In the C-Suite: A Look Back
We celebrate the value of claims and claims professionals by looking back at insights from the industry’s top leaders in 2014.
By Taylor Smith
Managing and resolving claims can be a rewarding pursuit because it is a career that helps people like no other. The quality of claims services provided creates competitive advantages and distinctions for insurance companies and service organizations alike. It is unique in the diversity of knowledge it develops and in the range of creativity and expertise it fosters and demands. As State Auto Group's Senior Vice President and Chief Claims and Risk Control Officer Steve Hunckler says, "Being an insurance adjuster is a noble profession."
Yet very few claims professionals start their lives with a goal of working in claims. Once exposed to the claims industry, however, many are hooked. This month, as we get ready to celebrate the holidays, we also celebrate the value of our industry’s claims professionals in this edition of “In the C-Suite.” Specifically, we highlight the passion and enthusiasm of the industry leaders we interviewed in 2014, their thoughts about why claims is such a wonderful career, and how many years they’ve been in the industry to help demonstrate their commitment to policyholders.
“From my perspective, claims really provides the most consistent opportunity to perform in front of the market and, more importantly, in front of the client. Claims is the group that can foster or destroy a good client relationship. A good claims person, in my view, makes or breaks a client relationship. When a claim hits, that’s when the company performs and can either help to solidify the client relationship or severely damage it. That opportunity—to perform when called upon to do so—is immeasurable. At the end of the day, we sell more and renew more business because of our outstanding customer service than can ever be accomplished through traditional marketing efforts.”—Terry Campbell, vice president, regional head of claims of the Americas, Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty. Years in the industry: 33.
“The primary job of a claims person is to help people. The vast majority of people we deal with have suffered a loss, and our job is to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible. That is incredibly rewarding. Second, I’d emphasize that every day in claims is different. We deal with different people every day, and on a broad range of diverse issues. Lastly, a claims professional is exposed to and has to have knowledge in so many different areas. Depending on the day, we may be working with legal issues, auto repair issues, financial issues, construction challenges, investigations, and so much more. This is not a job that gets boring. In fact, I think it would be hard to find another career that is so diverse and where you get to help people.”–Tim Wiedmeyer, vice president and chief claims officer, The Republic Group. Years in the industry: 25.
“The claims industry doesn’t quite get the level of respect that I think it deserves, but inside the claims world, we really help people. It is rewarding to hear people say, “thank you.” It’s meaningful to walk someone through the process of getting his life back to normal after a catastrophe or accident. On a personal level, it’s very rewarding to learn about so many different things as you are investigating claims. You’re always learning, and it’s never the same—the complexity is always there. It also allows for a well-balanced life. I can look back at my career and know I didn’t miss important moments in the lives of my children.”–Eric Spencer, vice president of claims, Amerisure Mutual Insurance Company. Years in the industry: 26.
“Insurance is one of the largest industries in the world. A career in claims provides so many different opportunities for whatever area of interest a graduate has—whether that’s medical, engineering, management, or marketing—there is a place in claims that can respond to it. It is an incredibly diverse and interesting industry. You can be talking to an engineer one day, a doctor and lawyer the next. As such, you have to have the knowledge to understand what they are telling you and how to incorporate that into the claims you are managing.”–Greg Steele, head of North America claims, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. Years in the industry: 31.
“I’d say claims is a great career that offers stability and opportunities for diversity in areas in which you can grow. You can focus on injury, property, auto, liability, fraud—the areas of expertise needed within the claims side of the house are almost endless. That attracted me when I was starting out in a claims position because there were so many different roles to explore.”–Teresa King, vice president and chief claims officer, The Motorists Insurance Group. Years in the industry: 33.
“I think the biggest problem with bringing new talent to the industry is that we as an industry have not done enough to sell the concept that a career in claims is something to be proud of. Many college students look at claims as an unexciting or uninteresting career. Even the students studying risk and insurance are exposed to more of the finance or actuarial side of insurance than the claims side. When they do get exposed to claims, they begin see the potential for a fulfilling career.
“When I meet with younger professionals who are considering claims, I point out that the industry is growing, which brings with it excellent career security. I also like to tell them that it’s a good career choice for someone who likes challenges and variety in their work. It’s also fulfilling because we are able to get out and help people during their times of crises. My love for claims has been maintained because it’s continually challenging. You can never sit still and stop learning, and I love that. That keeps me motivated and driven.”–David Conner, vice president of claims and chief claims officer, United Fire Group. Years in the industry: 33.
“It is generally a tough job market out there, but the insurance industry can offer a lot of opportunity and challenging work. I was surprised when I came into insurance how intellectually challenging it is. There’s a lot to learn on the business side, as well. It’s a great career for someone who is analytical and willing to learn. Being in claims allows you to focus more on resolution than if you were working for a law firm. It can require some real creativity to get the matter resolved. I find that to be very rewarding.”–Julianne Splain, former senior vice president U.S. Claims, Allied World; current vice president of claims, CapSpeciality. Years in the industry: 18.
“There are many career opportunities because so many of us in claims and insurance, in general, are getting older, so we need young, new talent. To be a good claims person, you have to genuinely care about people. You help make something good out of something bad. I think it’s a noble profession. The work is varied and interesting. In some positions, the work hours can be flexible, which is attractive. During a catastrophe, the days are long but those also are the most rewarding times because you are helping those in crisis. And if someone’s not interested in claims, insurance offers other opportunities in areas like marketing, underwriting, IT, customer service, and much more.”–Ken Kozek, vice president of claims, Grange Mutual Casualty Companies. Years in the industry: 34.
“I would encourage young people to examine the insurance industry as a whole. There are so many opportunities. If there’s one thing we haven’t done well as an industry, I think it’s getting that message out there. It’s not just sales, underwriting and claims—there’s technology, project management, process improvement. There are so many opportunities to have a varied career that suits so many interests—all within the insurance field.”–Barry Vogt, senior vice president, chief claims officer, EMPLOYERS. Years in the industry: 30.
As we enter the holiday season, it is a wonderful time to celebrate the diversity and excitement of the claims industry. Having conducted more than 40 of these interviews with chief claims officers from across the industry, I can attest to the passion that they each bring to their roles and the excitement they express when they offer advice to new industry claims professionals.
We wish all of our readers a wonderful holiday season, and we’ll see you in 2015 with a new series of profiles of the industry’s leadership.