Beyond the Claim
Beyond the Claim

Episode 14 · 4 months ago

How to Become a Claims Advocate at the Broker Level


As a broker, you place a mind-boggling breadth of coverage in a lot of different industries. It’s a vast universe perfectly suited to a lifelong learner who wants to shape the future of brokerage.

Hear our conversation with Donna MacConnell, SVP, Managing Director, Claims at IMA Financial Group, Inc.:

Donna’s nonlinear career trajectory from psychology to SVP

The emerging theme of specialization in insurance

Respect for expertise and a call for DEI in the field

More information about Donna and today’s topics:

LinkedIn Profile:

Company Website:

Need more claims strategy in your life? Check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

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You're listening to beyond the claim, the show for forward thinking risk and claims professionals curious about the latest industry trends, winning strategies and stories from influential leaders. Let's dive in love everyone. Welcome to this episode of beyond the claim. I'm Mark Cunningham, your host, chief sales and marketing officer with Bross fire. Today I have with me the Senior Vice President Managing Director of claims, with I am a, Dona McCone donal. Thank you, marks Hamman, pleased and happy to be here. Thank you. We're happy to have you. Before we go to deep and we go to I Donna explain to folks what exactly that means when we say an STP of and managing director of claims. What does that mean from a broker standpoint? Absolutely so. I joined I am a about six months ago as the managing director of claims, and what that means is, as I am a is going through our explosive growth and preparing for the future, to be the broker of the future. I am tasked, as the managing director of claims, to build a team that can be an absolute asset to every single one of our clients and help guide them through their journey, both preparing them for claims prior to losses and walking them through claims as they develop. Excellent. Thank you for joining and we'll jump right into it. So so that I know that your path and as find a it not everyone's passing when you're quite frankly, I think that's becoming the norm or than is exception. But here's a particular is not what was once considered the traditional path through, you know, the risk of management broker comes past consulting space. Can you spend some time just telling folks how did you get to where you are today? Is this what you went to college for? Is this where you saw yourself when you know, when you started your career off? How did this come to be for you? Thank you. Yeah, so always had college on on my mind. It was always something I intended to do. Had No idea, frankly, when I started college, where I would end up. So I despite advice to the contrary, everybody wanted me to get a business degree, I got a degree in psychology with the thought that that's going to help me no matter what I decide to do, and it kept my my options open while I was in college, I worked a bunch of jobs. One of them was working for a document production company and we did a lot of work for some local insurance companies, and so I had a little bit of an introduction to insurance that way. And when I got out, when I graduated, I started looking for jobs and with a psych degree, a lot of people were looking at human resources. You know, I didn't. I knew I didn't want to practice, you know, counseling or social work. That wasn't the direction I want to go out, but I wanted to do something where I interacted with people, where I had an opportunity to help folks, and so I landed a job as a claims trainee with an insurance company. started out in personal auto and graduated ultimately to commercial auto and other lines of coverage. While I was doing that, a couple of years in I was working on a project with a senior leader who had a law degree and he said you should go to law school. And I was living in a place and working in a place where there was a law school right down the road and I joke that I went to law school to avoid traffic because I was in southern California. I lived in Riverside and the law school and where I worked were in Orange County, so I could go to school at night and by the time I was done with school my two hour commute was only a half hour, so I was abled. So I was able to avoid traffic for four years and get my law degree while working as a claims adjuster again and a multiline, primarily casualty lines, back in the S and s. So after I got...

