Your Take: What Makes a Successful Modern Claims Professional?

CLM Members and Fellows share their thoughts

September 07, 2023 Photo

As insurance companies double down on efforts to leverage technology to automate and simplify tasks, and as virtual working environments transition from a phenomenon of the pandemic to a new normal, CLM professionals contemplate what skills and qualities are required for successful claims professionals in today’s changing world. Most significantly, CLM professionals appear to agree that the traditional skills and qualities that have always defined high-quality claims professionals will continue to do so. Most also believe that new skills need to be added to that foundation.

Debbie Clem, commercial claims and litigation manager, Erie Insurance: “To remain effective as a modern claim professional, each adjuster must be able to extend the human touch in a digital world. As the digital world becomes more integrated into everyday life, people naturally crave connections, compassion, and humanity. Regardless of technology, I believe that human connection will remain a critical part of the job.”

Peter Schifrin, president, Schifrin, Gagnon & Dickey, Inc.: “The ability to prioritize claim activities and respond timely in a world where expected response times have considerably shrunk is essential. I don’t want to discount any skills, but it appears technology will take over some of the core competencies and free up claims handlers to concentrate on areas including cause of loss, coverage, and customer service. I still believe competence and integrity in claims handling are essential to success.”

Amy Weaver, general adjuster, Farmers Insurance: “A modern-day professional needs an efficient help desk, as nearly every type of interaction is digital whereby downtime and cyber risks are costly. Organizational skills are essential as data and efficiencies are coming in rapidly. The customer has evolved: Do they want text only, email, or an actual phone conversation? The days of calling and leaving a voice message (and someone actually listening to it and replying) is becoming outdated for most customers. Still, the ability to think critically is essential, especially with much more information coming in and the ability to obtain it from vast areas.”

Ann Joslin, vice president – claims, Energy Insurance Mutual: “Professional judgment and the ability to recognize complex issues, as well as integrity and ethical behavior, will always be critical to the claims role. In addition, flexibility and adapting to changes are critical to performance against a rapidly evolving technology backdrop.”

Stan Townsend, national general adjuster, Sedgwick (Property Americas): “Younger folks already have technological skills. But I believe no traditional skills—such as empathy, knowledge of policies and proper procedures, and qualities of ethical dealings—are irrelevant. These skills seem to have been put in the back seat of training these days. And good old-fashioned hard work never goes out of style.”

Sherie Gekiere, technical claims consultant – workers’ comp, Amerisure: “New skills needed: Agility, flexibility, adaptability, and empathy. New quality needed: The drive to continuously learn and improve. Traditional skills less relevant: Thinking back 35 years to when I started in the business, I can’t think of any skills that I needed then that I no longer need today.”

Eric Marler, head of claims, Counterpart, Inc.: “We prioritize candidates who are able to understand, interpret, and leverage data in ways that allow them to make smart decisions. If you find someone who does that and also possesses an entrepreneurial spirit, humility, and emotional intelligence, that’s someone you want to hire as quickly as possible.”

Gary Leonard, executive vice president, Gallagher Bassett Specialty: “Claims professionals have always needed to be able to think on their toes and be willing to make tough decisions while effectively communicating their positions (good, bad, or indifferent) to claimants, insureds, brokers, and organizational leaders. However, technology has advanced, and with those advancements, my concern is that many of our experienced professionals have shown an unwillingness to keep up with the technology.”

Nicole Fagan, senior claims specialist II, Vela Insurance Services: “I think the ability to adapt is important now more than ever. Change is coming and we must start to prioritize new skills like learning to prompt ChatGPT and other models. The skills that will always be relevant are ones that demonstrate the human touch, like critical thinking, negotiation, and customer service.”

Lori Zobler, senior claims advocate, USI Insurance Services: “The modern claim professional must be fluent with the present technologies offered by carriers, vendors, etc. Considering the remote workplace, professional conduct is more important than ever. If being seen on a computer screen is your only interaction with a client or customer, always put your best foot forward.” 

About The Authors
Phil Gusman

Phil Gusman is CLM's director of content.

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