The Importance of Elevating the Claims Profession

Claims College Chancellor Paul Tuhy, XL Group, explains why the school is an important part of elevating the profession.

By Bevrlee J. Lips

As we close in on opening day of CLM’s Claims College this September, CLM Fellow and Claims College Chancellor Paul Tuhy, XL Group, shares his thoughts and insights on why the school is an important part of elevating the claims profession.

Why did you get involved in the Claims College?

I was approached by Executive Director Adam Potter to be a chancellor for the college. The original idea or concept for the Claims College is something I think is long overdue in the industry, so I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of it.

Why do you feel it is overdue?

There are a couple of reasons. We researched colleges that offer risk management or insurance-type programs and no college, in fact, has anything related to claims—and we’ve researched them all. If anything, they have just a brief overview of what claims does in terms of functional support, very high level and minimal information, so there’s really nothing out there.

You can get claims-related courses, such as the INS series, claims legal series or CPCU, that are all good from a book type of orientation, or if you choose to do a classroom study, you know you’ll have one person that is the designated teacher. The difference here, and what I think is overdue, is that there really has never been a formally structured program run by claims executive management and taught by senior claims professionals who are active in the industry, and that’s unique. I think it’s never been done before to this degree, and it’s something the industry has needed for some time.

As a chancellor, what are your thoughts on the curriculum?

The original three areas of curriculum chosen are claims management, professional lines, and workers’ compensation. I think, from a beginning perspective, that gives you a pretty good overview.

Claims management covers the basics in terms of coverage or disposition. Workers’ comp is more statutory in nature, so it has its own intricacies as opposed to, say, property or casualty lines. While it is very unique by state, there are issues that are similar to those in the claims management school. Professional lines, which is an entirely different animal in and of itself, is very financially related in terms of how information is reviewed. It is a kind of a niche, although a big part of the industry. Most people who go into professional lines are coming out of law firms with minimal insurance experience and have to learn both sides. The school will give attendees an overview taught by people who actually do the job. I think that is a huge advantage.

What can students expect from faculty?

Faculty for the college will have a significant number of years of experience in handling multiple lines. They will have multi-jurisdictional experience and a lot of technical oversight. Experience in multiple venues and in different geographical regions is important because there will be people coming to the college from all over the country, and some states and jurisdictions are unique and dissimilar.

They also will have the ability to teach. Some of the best technicians I know handle claims and they’re really good at it, but they could not effectively teach what they know. You need someone who has the personality and ability to instruct and make the subject interesting for all attendees. You’ll have somewhat of a wide variety of experience levels in the college, so we want to make sure it’s interesting for everybody—to capture those who are having a harder time grasping things while not boring the people who are a little more experienced.

Who do you think is the ideal student for the college?

Students should not be neophytes but should have a couple of years’ experience at least to have a basic understanding of policy language and how the process works. That is less important for professional lines, where you could take somebody that has a law degree but doesn’t have the insurance background. Company management likely will recognize specific individuals they feel would benefit, and that really needs to be done person by person. The leaders we’ve talked to have said they will be somewhat selective of the people they send—those they know have high potential and would benefit the most from attending.

What knowledge gaps do you think the Claims College will address?

The one thing that it will definitely do is provide interaction. People at that level do not have much professional interaction with other colleagues in the industry. You can have all the structure, format, and training you want, but that won’t provide the sometimes unrecognized benefits of what is learned in those social hours where you have discussions and interactions between people from different companies. I think that’s something that senior-level people do, but people at the mid and lower levels don’t get a lot of that type of interaction.

While there may be those who belong to local claim organizations and have some level of interaction, it’s not to the degree of meeting people from around the country that they’ll find at the Claims College. You really do get an invaluable overview of what is going on in the marketplace not only with your company but also with other companies and with people of similar experience.

Is participating at the beginning stages a big part of how your company is helping to ensure the Claims College’s success?

Absolutely. We have quite a few people who have been involved in discussions and helped with the curriculum design and other elements of the program. You’ll find that’s true in a lot of the major companies. When this was first proposed, there were a significant number of companies in the U.S. that wanted to participate. Often new ideas get lip service, and you don’t get much response. There was a lot of response to the Claims College, and I think senior management recognizes the benefits. It’s a great idea.

Will your company have a presence at the event?

We plan to participate both in terms of offering instructors—we’ve had people offer to teach—and we’ve also been going through the potential candidates we’d like to attend. In my discussions with the other chief claims officers, they agree that this is something the industry doesn’t really have, and they’re very keen on this being a success.

Do you feel the claims profession has an image problem? Will the Claims College help solve it?

Yes and yes. It’s funny you ask that question because I’ve been involved in several committees on this very subject. The image problem, many of us feel, is born from a lack of training. At AIA, of which XL Group is a member, we started looking at industry reputation and quality and its impact several years ago. Out of discussions on quality and industry reputation, some of the companies conducted an analysis of their hiring practices. One company discovered that there is a very strong impulse for claims professionals to want to help people. I found that fascinating and, frankly, understandable, so when you start thinking about it that way—the mindset of wanting to help people—that’s what we do.

Unfortunately, the industry gets a bad reputation when in the aftermath of an event like Hurricane Katrina the news media shows a person standing in front of his damaged home who has had his claim denied. They don’t talk about the 100,000 other claims that were handled timely and correctly, and even the person they’re interviewing may have been handled correctly. That doesn’t matter; they’re just looking for a news story.

I think the Claims College will help the industry because it raises the quality of the individuals who are working with claims and interacting with people and, by doing that, you inherently have more of a professional approach.

It’s interesting that, in Europe, claims people are held on a higher scale in terms of society versus the U.S. There are many reasons for that—a different litigation environment, less loss frequency, etc.—but the point is that you can increase the professionalism of a claims adjuster and, by doing so, you’ll inherently better the reputation of the whole process in the marketplace.

Do you have any parting words?

I would encourage people to participate in the Claims College. This is a very unique opportunity. At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do is change behavior and increase technical skill sets, and I think it absolutely will have an immediate impact. Claims management in all companies should strongly consider participating.   

Bevrlee J. Lips was managing editor of Claims Management magazine (now CLM Magazine) from January 2012 until March 2017.

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