From the C-Suite: Ann Marie Marson
Kinsale Insurance Company’s Chief Claims Officer speaks about how diverse and interesting claims can be, the importance of attracting new talent to the industry, and how the best ideas come from front-line claims professionals.
By Taylor Smith
Ann Marie Marson
Current Position: Senior Vice President and Chief Claims Officer, Kinsale Insurance Company
Years in Current Role: 3
Years in Insurance Industry: 27 years, all in claims
Degrees: Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from Farleigh Dickinson University; law degree from Temple Beasley School of Law
Originally From: New Brunswick, NJ
First Insurance Job: Miscellaneous Professional Liability Program at AIG
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Jersey—exit 9 off the New Jersey Turnpike in New Brunswick. I grew up in a big Italian family. I have one brother and one sister and we grew up with many aunts, uncles, and cousins around—all of whom are still in New Jersey. It was a great place to grow up.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
As a child, I always wanted to be a teacher. I had a great teacher in eighth grade named Sister Nancy, who inspired me and made me want to be a teacher. In high school, I became interested in the law and from then on was focused on being a lawyer. I still enjoy the educational aspects of my job—things like sharing the knowledge I’ve gained with our underwriters or new employees. It’s great to open up new areas of knowledge for people.
What was your first job in claims?
After law school, I answered an ad in the New Jersey Law Journal advertising for someone to handle professional liability claims. It sounded really interesting to me and I’ve stayed in claims ever since.
What did you like about the job?
I was handling miscellaneous professional liability claims, so I never knew what kind of claim I was going to get on my desk each day. The variety kept me interested, and the claims always caused me to think outside the box. I learned so much through that job, ranging from the medical professions to school board operations.
Did you get a car like so many new claims professionals?
No, we were completely in-house staff. We never went out to do inspections or interviews. We did everything on the phone. Back in 1985, the only technology we had was the phone. Everything was on paper. We kept our diaries on index cards.
Is there an opportunity for new claims professionals to enjoy the kind of diversity you had when you first started?
Yes, depending on where you work. Here at Kinsale, you could be dealing with claims related to lawyers, allied health, doctors, restaurants, bars, and environmental claims. Plus, you never get the same fact pattern twice, so that adds variety. It’s not stale and it challenges you. Claims is a great career for someone who likes to be challenged.
If a young professional asked you how to structure a career in claims, would you advise them to specialize or keep a broad background?
It really depends on the individual. The main thing is to look at it not as a job but as a profession that you want to grow in and be committed to. If you come in with that attitude and you really embrace it and put your mind to learning everything you can about the different jurisdictions, the types of claims, and the products your company sells, it can be very rewarding. We as an industry have to do a better job attracting young professionals such as law school graduates who are looking for something more than just the practice of law and who are seeking a better work/life balance. Claims professionals work hard, but have more flexibility since they are not worried about billing hours.
Did you have any early mentoring or role models who helped develop your management skills?
I was very fortunate to work with people senior to me who put me in situations where I could succeed or fail. They were there to mentor and encourage me and provide me with the resources to be successful. I was really fortunate early in my career to have those who opened the door, let me walk through, and supported me. I also got a lot of advice from my colleagues. I was able to take all of that input and translate it into what worked best for me and my management style. I also did a lot of reading on what it takes to be a leader, and just as importantly, how to encourage people around you to follow you. I also take a lot of time to listen to people. When someone comes to me, I always ask them what they want to do or their thoughts rather than jump into what I would do or want them to do.
Did you have any challenges related to being in management then that you don’t have now as a more experienced leader?
Oh yes. When you are younger and new to management, you worry about how what you say or do appears to others. You are afraid to make missteps, and you are always second-guessing yourself. As you gain more experience, you get more self-confidence so some of that goes away. Ultimately, you start to concern yourself more with those who are relying on you, making sure you are doing what you can to support them.
What do you think some of the biggest trends are in claims management today?
Technology is playing an important role in claims management. One thing we have to remember is that the technology should support the claims professional, not the other way around. I hope we always maintain the premise that claims is a thinking person’s profession. It can’t be fully automated, especially in the lines that I’ve worked. There is a strong need for the personal touch in claims, and we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of that.
Where do you think the best new ideas are coming from in claims?
I always believe the best ideas come from the line adjuster. Those are the people who say, “Hey, I’ve done this before. Maybe if we do it this way, we’ll have a better result.” Or they recommend new uses for technology. The person doing the work knows best how to get it done better, more efficiently, and in a way that makes it more meaningful.
As a senior claims executive, what is it that you need today that isn’t available in the industry?
I think it’s the strong recruitment of talented staff into the claims profession. As an industry, we need to start addressing that now so that when talented professionals retire, they can be replaced with skilled claims professionals coming up through the ranks.
Do you think it’s necessary to have your team assembled in one location?
I’ve had the benefit of working with people in both scenarios—those working remotely and those in one location. Having people working remotely is definitely a challenge, but with technology today you don’t necessarily have to be in the office to get your work done. The disadvantage of working remotely is the risk of not having the shared learning opportunities that occur during typical daily interactions with colleagues. So much shared learning takes place informally when one person asks you a casual question in the hallway. That question leads to a longer and more in-depth conversation and ultimately to a stronger team all around.
Do you have any observations about the role of women in executive claims positions?
When I started out, there were very few women in claims, but now there seems to be more women than men. I think women coming out of law school look at claims as a way to have a great career and a good family balance. I see women in senior roles all the time now. When you go to industry events, you see more women attending and sitting on the panels. I’d like to think that those women who started in this industry many years ago like me helped to contribute to the opportunities that now exist for both women and men alike.
What technology tools do you take with you when you travel?
A Kindle, a tablet, an Android, and an iPod. That pretty much covers the bases for me.
Tell me about your family?
I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for 25 years. We have a son who is graduating from Virginia Commonwealth this year. He’s going to study journalism and teach in graduate school in the fall. My younger son is graduating from high school in June, and he’s debating which college to attend.
Can you share anything personal that few people know about you?
I’m an avid sports fan. I grew up in a sports family. My dad was the coach of the local youth football team, and I would go to practice with him. I played basketball and ran track. I still run today. I’m a New York Giants fan. I watch Sports Center and other ESPN shows all the time. I’m also a big Bruce Springsteen fan and have been to many of his concerts—that’s just part of the territory with growing up on the Jersey Shore.
Taylor Smith is a contributing editor and president of CLM Advisors, which provides consulting and talent acquisition services to the claims and litigation management industry. He may be reached at email@example.com, (224) 212-0134, clmadvisors.org.