In the C-Suite with Michael McMyne
IFG Companies’ Senior Vice President and Chief Claims Officer explains why claims is all about communication and curiosity.
By Taylor Smith
Where did you go to college?
The first college I went to was the one that gave me the most money, which was Widener University. I had no idea what I wanted to study, so I started out in psychology. I always had in the back of my mind that I’d like police or investigative work. At the end of my first year, I transferred to Glassboro State College, which was a little less expensive. I graduated from there with a degree in criminal justice.
Later, when I was working for Travelers, I went to law school. I was working in their law department and thought the degree would enhance my career. I never planned to go into private practice. The legal training I received has absolutely been helpful in my career, though. It taught me to think and not memorize. It really opened up that side of my brain that thinks analytically, understands, and argues for something. It allowed me to look at both sides of a claim. That has paid tremendous dividends over the years.
What was your first claims job?
After college, I looked into police work, but after having done some shift work in college, I knew I didn’t want to pursue it. So I ended up framing houses the summer I graduated and then ended up finding a full-time substitute teaching job for several months. Then I went to a placement agency, and they explained the claims adjusting industry to me. I went on an interview, learned more, and decided that claims was a career that interested me.
My first job was as an outside multiline adjuster with Safeco. I was intrigued by the concept of investigating a situation and finding out the truth. When I was growing up, I read lots of mystery books with characters like the Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes. These were books about curious people trying to get to the bottom of things, and I loved it. Claims sounded like it would be a good fit for me, and it has been.
If you were talking to a college student today, would you say those same traits exist in the claims role?
I think the underlying curiosity does. What I know now, though, is that the skill sets you learn are so diverse—understanding people, contracts, the law, engineering, finance, etc. There are not too many professions that expose you to so many diverse things as you do your job. You don’t have to be masters of all of these disciplines, but you have to be good enough to understand them. That diversity is wonderful.
What challenges do you see facing the industry?
Finding, hiring, and retaining talent is our biggest challenge. Getting out there and exposing students to the opportunities that exist in claims is important. As an industry, we’ve highlighted the underwriting career path; now we need to focus on promoting the claims career path. While the business of insurance doesn’t sound exciting on the face of it, the claims industry is exciting and fulfilling. We need to spread that message better. So often we see insurance and claims portrayed negatively in the media. As an industry, we have to highlight all the good we do and the positive impact we have on peoples’ lives.
It’s also a challenge to find people with the right skill sets. Crafting a letter, for example, is a necessary skill in claims, but it’s not something younger people do very often. Putting together cohesive, understandable communication is important. We may be delivering that letter via email rather than “snail” mail, but it still has to be written well and read professionally.
What advice would you give to young industry professionals?
I think the onus is now for professionals to go out there and find their own educational opportunities to learn as much as possible. Go out and get on law firm newsletter distribution lists, take advantage of CLM educational programs, read publications, find resources that keep you current in the line of business in which you work and in which you would like to work. Staying educated helps you grow in your career and move into other lines of business, if you desire that.
Current position: Senior Vice President and Chief Claims Officer, IFG Companies
Years in Current Role: 13 years
Years in insurance industry: 36
Originally From: Pennsylvania and New Jersey
First Claims Job: Outside Multiline Adjuster, Safeco