From the C-Suite: Paul Tuhy
XL Insurance Executive Vice President and Global Head of Claims Paul Tuhy speaks to claims management in a global context, addresses claims specialization, and offers insight on communication in the age of social media.
By Taylor Smith
Where did you grow up?
My father was a rocket scientist and we moved a lot. I was born in Washington, D.C., and lived in Baltimore, California, Texas, and Ohio when I was growing up. As an adult, I’ve lived in Florida, Philadelphia, California, and New York and for a short time in Zurich, Switzerland.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a policeman, and I actually was one. I went to the Ohio Highway Patrol Academy and was an Ohio State Trooper for four years.
Did your role as a state trooper influence your claims career?
Definitely. I think back on that experience every day. Being a state trooper is kind of like being in the service. I learned a lot about discipline and being self-motivated. You also become very street smart, which in claims is very useful—having the ability to read people quickly. I attribute a lot of my success in my claims career to my training at the Highway Patrol.
How did you transition into claims?
At the time, Cincinnati Insurance was heavily recruiting state troopers into their claims organization. They liked the investigative and people skills we brought along with the fact that we were very self-motivated. I went through their training program and was given a territory in Florida. At first, the hardest part of the transition was going into some place, like a body shop, to investigate a loss and have the owner refuse to talk and basically throw me out. As a state trooper, I would have a bit more “control” so it was quite an adjustment.
What concerned you most when you first took a management position? How does it differ from what most concerns you today?
My first management role was as a supervisor with Cigna. My main concern at that time was having credibility with my staff. I came into Cigna as a supervisor, and because I hadn’t worked my way up through the ranks there, I worried about having credibility and earning the respect of my staff. In contrast, today I’m focused more on strategic initiatives. In those entry-level management roles, it is more operational and you don’t have time to think of strategic initiatives. The farther you progress in management, the more strategic planning becomes an essential part of your role.
What is your advice to claims professionals about specialization? Would you recommend that they specialize in their career or remain broader in focus in order to be most successful?
I think there are two career tracks—management and claims technician—and that each person is well-suited for one more than the other. I think management has a responsibility to identify who fits best into each track and have avenues available for both to grow professionally. Someone who makes a good manager may not be the top claims handler and someone who is the top claims handler may not make the best manager.
In the television show Undercover Boss, executives secretly go into offices within their companies to see what’s really happening on the front lines. If you were to go undercover, what might you expect to find?
I’ve been to every office and they all know me, so I couldn’t get away with going undercover, but I think people would be very positive. XL is a great company and I’m not saying that just because I work here. I have always thought it was before I worked here based on its reputation, and now that I’m here I think that even more.
Overall, it’s a great place to work. We’re fair. We encourage entrepreneurial thinking, and we try to minimize bureaucracy as much as we can. Our staff turnover rates are extremely low, which I think is a good indication of employee satisfaction. This creates consistency that transcends into a great asset for our organization.
How many global offices do you have outside the United States?
We have 34 offices staffed with claims professionals, with 20 of those outside of the United States. We are in a very international business with global clients.
It must be interesting to have such global claims resources. What do you observe in terms of innovative ideas coming from such diverse locations?
I think it is equal, but interestingly, those suggestions and ideas don’t differ that dramatically — even from country to country. A claim is a claim no matter where you are doing business, so everyone managing those claims is basically thinking the same way. Of course there are cultural and legal differences, but the bottom line is that claims management doesn’t vary much from location to location.
How do you formalize a process for getting good ideas from within your organization?
We have a formal internal website where people can suggest ideas, but we foster some of best suggestions when visiting our offices. I’m in many of our offices often and people now know me pretty well. I ask them what they are thinking and I’m happy that they feel comfortable enough to openly express themselves.
It’s when people open up in a group setting and express themselves that I feel I’m really doing my job well. That’s when the organization wins. People express their thoughts and we are able to discuss them as a group, brainstorm and foster innovative ideas. That’s how we improve as an organization.
Thinking about the industry as a whole, as a senior claim executive what is it that you need most that is not available?
There are no substantive claims education programs at the college level. Even the schools with insurance and risk management programs don’t include claims in their curriculum. When I talk to school administrators about this, they note that students really don’t understand the scope of what claims professionals do. So getting that claims management curriculum into colleges would be a great step in the right direction for the industry.
What are some adjectives you’d use to describe a top-notch claims management professional?
Bright, energetic, willing to learn, and probably the important thing in claims is to not be afraid to make decisions.
What are your thoughts about the impact of technology in the industry?
New technologies are extremely important and add a whole new dimension on top of critical claims-thinking skills. The ability to integrate analytics very quickly into a claims analysis is tremendously helpful. New technologies can help adjusters understand the business on a much broader scale. Technology provides the ability to look at claims data from a new perspective, such as aggregating specific data fields and identifying trends. This is a big difference from where the industry has historically evaluated results, and new skills are required to take full advantage what these technologies offer.
What are your thoughts on the rise of social media in claims?
It’s already here. The biggest impact is on our interactions with our clients. Social media and other technological advances have increased the speed at which people expect a response. Interestingly, we find that to be true in both personal and commercial lines of business. The rapid exchange of information that people are becoming accustomed to in their personal lives comes into play in the business world, as well. It also provides a new information source for how people view our performance.
Do you think the prolific use of social media and technology has negatively affected people’s communication skills?
Maybe, but it’s just part of moving forward. Back when I first started in claims, every adjuster had a car and we drove to see claimants and interviewed them in person. That tapered off and adjusters started conducting most of their business over the phone. Now, it’s more electronic communication—exchanging information in e-mails. But I think the complaints about young people lacking social skills are exaggerated. I find them to still have very good social skills. They may be frequent users of Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, but they are also living in the real world, interacting with real people every day. So those skills are still there; maybe somewhat different than what they would have been two decades ago, but they also have communication skills in other mediums that didn’t even exist back then.
Are you a Windows or Mac user?
I’m a huge Mac fan—huge.
How about iPhone or Android?
I have an iPad and my phone is a Blackberry. I hate to switch technology if what I currently have is working. My Blackberry works well, so I’ll keep it until it stops.
Taylor Smith is a contributing editor and president of CLM Advisors, which provides consulting and talent acquisition services to the claims and litigation management industry. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (224) 212-0134, clmadvisors.org.
Paul Tuhy at a Glance
Current Position: Executive Vice President, Global Head of Claims XL Insurance
Years in Current Role: 6
Size of Claims Organization: 400, across 34 global offices
Years in Insurance Industry: 30
Education: The Ohio State University The Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy
Originally From: Washington, D.C.
First Insurance Job: Field Claims Representative at Cincinnati Insurance