In the C-Suite with David M. Siesko

Arch Insurance’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Claims Officer shares his secrets for succeeding in any line of business—including Broadway.

By Taylor Smith

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Berwick, Pa., which is a small town in the northeastern part of the state. My father was in the Navy during World War II and met my mother while stationed in New Zealand. He brought my mother to the U.S. to settle down in Berwick. Because of my mother, I recently secured New Zealand citizenship, and I try to take vacations there when my schedule allows.

How did you find your way to the insurance world?

After law school, I briefly practiced labor and environmental law in Philadelphia. I was recruited by a headhunter who was desperate to find people with environmental law experience back in the 1980s when there was minimal knowledge of the subject in the industry. I joined AIG as division counsel, where I advised senior management on environmental issues, including strategies for handling environmental claims, emergency cleanup response, state and federal compliance issues, and new product development in environmental liability. I returned to private practice in a London-based position for a couple of years and, thereafter, began my tenure with Zurich Insurance Company.

What advice would you give to young claims professionals?

There are many paths to success in this field. I would tell them to make sure they are using the best practices tools available to them on every file, even those that are straightforward, so that their analysis process is practiced and sharp when they are faced with more complex issues. I would encourage them to take ownership of the claims file, but always be conscious that it is subject to audit and review and should be in a condition such that they would feel comfortable sharing it with senior management. They should ask themselves the questions that they might expect senior management to ask, and they should have those answers already documented and clearly noted in their files and reports. If they follow claims best practices, include a detailed summary of coverage, focus on customer service, conduct a thorough and documented investigation, and provide a clear and logical evaluation, they will find success in any line of business.

What are some of the biggest challenges in the industry?

There is a need for more daring leadership within the industry. Leadership that challenges the status quo and includes a clear vision of a new path forward can rejuvenate a claims team and inspire great work. Willingness to make changes to entrenched departmental structures and empower new local leaders creates energy and focus and is a practice that should be taken up periodically by any organization, not just those within the insurance industry. An inspired claims staff is necessary to deliver the high-quality customer service found at the core of a successful claims department.

What is something that people may not know about you?

I am a two-time nominee for the Tony Awards, and I’m also a Broadway producer. I have been involved in several major Broadway shows, including Ragtime, Mothers and Sons, and West Side Story. Theater means a great deal to me and being involved as a producer has been extremely rewarding. I also value community service. I was the chairperson of Community Board Five in Manhattan for several years. I had the opportunity to influence local government on an advisory basis on issues such as land use, landmarks, public safety, parks, and variances. I also am an avid tennis player, and I get on the court as much as possible.  

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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