...out of law school I thought, well, maybe I should practice law. So I, you know, started looking at law firms who I had become familiar with through claims adjusting because I worked on litigated cases. And so I have interviewed a bunch of firms and landed at one that was nearer, nearer to my home, and started working as an associate, and I will tell you that experience really elevated my respect for the legal fashion and my understanding of how case is work. Working as an adjuster you've got a lot of autonomy, a lot of authority. You boss lawyers around a little bit and I thought I knew what they did, but until you sit in their shoes you kind of don't. So I felt like I learned a lot about the day party. Your site degree played into either of those those initial positions? Definitely, definitely. I mean that that understanding how people tick. And I'm a constant learner. I'm a lifetime learner. So I've taken classes in negotiating strategy and, you know, getting to yes right and getting past know and those kinds of things. So that absolutely I every single day I'm grateful for not only my site degree but the continuing education that I've gathered over the many years. Well, usually peoplest hearted between your education. They're talking about like a certification or something that a separate yes, yeah, and that's good. So and and I think time management is so important in every business now and it's always been important in the claims business right, you need to be able to juggle and manage your time. And so working and going to school as kind of been a constant. It was a constant for me for many years. So I went practice law for just a few years realized I and for the lawyers out there, I hated billing and that, and so I had an opportunity to come back to claims and I was recruited to come back to an insurance company working as a complex claims director and having that experience as a lawyer just elevated my ability to be effective as a claims professional. So I did that for a while and then started getting into some leadership positions. I got a job as a claims manager within when I was promoted from complex director to claims manager. I've moved around the country a bit. So when we talk about education, I think regional education and understanding markets is really important as well. So started in southern California. I lived in Nevada for a while. I moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where I worked for the Home Office of a large insure for thirteen years, and that gives you perspective as well understanding kind of the inner workings of an insurer. And as I was working in in the e on the East Coast, kind of missed my my west coast roots, you know, and it's a different culture and I was ready to to get back west and so I found myself an opportunity as I was working within the carrier as a coverage council. I had evolved into a coverage council role, internal coverage council supporting a construction claims organization and working in the southwest region. So I found a way to move my family and myself into dent into the Denver market. So doing that job for the carrier again, you know, keeping active on Linkedin and keeping contacts with people I've worked with over the years. I had at one point were talked to a former mentor and...

...leader that I had worked with and said here's what I'm doing, I'm not sure I love it, I don't think I want to stay in Connecticut. What do you think? And he planted the seed. He said, I think you would be really good claims advocate at the broker level. And that was years before I even considered it, but that seed was in my mind. Yeah, so when I moved back to Denver and I got a call from a broker saying hey, we've got this leadership position manager of claims at the time, we'd love to consider you for it. And the more I had learned about the broker world and what that entailed and who was on the team, the more I wanted to do that. And so eight years ago I came over to the broker side as a claims manager. So I led the team of claims advocates and also worked as a claims advocate for certain clients and then, most rely, I've moved to this, to Ima, to really build and maintain what works for our claims folks and for our clients and build what we need to be for the future as our company continues to grow and our scope increases. And I definitely want to dive in the defend there. But you are the quintessential Jain of all traits. So you touched on a couple of things that I want to do it. Just to expand on for a quick minute. I know most in the audience one no complex claims, but some won't. So just going back to that responsibility. What did that entail? But what did that involved? That was probably more primarily in the construction space. So in you know, in the late s early construction defect was huge and so I got that's what I was doing. I was handling construction defect claims primarily for general contractors and developers. So kind of managing that litigation to a large degree, understanding all of that, the moving parts, identifying potential risk transfer, working with subcontractors, sat in dozens, if not hundreds of hours of mediation, you know, forging relationships with defense counsel with coverage counsel. I just found that to be so gratifying because it was a very relationship oriented and it was solving problems and coming up with solutions. So it kind of that was it spoke to the WHO I am as a person try trying to find solutions and educate and and find solutions. And then you'd mentioned some of the benefit or of kind of the regional aspect of of what you were doing. Can Extend on that. Would add that I know it's true, but I don't know the others that having to move around understand that. Amicx ilug yeah, well, as an example, you know, on the West Coast my experience was that it was a very cooperative, collaborative claims process. People wanted to solve the problem and get to an end point. When I was working in the East Coast, and primarily in the northeast, I found it to be much more adversarial. This was my experience, so I can't speak to everyone, but I found that the litigation culture was much more adversarial and kind of scorched earth. Nobody, everybody wanted to win at any cost and I had come from a more of a cooperative culture, trying to solve a problem and and get to an outcome. So that was real interesting to me and from a claims perspective, from the perspective of an insurer, adversarial is very expensive and you know, the collaboration and cooperation can be much more cost effective, you know, when you kind of all are all pulling in the same direction, or at least if that's the perception, and much more pleasant. You know, I'm a people person, so I want to deal with people who with whom I have a common goal and not...

