In the C-Suite with Terry Campbell

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty’s Vice President, Regional Head of Claims in North America, sets the record straight on bottom feeders, why adjusters and underwriters need to be business partners, and problem solving after Sandy.

By Taylor Smith

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Long Island, N.Y., in a town called Bellmore. My mom was an Italian immigrant, and my dad was fifth-generation Irish American. I have two sisters and one brother. I am the second boy, third child.

What did your parents do?

My dad attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. He didn’t graduate from there, but he did serve in World War II and the Korean War on a munitions ship in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I initially wanted to be a doctor because they were perceived of as being successful and made a lot of money, had clean hands, clean offices, and worked with nice people. That was pretty much my aspiration, as well as a lot of people when I was growing up.

Where did you go to college?

I was the number two soccer recruit out of Long Island. I was a defenseman whose role was to mark the striker. I went to Cortland State and played soccer for one year. At that time, I was a biology/chemistry major thinking I wanted to go on to medical school. After that first year, I moved back home and started working. Almost two years later, I returned to school and earned my degree from C. W. Post College.

Was anyone in your family involved in the insurance industry?

My father-in-law was employed by Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and it was his influence that got me into insurance back in 1980. I was finishing college, and he asked me what my plans were after graduation. He set me up with an interview with a Greek steamship line that ended up going bankrupt a month after I interviewed with them. Next, I had an interview with a Lloyd’s agent, Toplis and Harding. They hired me, and I started my career.

With that great introduction, what made you want to take a claims job?

Well, I was married to his daughter, we had a child, I was working three jobs, and at that point, I would have done anything to make a living. The focus of my first job at Toplis and Harding was to review policies from all over the world and settle claims submitted under those contracts. At that point, I thought I’d pursue a legal career after I was financially stable. I started adjusting claims and ended up being the second-highest biller on the marine side of the business. I should mention that when I first got this job, my father-in-law  told me that claims adjusters were the bottom feeders of the insurance profession. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

How long did you stay with Toplis and Harding?

About two and a half years. The Toplis and Harding job was a great place to learn and to learn quickly. My job was to adjust claims, and that meant I had to understand exceptionally complex policies, Lloyd’s policies, Japanese policies, understand certificates, and read contracts. I was very good at that. I had relationships with risk managers of the coffee trade, Japanese electronics companies, and many more.

I left and went to the St. Paul because I felt like I needed some background in the hull and marine liability areas because all of my experience with Toplis and Harding was in ocean cargo only.

Then I went to GRE Talbot Bird, essentially as a managing general agent (MGA), and worked for a total of 15 years in claims there. At that time, Talbot Bird was one of the largest ocean cargo underwriting companies around. It was there that I took my first management role, overseeing a team within claims. Ultimately, I went on to spend another five years running their marine underwriting unit.

What was it like to work in underwriting after so many years in claims?

Knowing both fields, I think it’s absolutely critical for claims professionals to understand the underwriting side of the house. Ever since that experience, I have wanted claims and underwriting professionals to see each other as business partners. Both sides of the business benefit from sharing more with each other.

The challenges to each are similar in many respects. In my opinion, there is a real lack of underwriting mentorship going on in the industry. That is a real shame, in my view. Each segment of the business has its own challenges, and having a better appreciation for others helps everyone. I’ve made it a point at Allianz to make sure that our claims team understands and appreciates the challenges the other segments, such as underwriting or risk consulting, are facing.

What were some of the attributes about claims that made you want to make it your career?

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. We really saw this when Superstorm Sandy hit.

Was Superstorm Sandy a major exposure for your company?

Yes. It had a major impact on our staff and our company. Our offices were physically closed for two weeks. Many of our staff also were affected personally, but everyone worked hard to do their jobs and serve our clients. We had staff running to Starbucks to get online to help an insured. We had the spouses of adjusters waiting in line at the gas stations at 5:00 a.m. so the adjusters could go back out the next day and do their jobs. The way we handled those claims and treated our customers did more to solidify our position in the market and bring in new customers than anything else we could have done. I am very proud of our claims teams to have stepped up their game during that entire event and its aftermath.

You’ve said that you think claims professionals own their business. Can you expand on that?

What we sell here is claims service. It’s the promise we make to our customers. We might spend a lot on technical training and on making sure everyone knows what to do, but it’s really their understanding of that promise that differentiates the claims staff. Claims professionals also need to understand the full spectrum of the business—the underwriting, sales, etc. When we prospect on big pieces of business, I insist that the claims people are involved so they are part of the team selling the product to the market. That way the claims professional takes ownership of that relationship, that work, and that promise.

How would you describe your own management style?

I’d like to think that my own leadership style is to ensure that I’m clear at all times, about my vision, the vision for the company, and what my expectations are. I’m not a micromanager. I try to lead by example, always ensuring that I’m working just as hard, if not harder, than those around me.

What changes and influences do you see in the industry today?

To some degree, I think we are in an old industry. Some of the thinking can be archaic. What we’ve developed at Allianz is a very progressive way of thinking about claims. I believe there is a need to continually reinvest in the infrastructure. We consider it worth the effort and investment in training our young claims professionals, and in all instances, it has paid off for Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty.

Tell me about your family?

My wife and I have been married for 34 years. We met when her brother and I worked together. We have five sons. They all play lacrosse. The first four played in college, and my youngest is still in high school and is a highly recruited lacrosse prospect. My oldest son was in finance and is now a paralegal headed to law school. I have one son who works as an underwriter in the industry. Another son is an assistant lacrosse coach. I’m proud of all of them.

Do you have any hobbies?

I used to love to travel, but I do so much traveling with work now that traveling isn’t as fun as it used to be. Once you start doing 200,000 miles a year or taking round-the-world trips in six days, travel loses its appeal. However, I’m an avid sports fan, and I played basketball and soccer competitively until about seven or eight years ago. I love cooking. I love creating meals. There’s no better feeling than watching friends and family devour a meal that I’ve prepared.   

Taylor Smith is a contributing editor to CLM Magazine and president of CLM Advisors, which provides consulting and talent acquisition services to the claims and litigation management industry. He may be reached at taylor.smith@clmadvisors.org, (224) 212-0134, www.clmadvisors.org.

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