If you ever find yourself in a room of claims and litigation professionals and need a good icebreaker, be sure to ask the person closest to you this question: Did you find the industry, or did the industry find you? It’s a great way to get a conversation going about someone’s career in claims, whether it’s with someone who has been doing the job for two years or 20 years.
One thing that becomes evident? Many stumbled into the field initially, but they ended up sticking with it for the long-term. So what is it about the industry that claims and litigation professionals love and keeps them coming back for more? CLM Magazine polled its members and fellows to find out why those who find claims just can’t quit it once they start.
It’s the Work
As one respondent said, “Claims is where the insured realizes the benefit of their risk-transfer strategy. It is where the insurer delivers on its promise to its insured and is why they invested in the insurance product.” But this objective response belies the subtle nuances provided by a career in claims that so many others recognize and cite as a major reason why they love the business of loss.
“I enjoy doing what I can to fairly compensate an injured employee, particularly when they have had a life-changing injury,” says Jeff Rush, workers’ compensation program manager for California JPIA, one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state. “After 28 years in the industry, I still enjoy meeting employees in person, and I’ve been fortunate to visit some severely injured employees. I’m grateful that my early involvement has helped many employees get a really good result from a bad situation.”
Digging into the details and conducting analyses related to losses were reasons many mentioned why they enjoy their careers. Additionally, the challenges teased by complicated claims were doubly rewarding to many professionals when the problems are finally resolved.
“It’s always been the investigation of a claim that I love,” said one claims professional who has more than 20 years of experience. “I get to play ‘detective’ and interview people, gather evidence, and piece together how an accident or incident occurred. You must outsmart some claimants who aren’t always truthful. And it feels great to save the company money by only paying what is legally owed due to a proper and thorough investigation.”
“I like the challenge of figuring out how I can help the client,” says Tamera Erskine, shareholder at Webster Henry. “This is often like working on a puzzle. You must see the big picture in order to get all of the pieces to fall into the right places. Sometimes, you have to try a multitude of [tactics] before you find the right fit, but it’s worth it when you see the final picture come into view. Challenging cases make it more interesting!”
“Once upon a time, I wanted to be a lawyer, so claims is my way of lawyering without the law school bill,” says Ronsheeka Harte, senior claims specialist at Chubb Insurance. “I love negotiating and reaching a settlement, and the skills that I’ve learned working for insurers have also helped me in my everyday life.”
Many respondents also mentioned how they enjoy knowing a little about a lot of different industries, since a career in claims promises limitless learning opportunities.
“I fell in love with claims and insurance defense work in my very first couple of years of practice,” says Maureen Fatcheric, a partner at Costello Cooney and Fearon PLLC. “Not only do we learn and develop new law as we litigate cases, but also we must become ‘mini-experts’ relative to the underlying facts of the case for things like elevators, farm equipment, weather data, building codes, and so on. It’s never boring, and we are always learning.”
“There are a lot of things I love about my work, but what first got me hooked was the opportunity to learn about every type of business out there,” says a veteran claims professional working for an insurer. “Over the course of my career, I’ve learned about operating a parking company, manufacturing hair dye, the physical forces generated in a big truck crash, and how motorcycle helmets are designed (and their limitations). Claims is an information junkie’s dream job.”
It’s the People
Many respondents also remarked that, when it comes to a career in claims, every day is different. That includes the people who claims professionals encounter both in and out of the office.
“Claims is a fascinating endeavor from the very start, as a way of helping people in unexpected, traumatic situations,” said a veteran claims professional working in the industry. “Then I was hooked even more with the stories—the crazy things that people say and do, and crazy claims and outcomes. Now, after almost 30 years, every claim is still different, and every claim is still interesting and unique. Mainly, the team members and co-workers are what has kept me engrained. I have been blessed to work with amazing team members over the years.”
