As most business journalists probably have done, I've thought and wondered for weeks about what I might be able to say on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country. What could I write that would be meaningful, helpful, or at least just sensible? Yet, today I still struggle to make sense of the terrible events.
If I look at what has changed in our own offices...yes, we were all inspired to finally develop the business continuity plans and staff contact lists our human resources department had been pleading for in preceding months. But sometimes it seems the only real change has been the constant demands to produce photo IDs.
Perhaps I should present some of the awful statistics: 146,000 jobs lost in New York due to the attacks; 60 World Trade Center-based firms lost employees; $970 million in total FEMA money spent on the emergency; $40.2 billion in estimated insurance payments, worldwide, related to 9/11; and, inevitably, 2,819 people killed (official figure as of Sept. 5).
The numbers are staggering, but ultimately they really only symbolize the losses. What has been lost in terms of relationshipsspouses, parents, children, friends, colleaguescan never truly be measured, although it can be felt. Similarly, new offices, enhanced security and business continuity procedures are real but are also only representations of the feelings of fear, sadness, dislocation and anger that so many people will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
As we report in this issue of Insurance & Technology News (and have reported in this newsletter and in our print publication throughout the past year), the insurance industry was affected directly in many ways by the 9/11 attacks. For the most part, the industry so far appears to have responded with care, efficiency and responsibility. Although for many companies technology infrastructures and systems were direct casualties of the attacks, overall technologycall centers, claims systems, catastrophe response teams, etc.enabled carriers to provide critical services not only to their customers, but also to their own employees and business partners. Numerous individuals at all levels within insurance IT organizations demonstrated leadership, courage, creativity and sensitivity at a time of previously unimaginable crisis and uncertainty.
There is no ROI on this kind of performance, no "business case" that can be outlined and tracked. Yet, in the great scheme of things, these actions and deeds are so much more important than any other metric. Among the many challenges we face moving forward, especially in a continuing environment of difficult business conditions, is to deal effectively with these realities, while at the same time remembering and measuring what we have lost.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio