations to the executives and personnel of CSE on a job well done! I especially thank our independent agent force. Without them, CSE would not exist.”

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not To Boast Or Anything...

... but we'll have some boasting to do this Thursday.

What about? Swing by and find out!

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Amping Up Amplify

There's a cool new social media app I encourage you to try. It's called Amplify (

Amplify is, to a degree, a mini blogging site. The difference is you can choose who to follow, and you can automatically post anything you write there to your Twitter or Facebook accounts.

It's a handy little service that's only going to grow. Definitely worth checking out.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Storybook Ending

Another one of those "telling you a story in order to talk about insurance" stories.

This past Friday evening at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, NASCAR had a race in what is called the Nationwide Series (yes, it's sponsored by Nationwide Insurance).

The Nationwide Series is something of a minor-league series to NASCAR's main series, which is the Sprint Cup. However, several drivers who are in Sprint Cup also drive in Nationwide. Some do it full-time, others every once in a while.

The winner of this past Friday's race was one of those occasional drivers in the series. His name? Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Even casual sports fans, with little or no interest in NASCAR, know the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is the son of the late Dale Earnhardt, who alongside Richard Petty is NASCAR's most revered driver.

Earnhardt died in a crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. His death, perhaps more than any other event, defined the sport as it unleashed a torrent of grief among NASCAR's fan base.

Earnhardt's nickname was the Man in Black, referring to the paint scheme on his #3 Goodwrench-sponsored car. It was also an apt description of his menacing presence on the track. Earnhardt was as rough and tumble a driver as they come, never afraid to force his way to the front. He was also a self-made man, growing up in a hardscrabble environment and eventually overseeing a business mini-empire including his own multi-car racing team. One of those drivers at the time of his death was his son.

Following Earnhardt's passing, the expectations placed on Earnhardt Jr. from the get-go were amplified tenfold by a fan base which transferred their devotion from father to son, these in addition to Earnhardt Jr.'s original fans. By most standards he's had a solid career in NASCAR, winning eighteen races and often finishing high in the standings. However, his father won seven championships in what is now called Sprint Cup during his career. Earnhardt Jr. has never won one.

The past season and a half have been rough for Earnhardt Jr. No wins. Incessant talk that he's lost his edge, or that he was overrated from the beginning. A lot of pressure.

So how does he respond?

By bringing more on himself.

Several weeks ago, Earnhardt Jr. announced the culmination of a deal involving several race teams, including the one his father drove for and the one his father owned, for which he no longer drives. He would drive the #3 car for one race.

The Nationwide Series race during the Fourth of July weekend.

At Daytona International Speedway.

You know -- the place where his Dad died?

But he did it anyway.

And won.

Okay, the insurance part.

We are conditioned to believe in something -- anything -- other than happy endings. Life is hard, we are told. Fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever after simply do not happen.

Which is true most of the time.

Sometimes, the stars do align and everything else falls into place. Sometimes, the hero comes through in the end. Sometimes, the good guy wins.

Our job is to compensate for when he doesn't.

That's insurance in a nutshell.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Bit Early...

... but have a happy and safe Fourth of July from all of us at CSE Insurance Group!

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