In the C-Suite with Jeanette Hernandez
Carl Warren & Company’s Chief Operations and Claims Officer explains why handling claims is all about communication.
By Taylor Smith
Jeanette, where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chicago, born and raised. I lived there until I moved to California to go to college. My father was a police officer and my mother was an underwriter for MetLife.
Tell me about your education?
You might say that moving to California from the Midwest was an education in itself, but more seriously I went to California State University Long Beach. I obtained my degree in interpersonal and organizational communications, which, oddly enough, is a large part of what I do today. In essence, it’s the study of how communication or the lack of it impacts an organization, and how to identify what the drivers are for success and failure.
Tell me how you came to be in claims?
When I graduated from college, I saw an interesting ad in the newspaper from State Farm Insurance. I interviewed and was offered the job, then underwent an intensive training program with them. I enjoyed my work there very much. From there, I went to Farmers for a short while before joining a startup third party administrator, which we grew nicely until it was sold. For a period of time, I lived out of the country and created a small management consulting business. Then I returned to the U.S. and worked in sales first for an appraisal vendor, then for a carrier for six years. Each of my prior roles has proven to be helpful to me at Carl Warren.
Have your studies in communication been helpful to your claims career?
Absolutely, and really from two perspectives. Obviously, there is direct relevance to my management and executive roles. Getting teams to achieve higher performance by working together is really exciting to me.
But there also is a direct correlation to handling claims, and this applies to all frontline claims professionals, too. I always stress that you can never forget the people with whom you deal each day. Making sure we communicate properly so the customer understands the process is critical to a great claims experience. It doesn’t matter how good the workflow is if it doesn’t help insureds or they don’t understand it.
As a claims professional, it’s very important to communicate with all the parties and stakeholders in the claim. Getting the desired end result is directly related to how well you communicate with them.
What might you say to those considering a career in claims?
First and foremost, I’d stress the dynamic nature of a claims career. You get to work with a myriad of professions and professionals—each with their own perspective and each offering different ways of looking at a situation. Good claims professionals are able to appreciate this, which is good for career growth in any business.
I also think the range of roles within claims is so varied now. Being in claims isn’t just about handling files anymore. It’s about process and technology and new ideas for growing our business—skills that the millennial workforce is so good at. It also is a profession that you truly still get to help people.
Tell me about some of your passions and hobbies.
I’ve been married for 22 years to my husband, who is an optometrist. Not too many people know that he was my scuba instructor and that I met him during a vacation in Cancun. I had a choice that day between parasailing and scuba diving, and if I’d parasailed instead, this would be a different story!
We have three wonderful children. Two are in college and we have a 10-year-old daughter. We are absolutely thrilled to be back in Southern California. For one thing, we’re now back to scuba diving, which we love doing, particularly in the kelp forest. The beds we dive in are roughly three hours off the coast. We also enjoy travelling. It’s a tie between Italy and Ireland as to places we’ve visited recently that I’ve just loved.