“I fell into the claims industry over 30 years ago when I applied for a general liability claims adjuster position at a P&C insurance company,” says Jeanne Givner, a senior manager of risk management at a major transportation company. “As an outside adjuster, I traveled around my city meeting a diverse population that experienced unfortunate losses. It was my job to help them bring closure to tragic events in their lives. My job allowed me to learn medical terminology, legal theories, financial information, and throw on the hat of a pseudo-counselor to help people bring their lives back to some semblance of order. When one claimant called to thank me for the impact I made on their life, I knew I was in the right role and fell in love with my profession.”
“I fell in love with the insurance industry when I won my first defense verdict in the beginning of my long career handling liability as well as litigated claims,” says Yvonne A. Butta, a claims administrator with Gibson & Associates. “The counsel defense team and I worked long hours and came up with the right legal strategy that allowed us to win for both the insured and the company. The collaboration, hard work, and outcome of the case impacted and shaped my career.”
“What I love about claims is largely my fellow ‘claims people,’” says a long-time claims professional with more than 30 years of experience. “We are a driven, hard-charging, smart, compassionate, empathetic, and creative group. [Not to mention,] the gallows sense of humor that many claims people have has kept me laughing for my entire career. It is the people in this industry that make me love it.”
Several survey respondents cited a positive experience with the claims process prior to the start of their careers as an impetus for joining its ranks.
“One unsuspecting claims representative changed my life when she turned my car accident into a success story,” says Anne Bosier, director of claims training at North Carolina Farm Bureau. “When my car was totaled and I was injured, the claims representative sailed in and expertly maneuvered me through my worst day. It was then that I knew I wanted to make a career out of helping people get through their own worst days. Soon after that accident, I became a claims adjuster for North Carolina Farm Bureau. Now, over 20 years later, I am still just as passionate about our purpose and do my best to instill that in others!”
“In college I swear my car had a target painted on it—I had four accidents in four years,” says a claims professional with more than 20 years of experience. “I dealt with multiple insurance adjusters from different companies. I realized that the general public (myself included) had no clue how insurance worked. I figured I could become an adjuster and actually help people through the process.”
It’s the Impact
While the work and the people ultimately attracted many to the industry, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents cited the impact of their work on others as a major reason they love their careers and will remain in claims for as long as they can.
“I knew that claims was the right career for me when I was fresh out of training and took on my first claim,” says Stephanie Neuenfeldt, MBA claim supervisor at EMC Insurance. “It was an elderly couple who I was able to walk through the entire claim process. I was able to take them from a place of fear and anxiety and set their minds at ease. Being able to help educate and empower others during a stressful time in their lives is a pretty amazing career to have.”
“At first, I loved the excitement of the investigation,” says Ronna Ruppelt, CEO of CLM. “Standing on the interstate in the middle of the night in the snow and blowing wind when one of my trucking insureds was involved in multi-vehicle pile-up with my shorthand stenographer at my side while I took statements was a thrill. In later years, there was nothing more satisfying than resolving catastrophic injury claims at mediations so the appropriate care could be started sooner than later. Claims really is about helping people.”
“The job is not only a paycheck; it serves the purpose of protecting members of the community when an accident or tragedy strikes,” says Keisha Sneed, claims SIU, Allstate Insurance Co. “I started my insurance career with our catastrophe team; being in the field and providing our policyholders with the hope of rebuilding after a major weather event was extremely meaningful and fulfilling.”
Finally, some respondents say the opportunity to change the public perception of the industry keeps them going and motivates them to do great work.
“I fell in love with claims after handling claims for one year,” says Anntoinette Banks, a claims adjuster with Franklin Insurance Adjusters. “I realized how coverages and benefits were not being explained properly by some agents and claims representatives. Being able to explain a policy’s benefits to customers brings me great joy while assisting them with such unfortunate incidents.”
“The personal contact with the various parties in the claims process created opportunities that resulted in positive outcomes for the parties and my personal satisfaction of a job well done,” says William W. McLaughlin, who has 50 years of experience as a claims professional. “You have a chance to change prior opinions regarding insurance companies and claims professionals, one claim at a time.”
Speaking at a 2005 commencement at Stanford University, Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
No one said claims is an easy career, but when done with compassion and a drive to make a difference, it can be an affair to remember.