In the C-Suite with Becky Kenyon
Argo Group U.S.’ Senior Vice President, Chief Claims Officer, provides advice for a younger generation and explains the challenges she faces.
By Taylor Smith
Tell us about your early claims career. Any advice for new claims professionals?
I enjoyed my work in claims from the beginning when I started for St. Paul Companies (now Travelers). The work was very diverse and, fairly early on, I was given an opportunity to work on more complex losses and specialized lines of business, like professional liability. I became a claims services manager and then was promoted to a number of different claims executive roles both before and after the St. Paul Companies merger with Travelers.
The advice I would give to people entering the claims industry now would be to look for ways to expose themselves to new areas of claims handling or new lines of business. That might mean putting your hand up to volunteer when new projects are announced, or suggesting new roles that maybe don’t exist yet in your company. I was fortunate, on more than one occasion, to assume roles that hadn’t previously existed within the company. Helping to develop solutions for business problems helped me to become the leading candidate for the new role in each instance. I think that, in today’s world where claims can be more specialized, it is important for newer professionals to push themselves into areas outside their comfort zones. It is important to remain flexible and keep an eye out for opportunities.
Why should a career in claims be compelling?
There are probably a lot of ways to answer that question. I think that it’s imperative for our industry to attract and retain the right talent. We need more talent moving into our industry, particularly at this time when so many seasoned professionals are retiring.
Claims is really about helping people get through difficult situations. Whether it’s helping a nurse or a doctor who has just been sued for malpractice or assisting the children of a policyholder who has been injured in a car accident, our profession is really about helping others. I think we are looking for the right kind of personality more than technical skills, especially when we are talking about new graduates and very young professionals. We can teach the technical skills.
Perhaps the best way to answer why younger professionals might find a career in claims compelling is to describe what I love about it. Certainly there is the technical side, which I have always enjoyed. Being exposed to all of the legal issues and other things involved in the analysis of each claim is intellectually stimulating to me, and I enjoy it a great deal. Then there is the variety. Every claim is different, and it seems there is an opportunity to learn something new each time. I think that it is difficult to become bored with claims handling if you like the issues with which you are dealing.
There also are great leadership opportunities. I view the role of a claims executive as setting out a vision with objectives, then supporting the team that is trying to achieve those goals. That means making sure the vision is clear and that the team has the resources needed to make those objectives a reality. Good results can give the team a tremendous sense of shared accomplishment, which then feeds on itself to drive even better results.
What are some of the top challenges facing the industry?
The pace of activity has increased dramatically. Between the volume of emails, texts, and instant messages, it seems that everyone with whom a claims professional interacts now has high expectations for a quick response. This is true with claimants as well as our internal colleagues. Our work requires a very high degree of accuracy. Managing those quick response expectations with the sheer volume of requests can be challenging.
I think the only real way to address that challenge is to keep working to ensure that we have the technology, information, and resources available to help our teams respond quickly and accurately. That can be an ongoing battle, as technology investments are expensive and the landscape keeps changing. Legacy systems often are hard to enhance.