...just the goal being fight over every little thing. Maybe it's just a landscape. We did a family ship down from San Francisco to La Writing along the coast. That Bible thone can get you a enter piece of mind than maybe the northeastern the middle of the winner side perhaps. So you make this shift right you from the carrier space to broker space. Did you? At a personal level? was that a was it a significant shift for you mentally? Personally? Family was absolutely I learned more about insurance in my first couple of years with a broker than I learned in my first twenty years in insurance. You know, as a claims person because because you're going multiple and these at back not only multiple lines of coverage. So as a broker, you know, we placed coverage from everything from workers comp to property liability, executive risk, a d no, cyber. It's just there's this vast universe of products and you're dealing with a lot of different industries, you know. Certainly and claims. I dealt with multiple industries, but usually in a limited capacity. At the broker I had clients who were in all kinds of different businesses, everything from food manufacturing to real estate ownership and management to construction. And you know, we and different aspects of each of the those. So it was kind of mind blowing to really appreciate and understand the amazing impact insurance has on everything. I mean, I've just become a an acclied right the world in sure I'd say this insurance makes the world go round. Yeah, no doubt about it. I think you know, whether it be the Jeffson's whatever else we were watching come growing up and the perception that everything would be automated and the risk we would have every risk eliminated. That is actually I think we've introduced more than we've read. You think of cyber and other paths. So yeah, I mean it's good for to that, for individuals to have that. That covers a piece of mind. That's good to have an industry that's sustainable, right, and looking to the future, you know, working for a broker of the future and building that and just starting to recognize the emerging risks. You know, I was on a call earlier this morning talking about the risks associated with with crypto mining. You know, first, what does that mean? Right? And okay, so let's talk about what the risks are and to collaborate. You know, as a claims person we see the end product right, and collaborating with people who place the insurance, who review the contracts, and understanding there's there's a lot of different specialties that go into providing amazing service for clients and being able to recognize that. You know, when you're working a desk as a claims adjuster, you're looking at the outcome of that claim and when you're an advocate for a client, it's not just about getting them what they want in that claim, but also how that impacts them as a risk and how it impacts their ability and capacity for purchasing insurance in the future. So it's very forward looking, despite being dealing with with past events. Yeah, you talked about kind of Crypto and or looking. We have a client pin in the past year. You hear Crypto, you think bit coins and they have to continue to say no, no, no, or not doing it. To your point, my name. It's hardware. It's entire it's not necessarily the risk of financial, you know, a loss from a crypto transaction. It's actually the hardware of how we go about managing our business, just like you would breaking mortar facility or you would you know some. So it's you're as especially as you know in the space as you're in, to be able to kind of understand various industries and it'll kind of have the nuance perspective to shift into also bring in outside thoughts of how...

...things apply to other industry and that maybe they're transferable to something new. I know that's probably going to be rewarding a challenging at the same time. That's it when I say I'm a lifetime learner. When there's something learned, new to to dig into, I get excited about it right and and with the perspective of it's not about me, it's about my clients and how can I be of service to them to make them not only a better rest risk for purchasing insurance, but better prepared for when and if a loss occurs. So you talked about some of the work you've been doing with it. I am a you know, reinforcing what's working well and also building out for the future. I know advocacy is a big component of that. Can you expand on what that what that means from your perspective and where you see the space going in the future? Absolutely, and you know, I think it comes down to the the overall theme is specialization. You know, when we talk about Crypto, it hits a lot of different specialties. But you know, when what we've what we're trying to do at I am as create specialized teams to assist with in particular industries. So you know, a construction specialty from a claims perspective that had. There's a lot of different ways that that that a construction risk is different from a real estate or a hospitality risk. There may be some areas where they overlap, but what we're trying to do is really understand our clients individually and their industries that they're in so that we can build processes and processes, protocols, procedures with people who are deep, deep specialists within that industry so we can there's a culture, components exactly exactly. There's people, yes, and there's people, for sure, and you know, up passingly talk about construction, but in general right, there's a there's a depth of it. I know folks thing today, everyone's popping around from, you know, business to business, but they have some folks that are just in the trenches from from birth that seems that they know everything, they know everyone and there's a level of professional respect that they have and you can speak to them and speak their language. That I you know. I think we have to be conscious of it and I know we are, the TP, and it sounds like you are as well, and probably that you're building out right and then that's it's over time. You know, my intention is to have those deep experts who have the background in the industry, you know, from a claims perspective, with carriers or with TPA's or whatever it takes to be that deep expert so that they can be that exceptional advisor to our clients, so that our clients can focus on their business and trust that we're there to take care of them when they're when they have a loss or when they're to make them a better risk, you know, to reduce their losses. So you're to use structure in a way that they kind of maintain like in a relationship manager type of role, where they are in alignment. Okay, got it. Yeah, so we have the way we get we are currently organized, is when we have a client, they have an assigned claims advocate. So I'm a big I'm a big believer in single point of access, right. So we have advocates to have those relationships with clients who then also have access to the specialization and expertise with the entire team. So you know, and if you are an energy client, for example, your claims advocate is going to be someone in that field with that background so that they can be the best advocate for you and everybody, regardless of their industry, may have a loss. That is a little bit more comment right. So maybe...

