During its annual conference in Dallas this March, CLM is proud to honor State Compensation Insurance Fund’s Chief Claim Operations Officer Stephen Hunckler with the CLM Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes distinguished industry professionals who have made a lasting impact on the industry and CLM. In a recent chat, Hunckler takes a walk down memory lane to discuss some of his proudest achievements and how the claims business has changed over the years.
When CLM CEO Anne Blume told you that you were this year’s lifetime achievement award winner, what was your reaction?
It was a great call, and I was very humbled by the list of accomplishments she rattled off, which included either chairing or co-chairing the Chief Claims Officer Summit for eight years; and serving as chancellor of Claims College, where I was heavily involved in many aspects, including delivering the opening remarks each year, the creation of the curriculum, and managing other associated leadership and mentoring programs. I told her I would accept, but joked, “Can’t you find someone a little older? I feel like I’m being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame while I’m still on the mound!”
In all honesty, though, it’s a tremendous honor to be included among CLM’s Lifetime Achievement Award winners. I know them all, and to be associated with that caliber of leadership in our industry makes me incredibly proud.
Speaking of being proud, what are you most proud of when it comes to your professional work?
I’m really proud of the influence that I’ve had and the relationships I’ve developed with many of the people with whom I’ve worked over the years at many different companies and organizations. To see their careers blossom and to be told by them that I had a lot to do with it is definitely what I’m most proud of over my career of 37 years (and counting).
Do you have any advice for the younger folks on those teams today who are just starting out in the industry?
I tell people, “Stay thirsty, my friend,” by which I mean never stop developing and feeding your intellectual curiosity. Get that inquisitive thought process going and always ask questions and move things forward in an intellectually curious way. Seek out and take advantage of every educational and “stretch” opportunity that comes your way. Find comfort in discomfort, because that means you are constantly challenging yourself.
A lot has changed in the industry over the course of 37 years. What are some of the biggest differences between handling claims in the early 80s versus today?
When I was in the field, I always had a pocket full of change because I used public phones to call into the office and to let appointments know that I was on my way. (In the city of Chicago where I was a trainee, the biggest challenge was always finding one that worked.) I took Polaroids, and was reimbursed at a rate of $1.25 per photo. I drove to the local police department and picked up photocopies of police reports. We did hand-written statements and went door-to-door to find accident scene witnesses. I remember when voice recorders came out and I really thought, “Oh, this is going to save so much of our time.” Little did I know what was ahead.
Is there a CLM memory that sticks out to you?
It was at the very first Chief Claims Officer Summit, which is where I was introduced to CLM, and I got hooked. It’s one thing to do good for the company that you’re working for, and that’s critically important. But when you get a chance to influence the industry and to build relationships with other chief claims officers at the highest level, it translates into great results for everyone