THE DOT-COMMISSARS READY AN ASSAULT ON RIMS

THE DOT-COMMISSARS READY AN ASSAULT ON RIMS

Memo to risk managers and insurance buyers: Brace yourself if you're going to the Risk and Insurance Managers Society annual conference in San Francisco this week. You will be besieged by an army of dot-commissars and e-commerce marketers pushing a mind-boggling assortment of Web-based insurance ''solutions.''

Memo to dot-com executives, venture capitalists and so-called ''content'' providers unveiling your wares at the RIMS gathering: Have you actually read your press releases, brochures, Web sites and PowerPoint presentations to make sure risk managers can understand exactly what your company does, and what makes your product different? Or are you burying the buyer in a blizzard of tech jargon and Internet buzzwords that self-destruct when they hit his brain?As a journalist I've been covering RIMS meetings off and on for 30 years, technology for 15 years and the Internet for five. But the current crop of press releases, story pitches, press-conference invitations and e-mail queries from high-tech vendors leaves me totally baffled. They blur on impact. My eyes glaze over.

So I can only imagine how a risk manager with, say, a major utility company, truck line or pharmaceutical company is going to feel as he walks the gantlet of dot-com exhibitors at RIMS and finds Generation-X'ers hawking phrases like ''back office interfaces,'' ''front end applications,'' ''aggregators'' and ''TCLIP modalities.''

Staging a panel to probe the power of cyber-world strategies for analyzing risks or processing claims? I hope you've hired a simultaneous translator from the United Nations who can turn Netspeak into plain English. Otherwise, don't forget the No-Doz.

The problem does not lie with the risk managers. After years of trying to explain their role, value and cost-benefit to their bosses - usually the chief financial officer - they've learned to communicate in terms senior management understands: maximizing cash flow, minimizing losses, assuming risk to reduce insurance premiums, chopping expenses.

Risk managers have become strategic bottom liners, and their stock within the corporation has risen dramatically. Many are seen as problem solvers.

But I digress. On the exhibit floor, at cocktail parties and during Bay cruises, risk managers might want to steel themselves for pitches on ''Internet-based insurance auction platforms for B2B coverage procurement,'' ''comprehensive online solutions'' for ''managing location challenges of insurance certificates,'' and how to use the Net to gain ''first mover advantage'' on plaintiff attorneys who are ready to pounce on you with product-liability class-action suits.

Surely, the Internet can deliver all sorts of time-saving, efficiency-enhancing, cost-reducing benefits to risk managers and insurance buyers. The purveyors of these products and services need to find a way of distilling the ''deliverable'' - oops, more tekkie talk.

How about simply listing the benefits and advantages of the ware as if you were in a sports bar discussing how the lineup of the New York Mets is going to cream the San Francisco Giants? Bottom line: Go for gut-level communications.

Tip: If you're doing a show-and-tell, don't flash a series of Internet screens up there and expect anyone beyond the first row to read the fine print and get your message. If you're showing what tekkies call ''screen grabs,'' do big blow-ups and hand out a script, again in English, so people can follow along.

Also, don't rattle through your spiel at Mach-2 speeds. Go slowly, articulate colorfully and speak visually so it sinks in. Otherwise, people will go out shaking their heads. This is a RIMS meeting, not COMDEX.

In fact, the tekkies should talk to some of the old-time RIMS regulars like Chubb Corp. The insurer is holding a press conference with its chairman, Dean O'Hare, standing there answering questions - on pricing or anything thrown at him, no holds barred. Chubb's going New Economy by unveiling a new ocean marine insurance Web site. Though it's a press conference, surely risk managers wouldn't be turned away.

The venerable Zurich is wooing attendees with a simple, catchy gatefold mailer that talks about how Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard ''connected and graduated to a garage.'' It goes on to say, in crystal clear English, ''We're making connections with customers, agents and brokers using the latest technologies.''

Bingo. It communicates dead-on.

And check this out: AIG is holding a ''Meet the Presidents'' at its booth on the exhibit floor. Got an idea or a beef with anyone in Hank Greenberg's global empire? You'll have 28 presidents to choose from. Smart PR, savvy marketing.

Meantime, get ready to enjoy RIMS 2000 in San Francisco. Weather looks good. Plenty of new restaurants.

But if someone starts peppering you with geekchat like ''branded environments,'' ''customized groupware,'' ''integrates seamlessly'' or ''cost-per-click,'' just ask the person: ''Do you want to buy some life insurance?''