A Chat with ClaimVets’ First Placement, State Auto’s Gregg Easterbrook
Unique training, leadership skills, and tenacity create the perfect background for a bright future in claims resolution.
CLM’s non-profit organization, ClaimVets, is dedicated to providing a pathway for veterans to enter the claims profession, and it’s doing just that by announcing its first placed military veteran. State Auto’s Gregg Easterbrook, a former Air Force intelligence officer, is now part of the insurance claims industry. He shares his journey and explains how military folks are uniquely equipped for the business of handling catastrophe (CAT) claims and helping people during their toughest times.
Tell me about your time in the military.
I went through the ROTC program at Michigan State University. After graduation, I was initially supposed to be a pilot candidate, but I had to wait for about five years to get my shot. I did other odd jobs in the meantime and eventually went to flight training at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. I spent about a year there and had a lot of fun, but didn’t make the cut. About a year later, the opportunity came up to cross train into the intelligence career field, and I spent the remainder of my time in the Air Force as an intelligence officer working all over the world between different assignments.
What happened once your time ended in the military?
After 20 years in the Air Force, I retired in 2011 with a security clearance and a lot of the desirable skills they look for in hiring people as contractors or civilians. However, it was right about that time when sequestration hit. Companies were interested in hiring, but contracts weren’t coming through and jobs weren’t materializing. Finally, I decided I needed to do something, so I delivered mail for the U.S. Postal Service for about a year as a rural carrier associate.
How did you come across the claims industry and ClaimVets?
I had my résumé on different search engines, and out of the blue, I got a call from AdjusterPro about their Insurance Claims Adjuster Professional (ICAP) program, which was set up to train independent CAT claims professionals. Their theory was that ex-military folks would make great CAT claims professionals because they are used to roughing it, dealing with crisis situations, and making decisions.
The program took me through the basics of understanding a policy, meeting the insured, scoping a loss, writing an estimate, and submitting a claim as well as a certification in steep roof rope access. You come out with a whole handful of certifications and licenses. Their concept at that time was to give participants as much training as possible in a short a period of time so that they would be at the top of the list of the most desirable people for independent claims organizations. When a CAT hits, they would be ready to go and have all the tools needed.
They also helped with job placement. I’ve got three young kids and was interested in being a daily claims handler with a set operating area so that I could be home at night and spend time with the family and I wouldn’t have to deal with the kind of separation time that I had in the military. So I started calling a couple of different organizations. I connected with a member of the CLM who told me about ClaimVets. I called ClaimVets Vice President Laura Cornish and explained my situation. That’s how I was introduced to State Auto Insurance Chief Claims Officer Steve Hunckler, who leaned forward and found a position for me. It’s been super, and the organization has been incredibly supportive. The nice thing about ClaimVets is that it’s tied into the industry and can match the right personality with the right position, and that certainly worked for me.
What types of claims are you handling?
Property almost exclusively, but it can range from floods to fires to hailstorms affecting homes, farms, or commercial properties.
Are there parallels between military work and claims resolution?
For most people who have served in the military for any period of time, when something bad happens, they want to take an active role in trying to do something about it, whether fixing it or minimizing the damage. That’s another parallel I see in this industry and another reason I like what I’m doing because I’m showing up and dealing with people when they are facing some really bad things, like house fires. In those situations in which they have lost everything, I’m there helping them.
The downside is when you have to explain to someone that their policy doesn’t cover their current loss or they didn’t buy the right endorsement. Those can be some touchy situations, but someone who has been in military leadership is used to not only delivering good news, but also dealing with the difficult situations as well.
What do you think about the claims industry today?
What has impressed me most is how good of a fit this is for me. I struggled after I left the military in figuring out what I wanted to do. As a military officer, I worked with people, I led people, and I followed people. I was a jack-of-all-trades who had been exposed to a lot, and I think that type of person is a good fit for the claims industry because you never know what you’re going to run into from day to day.
That’s the other thing I like about this profession. I can show up at someone’s house expecting to have a claim reported as one thing and discover five other things that are either impacted by or might be causing that one thing. Every day is different. It’s very rewarding to go into a situation where people are at their worst, their lives seem to be turned upside down, and I’m able to hold their hand and walk them through it.