...that energy specialist understands the energy business and if they have a particularly sticky workers comp claim, we also have somebody with deep workers comp expertise that can come in and and help them through that experience that was this a direction that you know, I'm it was going in? Is it a direction that you feel that you've been promoting, based on your prior background and kind of having that, you know, access and exposure to multiple pathways that maybe the litigation side, you didn't feel that the industry had expertise? What was really it was really driving that. Do you see this kind of pre empting some of the challenges that may be exposing this industry and future where you don't have enough specialization bee there's too much generalization? It's definitely a direction that I, am a has been wanting to go. It's the direction that we're going in, not only in claims but across the board. So we're building specialties in on the brokerage side, on the brokering side as well, where, you know, we've got account executives and account teams who specialize in placement of real estate risks right and and then, in addition to that, we have specialists who support them in our lost control, in our claims world, you know, in all of the what we call client advantage. So we have a team, our client advantage team, which includes all of those services that aren't associated with the placement of insurance, but it's to advantage our clients as better risks and help them, you know, handle the insurance aspect which, frankly, touches their entire business in most cases. That's that's all. So you know, we have we have safety folks are lost control, consultants who maybe their transportation experts for a trucking company so they can go in and look at the at the client and help them address their transportation risks. Got It. So last question is there is there anything either that's keeping you up at night, and not necessarily specific time aim, but maybe industry in general, whichever you choose, or is there something you said, Hey, this has been a lingering problem in this space that, if I had unlimited access to funds and resources, that I would solve for tomorrow? Is there's something that's been out there they said, you know what, I could fix this. It just need yeah, I need to blank check. Well, I think I've talked about my passion for specialization and I think our world has with the with the vast access to information. I think we are overly saturated with information and that maybe dilutes the respect for expertise. So I would love to to win people over to the thinking that there are experts and certain areas and you can't always solve it with Google, you know, or Web MDE, you know. Trust your experts, tap into your experts within industries, within disciplines, because they're going to make us all better. So that that that's one of my passions, and another is really diversity of voice and leadership in the industry. I think I you know this. I'm I work with the diversity, equity and inclusion committee with a IMA. It was something that I did at my former employer as well, and I just feel like there are so many talented people from every walk of life. I want to tap into all of their ideas because it's going to make us all better. Again, when I say insurance, you know, makes the world go around. We can't always have the decisions made by people who look the same. We need to have a diversity of thought, a diversity of opinion, a diverse city of background to really,... know, serve the industry, our clients and all of the businesses out there in the very best way possible. I love it. Couldn't agree with you more your love the the clothes. There I will add a slight bit of Levity and joke back to your comment about googling and doing an interview of someone in the very specific role about ten years ago and they said, you know, I don't if I don't know, I'll just google it. And at the time Google was around and not as popular as it's Today, and I remember this cringing thinking, oh, that's that's tough and I know we do it now is the commonplace, but to your that can be your level of specialization is being able to Google itself. Definitely appreciate the fact that we yeah, we need to hop it in and respect our different traits and love your thoughts on on the so thank you for that. Well, I've got thank you so much. Thanks so much for your time. I'm sure there will be some folks reaching out to see maybe how they could become a part of I'm a or some thing you're doing within the the advocacy space. How's the best way to do that? Best Way to contact me? I'm pretty active on Linkedin, so you can look me up on Linkedin. The last name is spilled M AC CE N and ELL, so that's sometimes a hurdle because it's about as long as you can imagine that name being spelled. So, Donna McConnell, I'm a linkedin or you can reach out to me at Donna doct McConnell at I am a corpcom excellent, excellent. Well, Donna, thank you so much. Hopefully we'll get to connect again in the future, and good luck with all things postmend thank you, mark. Same to you. You've been listening to beyond the claim, a podcast for risk and claims leaders. To ensure you never miss an episode, please subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player, if you use apple podcast, we'd love for you to give us a quick rating for the show. Just tap the number of stars that you think the podcast deserves. Until next time, stay curious and keep innovating.

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