In the C-Suite with Dave McNutt
American Modern Insurance Group’s Senior Vice President, Head of Claims, explains what it takes to be great in claims and the community.
By Taylor Smith
Where did you grow up?
I’ve lived in Cincinnati since I was about eight years old. Early on, I realized that I wanted to do some kind of work that helped other people. I majored in industrial psychology at The Ohio State University because I really enjoyed that field of study. I thought I could use it in some way to help people and organizations.
What did you do after college?
I joined Bob Evans Farms and managed a restaurant for them for seven years. I learned a lot about customer service and management in that role, and the absolute importance of treating your staff right.
How did you end up in insurance?
When I started my own family, I wanted a career that did not involve working so many evenings and weekends. A recruiter found me a position at Safeco as a casualty desk claims professional. I was with Safeco for three and a half years before joining American Modern Insurance Group and have been with them since 1989.
Do you believe that claims offers a great career path?
I think there are more career opportunities within claims than ever before. Many years ago, it seemed that there were basically two career tracks in claims: claims handler or management. Today, there are many different career paths within a claims organization. For example, there are opportunities involving developing technology, project management, compliance, and data analytics. Opportunities within a claims organization continue to grow.
Is it hard to find new talent to hire?
Yes, particularly in highly technical areas like complex property, for example. As the boomers retire, it’s hard to find and replace that talent. In our organization, we encourage staff to review multiple career tracks with us during their first three to five years. That exposes them to different disciplines so they see what they are suited for best. When we make that good match of opportunity, skills, and desires, we are more likely to keep an employee with us for the long term. We’ve had great success with this approach.
Describe some attributes of a great claims professional.
Claims calls for some unique skills. The role itself includes being able to make a coverage determination and to provide appropriate investigation in the most efficient way possible. Claims professionals have to be able to deal with ambiguity and seek out answers that are not readily available. We look for individuals who can make decisions, prioritize, and who have functional skill sets, such as being able to write well and communicate clearly with people of different backgrounds. In some roles, like handling claims in the field, we look for the ability to work independently.
What challenges do we face in claims?
There are a few that I think are important. First, we have to focus on creating a work culture to attract and retain millennials. That’s critically important for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Second, I think our industry finds itself working with vendors more and more, which creates some unique challenges. We have to find ways to manage our relationships with vendors and, specifically, to use vendors to enhance our expertise and operations—not to duplicate what we can do better internally. If, as an industry, we don’t manage vendor relationships well, we will see loss adjustment expenses increase with no corresponding return in customer satisfaction.
Are there any hobbies or other activities you enjoy?
In addition to hunting down the big northern pike in the waters of Alaska and Canada, I’m also on the board of directors for four local nonprofits. Last year, I was truly honored to receive the Edward J. Parish Pacesetter Award from Ohio’s Clermont County Chamber of Commerce. Giving back to the community has always been very important to me and to American Modern, so I was really humbled to be recognized in that way.
Current position: Senior Vice President, Head of Claims, American Modern Insurance Group
Years in Current Role: 15
Size of claims organization: Approximately 400
Years in Insurance Industry: 29
Originally From: Cincinnati, Ohio
First Claims Job: P&C Claims Professional, Safeco Insurance Company