In the C-Suite with Wes Marston
CPA Mutual Insurance Company of America Risk Retention Group’s Vice President of Claims explains the similarities between a career in law enforcement and claims.
By Taylor Smith
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but spent my elementary school years in Bethesda, Maryland. My father was the director for the National Institutes of Health, so we actually lived on the NIH campus. He worked in the Johnson and Nixon administrations and periodically would meet with the President. Later when I became a teenager, my father became the president of the University of Florida so we moved to Gainesville, Florida.
Tell us about your education.
I attended the University of Florida and majored in Criminology. My goal was to go into law enforcement and, after graduating, I became a deputy sheriff with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department. I did that for five years full time, and then continued part time while I was working my way through law school.
When I graduated from law school, I took a role with Holland & Knight practicing commercial litigation, which included some insurance defense work. I enjoyed that work very much, but I ultimately left so that I could earn my Masters of Laws in taxation.
So how did you come to be in claims?
I had gone into private law practice where I was doing estates and trusts, small business planning, and also some tax controversy. One of my clients recommended that I be introduced to CPA Mutual, and it was a very good fit right from the beginning. It allowed me to merge subject matters that I really enjoyed with a mission of helping.
Did you enjoy your work in law enforcement?
Very much. I think there are many similarities between law enforcement and working in the claims field. Both professions put such a variety of work in front of you. Every day can be very different. You’re not sure what each day will bring, and the days go by very quickly. Also, there is the fact that both careers are very much focused on helping people. You also get to meet great people in both careers.
What would say to those who might be considering a career in claims today?
Well, I think some of characteristics I described above are very attractive. Lots of diversity in terms of what is on your desk each day is a big positive, at least for me. Each claim brings its own fact pattern and set of challenges to figure out.
In claims, you really learn a lot about many different topics. For example, in our world, we frequently have to understand the underlying businesses or industries that our policyholders serve.
My favorite part of it really relates to helping people, though. For example, when a policyholder calls me to report a new claim, even if it’s a small one, they often are quite nervous and anxious. They might be embarrassed. Maybe they haven’t slept well. They really want help. My ability to immediately convey to them that we’re there to help and that we’re experts in what we do can be reassuring immediately. That ability to help is very rewarding.
Tell us about some of your passions and hobbies.
First and foremost, I enjoy spending time with my family. I was just married a few months ago and I enjoy spending time with my wife and with my children and grandchildren. We recently returned from our honeymoon in Alaska, where we did both the interior (by train from Anchorage to Denali) and the Kenai Peninsula. It was a fantastic trip.
I am avid outdoorsman, and top on my list is fly fishing. In Florida I fish both fresh and saltwater. I fish for all saltwater species, including tarpon. Many people don’t think of saltwater when it comes to fly fishing, but it’s fantastic. I also enjoy traveling outside of Florida on fishing trips.
A somewhat related passion of mine is that I’m a licensed commercial charter captain. I’ve achieved what often is called a “six-pack,” which means that I can take up to six passengers. The license requires you to become expert at navigation and that you know the “rules of the road,” but on water.