Walker has been executive director of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association for 15 years, a job that finds her interacting with media outlets and helping “change lives and change laws.”
Her main goal, Walker says, “is to make sure people have the insurance they need when they need it most.” insuranceQuotes.com caught up with her recently to find out exactly how she does it.
You started your career as a TV reporter —how did you make the transition to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association?
I was a reporter for 10 years. I worked in television news as a reporter, morning anchor, jack of all trades. About 15 years ago, I made the transition from news into running … RMIIA.
I don’t think many of us dream of being in insurance; most of us find ourselves there. I loved working in television news; it was always my dream job. But after about 10 years, I just really wanted to do something different.
The reporter who sat next to me had worked for the Insurance Information Institute in New York. When I was moving to Denver, she said I should talk to the institute because they are always looking for people with a news background. We work with the media all the time (at RMIIA), so I found myself in the insurance industry really by luck. All these years later, it’s really been the best job I could imagine.
How much of your organization is advocacy for the consumer?
We see our role as helping people understand insurance, whether that person is a consumer, a legislator, a reporter. We advocate for consumers because I know with the wildfire season we had in 2012 —the most devastating in Colorado history —nobody wants to think about the unthinkable until it happens. We explain to people how their homeowner’s insurance works and how they rebuild their lives.
While we do represent the insurance industry, (insurance) is one of the most complex, confusing issues out there for people, but it’s something they need.
What did you take away from your experience in the aftermath of the 2012 wildfires in Colorado?
The first time you ever respond to a fire as an insurance person and you walk around a burned-out foundation and you talk with people at shelters who just watched their home burn down on television, it really makes it more than a job. You realize the role you play in insurance is helping people in crisis. The insurance companies are some of the first people on the scene at shelters, and they stay for months.
Experiences like the wildfires really make my job more than a job. When a disaster happens, it really hits home how important insurance is and how personal it is.
What advice do you have for consumers? What mistakes do you see them consistently make?
Insurance is something no one wants to think about because you don’t want to think about the unthinkable. Who wants to spend the weekend documenting the contents of their home or sitting down with an agent?
On the other end, you’re talking to people who have been in an auto accident and didn’t have the insurance they needed, or people who lost their home in a fire who wish they had documented everything. We need to be prepared. If it’s just a few more dollars a month to make sure you have enough insurance or doing an annual checkup with your agent —it gives you peace of mind, but also when you file a claim, you’ll have the insurance you need.
We hear all the time: “I didn’t even think about my insurance until I had to file a claim.” Making it a priority is critical.