Beyond the Claim
Beyond the Claim

Episode 11 · 2 months ago

Handling Claims in the Retail Space: What's Changed and What Needs to Change w/ Jenny Novoa


Handling claims in retail throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge undertaking. But when you add cultural differences and differing laws into the mix, it can become very challenging very quickly.

We speak with Jenny Novoa, Sr. Director of Risk Management & Safety, about how retail has changed — partly shifting online, the status of diversity in the workplace, and what to expect in 2022.

Join us as we discuss:

  • How responsibilities of risk managers have changed throughout the pandemic
  • Understanding the dramatic decrease in claims & what to expect in 2022
  • the importance of diversity & inclusion in companies  

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

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We haven't got back completely to the norm, not yet. I expect two thousand and twenty two will probably start seeing some normalization. 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. Well, everyone, welcome to this episode beyond the claim. I'm your hope, smart cunning him she's sales and marketing officer with broad star. Today I have the pleasure of joining me Jenny Novella, senior director of risk, manager and safety with gap. Jenny, welcome. Thank you very much. Have you been often referred to these past two years as of the pandemic? Where in December, two thousand and twenty one one, for those of you listening, and you know, as the kind of the last two years? where? But you have to have it as a point of reference. Now, where was two thousand thousand nineteen thousand and eighteen? But I've you been that made it unscathed. You know, I think it's been an interesting two years because, being in the retail industry, we were so impacted and and I feel like it's been a Worldwin. I feel like I've worked so hard and had very little down time and I think I've lost time. Is How I felt. Felt that all these you know, just recently, just I feel like I've lost two years just because it's been so intense. So, yeah, thank you for asking. I think you're speaking for a nation. I think that picture we'll post it out there as the meme for the pandemic. The lost the last two years now. That's, yes, true. Words definitely never been said. Well. Well, Jenny, thank you for in light of that, definitely cartonounce some time for us and our audience and we appreciate you joining us there. Jenny, for those are for those of the audience that maybe don't know you personally, you've given us an idea kind of how your career journey, what's led you to where you are today, and we can kind of continue from there. Sure. So, while I was in school and college and I went to San Francisco State here, I'm born and raised some native San Franciscan and I was looking for a job and I happen to find a part time job in an insurance agency and I was a file clerk and I basically would read everything I would file and I was really efficient. I'll put put it out there because I was really efficient and I would finish really fast every day and I'm like book, can you just give me something else to do? So they kept giving me more and more. So they gave me certificates of insurance, they gave me claims, they gave me accounting, and so I kind of learned the industry in a very diverse way, you know, just learning different areas. And so when I graduate, there like we want you to stay, you know, we want to give you a book, a business and you know this is this a great career path for you. And I'm like, okay, totally fine, but it's not really what I wanted to do. And then I applied for a job at the gap and it was a claims coordinator position, and that was twenty nine years ago so, and it was in that it was it's been a really, really fun journey because I've seen this company grow and a lot of different ways and I got to experience different roles within the risk management team. So my favorite, favorite part is claims. So my specialty has been general ability, property claims and auto claims and and so I just basically took on so many different roles. Anytime something came up, I would take it and do it. So when they needed a resource for safety, I took it. And you nothing about safety, but I learned it. When they said, hey, we need some help in the workers comp area, I took it. When they said, hey, we need help with international claims, I took it. So you know, through the years I've been promoted up and so now I had the team and so I'm responsible for all our brands worldwide for risk management and safety. So it's it really has been such a fun journey. But also, on top of that, I had...

