Reflections on 45 years in the claims business

March 21, 2023

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As recently announced, I am stepping down from my position as CEO of Sedgwick’s international operations to pursue retirement at the end of this month.

I have spent my entire 45-year career working in claims, and this industry has afforded me opportunities and adventures that I never could have imagined. As I reflect on the journey during my final weeks on the job, I’d like to share a few thoughts with the many colleagues, business partners and industry friends I’ve gained along the way.

Moments that matter most

I started as a trainee in 1978 and became a claims handler, and later a manager, in the north of England. Ten years in, I experienced a true turning point in my career and my life. On the evening of Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing more than 250 people on board and 11 people on the ground. The wreckage instantaneously turned sections of the town into an unrecognisable war zone. I was one of the first people to arrive in Lockerbie following the explosion, and I’ll never forget the horrors I witnessed. I spent that Christmas helping people pick up the pieces of their shattered homes and businesses.

That experience opened my eyes to the true meaning of what we do: As claims professionals, we intervene in the lives of others during big moments. Those moments aren’t always splashed across the headlines like the Pan Am bombing, but they leave an indelible mark on the individuals whose lives are altered by them. Whether it’s an illness or injury, a motor vehicle collision, a house fire or some other crisis, we get involved when a significant life event occurs that leads someone to reach out for help.

Our industry answers the call every single day, and how we conduct ourselves during those pivotal moments matters. In addition to efficiency, professionalism and technical expertise, people look to us for empathy, understanding and straightforward communication during an unwelcome crisis. Caring really does count.

Elevating our profession

Many things have changed over the course of my career, but one that’s remained constant is critical human connection. Taking care of others at their most vulnerable is as important today as ever. Anyone who has worked claims in a catastrophe situation knows that, while it can be draining, the satisfaction of tending to people in their time of need infuses the work with meaning and fuels one’s sense of purpose.

Regrettably, the insurance industry doesn’t get enough credit for our invaluable societal role in supporting people through difficult times and making them whole again. We have a real opportunity — particularly amid the currently tight labor market — to reshape the narrative from merely “falling into” jobs in the claims industry to choosing a career with boundless growth potential and the capacity to make a difference.

Many workers today are looking for jobs that offer variety, flexibility, challenging and meaningful work, learning and development, defined career paths, creative problem-solving and the ability to travel. All of these are areas in which the claims industry generally excels, and we have a wide range of available roles that will allow people to fulfill these worthy ambitions.

As a university graduate and young trainee in the late 1970s, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would eventually hold some of the industry’s most respected leadership roles. My career in claims has given me the world and enabled me to impact the lives and careers of so many. I sincerely hope more bright young people come to consider the value of pursuing a career in this business, where truly anything is possible. (See here for more on career opportunities at Sedgwick.)

A bright future awaits

With my tenure as international CEO of Sedgwick winding down, I have peace of mind knowing that the business is on solid footing and in very good hands.

When I joined the company about five years ago, Sedgwick was evolving from a North American business with a few overseas outposts into a truly global organisation. Our primary focus then was bringing together the acquired international businesses of Vericlaim and Cunningham Lindsey and aligning them with the North American operation under the strong Sedgwick brand and culture. With a lot of hard work, good fortune and a brilliant and supportive leadership team, we’ve made tremendous strides in laying a strong, values-driven foundation for the international business.

Our accomplishments from the past five years are some of the highlights of my career. Today, Sedgwick is the No. 1 claims provider in more than 75% of the markets in which we operate, and that number continues to grow. We have set a course for our international business to do not only more of what we do today, but also more than what we do today.

It’s been a roller coaster of a journey — across time zones and language barriers and through a lingering global pandemic — and I could not be prouder of the talented team we have assembled and the world-class solutions we deliver. I know this is just the beginning for Sedgwick internationally, and I eagerly await the opportunity to watch the business continue to diversify and soar to even greater heights under the leadership of Tom Simoncic. Exciting times are ahead!

Tags: Career development, Career planning, careers, Claims, connection, culture, empowering performance, Insurance, international, jobs, leadership