...some great mentors who really kind of guided me through the risk management world and also just the corporate world. So it's been really and really had a say, just a great career path and gap has been really exciting to work for excellent that's I like you. That's it. You know, it's almost reminiscent of the way we used to be more regularly and to hear someone that has had that successful journey, especially with one organization, is not you don't here. That is often these days. So definitely testaments here your ability to deliver and execute it and do do well for others. So thank you for sharing that. Quick side note. I was in San Francisco. I travel often, so not a new for me, but new for my family and we were there earlier this year. That the trip down the coast beautiful. Love the city, love the coast. It's great family time. I'm in south Florida, for those that are listening. If there was one place I would move to, who would be California. So you guys are in a great place over there. So from a risk management standpoint, and just for context for the group, when you say the gap and all of the joint companies, is everything flow through? When you think like banana public and few of the other organizations that you're friend to, all of the associated yes, so we were gap, Banana Republic, old navy and Athletta. So those are our brands and so all of those reporting to the corporate function, which is what I'm responsible for, as well as the distribution centers. So yeah, it's a it's a big organization. I think a lot of people don't understand that. We have all our brands, but it's, you know, they're all they all operate somewhat. Is Different companies at times, but all is one. I understand. I have my car, it has it all and I see the invoice, so I do understand. That's good. So let me ask something from a retail space. I don't and the experience is different across brands. Please feel free to expand, but I'll generalize and say within the gap parent brand, when you when you see and you view your world pre pandemic, during the pandemic, I don't know what phaiths were in right now. Quite frankly, keep thinking we're in the fourth quarter, but I'm just not sure anymore. But how have you seen the your responsibilities change? What's been the most dramatic and, let's say kind of pre and then the initial wave of the pandemic? Well, I mean I think what's changed a lot is we were so focus, you know, prior to the pandemic. You know we had our path, our journey in a lot of it was focused on stores, and it's not to say we're not still focus on the stores, but it was just a different focus and it seems sort of status quo. We've been doing really well what we were doing from the rest management St standpoint. You know how we were dealing with claims, how we were dealing with safety. Then the pandemic it and with all the rules and regulations and mandates and just trying to keep track of that alone and trying to imply lament everything we were required to do from an ocean standpoint, from a health department standpoint, to ensure that our employees were safe, was a challenge upon a challenge, and so our focus changed and it's and and and, but it is something I love about risk management. Every day I walk in, I never know what I'm going to expect. So this was like times a thousand. So it became very draining, is what I would really say about this this this past two years. But you know, I think we've been very fortunate from risk management and safety standpoint because we've done very well in in in ensuring our employee safety and you know they have very good track record there. So but still it was, you know, the challenge has been just keeping up with that. And now our business is somewhat shift a little bit to where we're focused on our online sales. That was something that kind of...

...promoted. You know, people now shopping differently and so you know, it's a shift, it's a focus making sure our distribution centers are getting the support they need in order to manage the the increase in sales there. So it's been fun but very tiring. Look at that, we go through kind of the stages and you look at that first and of our refer to it as the first quarter of the pandemic. You know, obviously the country was shutting down side of the obviously stores were as a well from it were at stamdpoint. That presents new. I know we saw a lot of our claims go down related to typical risk events, but that that was offset by actual covid claims. Did you kind of get somewhere pre or did it just shift where the injuries that were recurring? We saw dramatic did decrease in claims for the longest period of time. We would see some, some small amount of COVID claims, but not very much and we were very surprised by it. When I was sitting with the actuaries in my well April and May and June of twenty two thousand and twenty and we would we were discussing how do we deal with this? How are we going to how are we going to estimate and be able to forecast what's going to happen here because we none of us have ever experienced this before and it was a lot of conversation back and forth and I thought we would see an increase in claims, covid claims and even potentially stress claims, people having to go to work. But we didn't necessarily translate to that. Some industries have been different. Ours has been somewhat pretty steady in the sense of not seeing that that dramatic increase and claims. You know, we'll see what happens. As you know, two Thousan two thousand and twenty two was we continue in two thousand and twent me two, but we haven't necessarily seen that big increase. Said, I thought for sure we were going to say so we fast forward to, you know, the club for the quarter two thousand and twenty one. I would assume most, if not all, your stories have reopened in some capacity another at this point. Yeah, so, yeah, so we're all open. We've been. It's been status quo. Restrictions have decreased because, if it many remember, in many areas of the country you had restrictions on how many people could enter the store, you had restricted hours, but now we're completely open and people are coming back. We're seeing that people are shopping again, which is wonderful. That's what we want to see. And but again, trying to translate into you know, from an actuarial standpoint, with that all is going to mean and how it's going to translate for claims. That's the hard part, you know. And so it's almost like you have to throw out two thousand and twenty and say it was just an anomaly and let's let's look and see how we're progressing in two thousand and twenty one and and two thousand and twenty two and see if we we kind of normalize back to what we know, because from a claim standpoint, all of us have always looked at a historicle. We've always said let's you know, the history repeats itself. You know, actuaries always say that. And we had a year and maybe even two years that really have not been normal. So it's it's a fascinating case study. I think that we'll see somebody do some day to kind of tend to understand its trending. It's not going to be me, but it's going to be interesting expect yeah, maybe we're seeing a lot of that kind of regression to the mean and many of the in Snett all, but in many of our industries, kind of our clients. Are you, if you look at this the last couple of months, is it kind of resemble for the most part, pre pandemic from a perspective? Or we haven't got back completely to the norm? Not yet. I expect two thousand and twenty two will probably start seeing...

...some normalization, but we were not there yet. Well, so your point online emergence and ship percentagewise, I was still playing a significant role there. Right. Yeah, and I think, I think that you know what we saw. You know. I think what we saw for black Friday was, you know, the increase still in the online traffic. So but some people still shifting to going back to the stores. So you know. And and really you know, Thanksgiving Day, retailers closing. So that was fun too. You know that people can enjoy themselves in their holiday. So you didn't see that rush of people going to the stores. So yeah, it's I think things have changed. I think you know how much of the retail industry will change. We'll say, yeah, you're right, it will be different. I think there were some the the the positives, the silver linings. I think we all appreciate it where it was the family time and, you know, the kind of focusing on the those priorities. I'm hoping, based on what you're saying, to to your point where retailers have made some adjustments and fear employees to maybe restrict maybe some of the seven model that was emerging over the years. That I'm sure that plays into some of the exposure that you have as well and I'll set maybe some of the the lost revenue, but probably the right thing to do, you know, for for your employee sake. So that's good. So what do you what are you looking at? If you look at two thousand and twenty two, twenty three, you know Jenny's vision for what I want to achieve as I look out over those two years from a wrisk and when I do want to shift in a second and talk about the versy, equity inclusion, because I know it's close to your heart as mine, but when you just when you look at the claim aspect of things, what do you would you like to accomplish or see over those next couple of years? We had a we had a postpone a lot of projects and goals that we wanted to do in the last couple of years because we've been the team has been so focused on just dealing with covid and the mandates and different safety policies we had to roll out and things like that, and it's been it's been such a busy time for the team and and so we want I want to go back to looking at everything and shifting and and and looking at the goals that we postpone to see if we should take those up. And even you know, as they think about the shift in the business with our distribution set, there's really heavily focused on the online business and moving more to automation. Is taking a look at the claims and how they're going to change with automation. So there are things I want to focus on and how we should look at that and evaluate and get ahead of it before becomes an issue or if it does become an issue. So I want to focus on the safety side a lot more on our distribution centers and then focusing on the stores and seeing what their needs are now the things have shifted and making sure we're supporting them if and if it is it a different and should we be looking at it from a different way? You know, I'm all about trying to integrate safety as much as possible into the operations then kind and then focus on training. So I want to see what else we should be doing, and so that's what that tasks the team as we're looking at two thousand and twenty two and our goals is to say what should we what should be doing what, and and maybe looking at things just differently and not looking at its status quo. But I think I have a team that's really been just beaten because of all the time they've spent and so I don't necessarily want to throw too much at them right away. But you know, we do have to get up to speed and start looking at the postcodd world. Yeah, I agree, we're all looking at that redirection, but with kid gloves of Hey, there's there is a bit of a fatigue factor that we need to account for and give folks at a time to mentally have end a quick fault question and as you mentioned operations within retail. I think intuitively, I would imagine most folks will just say, Oh, you're talking about individuals in the store that are selling or servicing, but I would not. I...

...would imagine that you have deeper layer to that right where you probably have some transportation, you have warehouse. What is? What is operations mean to an organization like yours? We look at it from two different standpoints. So we look at it from the store standpoint, so the are sales associates, are store personnel who are servicing the store. Is Part of the operations there, and then we have our distribution side, which is our distribution centers, which are the people handling the inventory within the distribution center. So I kind of break it up between the two. They operate so differently. Fortunately, we don't have much of a transportation side, so we don't have the trucking exposures and things like that, which is great because that would be a job in itself. Yeah, so that's one night when I think about the operation side, and of course I put in customers there too, because they are a big part of you know, being a public environment, you know, just having the customer base that comes in and make ensuring they're safe to I know you mentioned you're managing this internationally and I did hear that correctly. Right, forget. So I could probably be a show in itself. But is there anything before we pivot the and I that you would you would say, you know, really resonates when you think of maybe the differences of first management internationally. Well, I think it's what I learned when I took it over a rig, you know, years and years ago, was you have to think a bit from a cultural standpoint. So how we manage claims, how we manage safety, even how you manage insurance is very different, and so you have to understand that, you have to learn it. So, if you break out just the claims portion, how we've may manage a claim here in the states is very different than how you would do it in Japan. It's culturally, it's it's you can't be it's about apologies and it's not about where here we may be. You know, someone immediately will tell you that they want something. When you from a customer standpoint, let's say, you know, and I'm gonna sue you, you know, it's becomes almost in you a very advert adversarial but there it's a very nice you know, you have to be nice. You have to say, you know, I'm sorry for what's occurred and and really kind of think about how you're going to manage it, and so that's what I really learned from it. China's very different and friends, you know, again, every one of those countries, every time I took it on, I was like, Gosh, I gotta I got to relearn how I speak and how I handle it with decisions I make, because it could change the course of the name. If you try to handle it like you would if you put your us hat on, it's not going to work. So I think that's been the fun part, because I was like, okay, I got to really rethink this, I got to think of a different strategy and sometimes it was just like you just got to be nice. It's like it's been fun. I've been really I had fun managing that. I've turned it over to another member of my team who's enjoying it. And then sometimes it's challenging because the laws very different in certain countries. So how we may approach something here is very different how you approach it there. So but I would say one of the Nice things about international claims that it's not as not as intense and not as many as it is in the United States. So that's what all right, most of the diversity equity and inclusion. You know, I'll open that up by saying I joined broadsbiw two thousand and fifteen. Always saw the organization at all levels as very focused and very open to prioritizing that in many different ways right. But admittedly wasn't until the you know, many of the events that occur that receives national product attention in two thousand and twenty that we really made it a formal priority and establishing multiply R Geez, establishing various we had come in. It's in the community...

...that we're suspended because of the pandemic, but reinforcing that a looking for new opportunity to stay connected, and so I really appreciate that that our broad leadership uses this opportunity to really expand our footprint there rather than retract or concern ourselves overwhelmingly by the you know, being driven by public opinions, that of helping to set that opinion. But what does it mean to you? I know it's important to you. What's what it what is gap doing? What are you personally doing around that? Diversity inclusion? I always think of myself is living in two different worlds, because gap and it's founders very much about diversity inclusions. So it was about, you know, the Work Company that we're a company that was always historically high percentage of women and it was about bringing women up into leadership. And then there it is always been a focus of looking at it beyond that and really focusing on on diversity inclusion. And you know, it's a company that lives and breathes it. Are we perfect? No, because no company is ever perfect, and we relooked at a couple things even within our own company. So I've always been really pleased. I've never felt anything other than support within my organization, even though when I started, you know, there what there weren't, weren't many Latinas, but that's changed, you know, over the of the twenty nine years I've been in the company. So for me and my company has been fantastic. But then I go I look at the insurance industry and it was it's a different world and what I saw was the need to keep promoting diversity within the insurance world when going into a room, you know, seeing more women in leadership roles, seeing more people of Color in leadership roles, because for the longest time I would go in to, you know, meetings with senior leadership of the brokers or insurance companies, and I just I didn't see that, and so I kind I wanted to make it my mission to say I want to talk about it because if I have access to CEOS of the various companies, I want to be able to say, what are your initiatives that you have in place? Is it a goal of yours? Because if it isn't a goal to CEO, nothing's going to change. And you're hearing them talk about it, they're bracing it and I'm seeing change. I think the first change you've seen is more women in leadership roles in the insurance industry, which I'm I'm happy about, but I want to see more people of color and so I try to open that dialog. I try I speak in front of different groups, especially on the you know, the younger generation, to be able to say, you know, you know, about talking about it, being open about it, encouraging it and really just promoting this in just try because we do need we do need to change, because as the as a world changes, is the United States changes, and you see more businesses being led by people of Color. They want to, you know, they need insurance, they need services and they want it, you know, they want to be in they need people who can understand their business and how they they've want to run it. So we need that. We need that for to be successful in business. So that's what I want to do. I've also participated for many years with a high school in San Francisco. I see a crystal ray which is focus on low income all girls high school that has a work study program and over eighty percent of the families live below the poverty line and the girls, you know, usually are the first ones to attend college and their family. So I partnered with them and we sponsor for girls every year to work within the risk management team and they have a job to do. A...

...lot of them enter claims, a lot of them will do other projects and for us, but they have they work of you know, they'll work a full day every week and it exposes them to risk management and in folks it. It focuses them on the insurance side, the claim side, the safety side. It gives them exposure to a world they probably have never heard of, and so it's been really fun to see these girls grow up and I've done it. I think it's been like eight or nine years now that I've done. I've sponsored for girls every year and to see them graduate, see the Graduate College, has been just the one of the most rewarding experiences. So I try to do anything I could, anything that can help promote people to understand, you know, the insurandustry, bring in diversity to the insurance industry, speak to leaders. That's really what I keep trying to do because I I want to leave. Whenever I leave, decide to leave this industry, I want to see a different industry. That's that's that's my goal. I don't often catch myself. I also words and I don't need to be all really dramatic, but it does get home for me personally. So I think for your your efforts and you focus and you commitment, your passion. You know, I grew up thinking that for me individual I didn't need to see someone doing something to aspire or to think that I could achieve it, and I didn't understand for longest time why that was so critically important and that the exposure in the axis and the representation was so critically important to getting individuals and diversifying and and getting an individuals to grow at an individual and so when you say that you're working with an organization like that and they can actually do the job little and see themselves doing it vicariously through you, I can place myself within one of those one of those girls, and see them growing and dividual. It's is powerful, truly the powerful. We need so much more of that. To your point, may my career path is a winding road to get to this point. There's that part of it. I don't think there's a lot of a malicious intent to suppress diversity and insurance, but I do think that, you know, it's a lot of whop. You know, like any other space, and it's you know and you who you live around, who you associated with them. When you're circle isn't very diverse, your organization tends not to be either, and we do need to be intentional about making this a better place so that that's is very powerful what you're doing. Thank you so much for well and when it just let me add one thing about that. Is it as you said, that it just reminds me of that. I was talking to a broker about their their students. They're interns. They brought in to be the net, you know, to bring him through the system to, you know, the graduation from college and bring them through the system of kind of teaching the insurance industry. And so it was in the San Francisto office, which San Francisco's most people know. It's very diverse city. But you know, I walked in and I and I said there's no diversity in the students that you've chosen. And one of the things I pointed out to them is if you continue to go to certain schools that are more laked, you're not going to most likely get the the diversity you're looking for. And so maybe you might think of going to a state school, maybe one that you may know. Iout have thought about and and and an interview and see if you look at the candidates there, you know, and and maybe it's not the schools that you have typically recruited from. And one of the things I told them, I said, how long did they stay? And what they found was most of the the the ones they recruited but stay back two to three years and that was about it. And I said, you know, I really think that you should take a look at different schools and and even start early and bring them in and I said, and show them the career they may have and I bet you gain some loyalty and not see the turnover you're seeing. They have started to do that. Unfortunately, was right before the pandemic. So I can't tell you, you know, if what their length of time is, but I'm I continually...

...ask them that question. But I'm seeing a little I'm seeing more diversity there where if you focus on going to different schools, if you think outside your box, at outside your comfort level, not the schools that you always have typically looked at or, you know, like I said, we're comfortable with, you'll get a different type of of candidates and good or bad, you know, whatever may be, it's you know, it's opening your eyes to different people and they may not love your college football team, they may not love, you know, be part of your sorority or fraternity, but they have the skill bill sets to be able to do a good job and that's what that's what I've always said. Think differently and you'll get something different. So and it's a good, positive thing, but we'll see, you know, we'll see how it continues. I'm seeing positive changes, but I'd like to see more, as might as always, what I say to people in the court of the days. Think definitely and you'll get different results. I love them and it's so true. Jay, thank you so much. I can spend another I can spend an hour on the any of the universe and inclusion for you particular and much you've done in the visually. Very thankful for your efforts and please continue. If there anyone listening that's hosting any forms on the topic, I would encourage you to inviteg any. I think we need to spread that word, spread your accomplishments as much as we can and hopefully replicate them and continue this effort nationally. So thank you so much for all to do it. Thank you all right. Thanks everyone for joining this episode. 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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