2017 Teddy Awards: Honorable Mention

A Lesson in Leadership

Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental's workers' comp program.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 4 min read

When George Rable, Benco Dental’s vice president of culture and people, was interviewing for the position of HRIS, compensation and benefits manager in 2015, he knew that Benco needed someone with a depth and breadth of compensation benefits experience combined with a people-person temperament.

Advertisement




In walked Brigid Peet and the rest, as they say, is history.

“People tend to be either a data cruncher or a people person, but Brigid brought both of those traits to the table,” Rable said. “And that was really job one for me. We needed someone who could take the leadership role in our total rewards program and run with it.”

Scroll forward a few years and Rable couldn’t be happier with what the department has accomplished under Peet’s direction.

“On the compensation side, she’s done an excellent job looking at more data to make sure our compensation program is competitive in the marketplace.” Enough, he said, to earn Benco Dental an honorable mention in the 2017 Teddy Awards.

Peet has an affinity for numbers and analysis, but she also loves working in human resources and helping people. The latter is the force that drives Benco Dental’s workers’ compensation program, said Rable.

Brigid Peet, HRIS, compensation and benefits manager, Benco Dental

Peet’s team puts that in action every day as they care for the “Benco family” of more than 1,300 employees, including 400 sales reps and 300 service technicians. What’s best for the employee always comes first.

Case in point, she cites the example of a highly-valued associate who was placed on extended light duty as she was nearing retirement. The employee suffered a second injury but still was keen to return to work.

“We wanted to make sure she wasn’t coming back [just] because there were X number of months before her retirement. We were able to bridge her medical insurance until she was eligible for Medicare so that she had time to consider if it was the right time to retire rather than come back to work on limited duty.”

Benco’s modified duty program has assisted in keeping approximately 50 percent of its lost-time claims to less than $25,000 per claim from 2012 to 2017. Only 4 percent of claims under $25,000 are open, said Peet.

Taking the Company’s Measure

Peet gives much of the credit for the program’s success to people like Deb Hammaker, Benco Dental’s national risk/safety/training specialist of nearly 24 years. Peet said that Hammaker and the rest of the team have taken steps to empower Benco’s safety committee.

Advertisement




Peet calls this “a cross functional committee” that ensures other committees “are constantly reviewing our processes and procedures.” Notable among these: the accident and review committee which oversees the company’s extensive van fleet.

“Whether it’s an automobile accident or a liability around a piece of equipment that has broken, we do a good post-op on all of that,” Peet said. And that doesn’t mean bring the driver down for a courtroom-style cross examination, she’s quick to add.

A key component of the questions asked are focused on ensuring a better and safer future for employees and for the company. “What can we take away from this? What can we do better next time?”

“People do not want to call a third party about their benefits. They want to be able to speak with someone here who will better advocate for their needs.” — George Rable, vice president of culture and people, Benco Dental

Another step in the right direction: a new risk management tracking system stressing broad-based accountability.

Gone are the days when someone in a general cost center at the head office takes the heat —or kudos— for the latest loss prevention numbers. Instead, each region is charged back for its workers’ compensation losses and held accountable.

“In the past, the impact of having an associate off work was felt,” said Peet, “but now it affects how they manage the purse strings, so they may have to cut back in other areas.”

Everything is measured —all costs associated with a loss, including premiums, deductibles and retained losses — and everyone is accountable. The same goes for administrative and even indirect costs.

Everyone in the Loop

“Of all the steps we take to communicate, our Workday program leaps out for me,” said Peet. This, she explains, is a program of data analytics that provides more detailed workers’ compensation analysis to managers, backed up by more predictive safety analytics that will be shared “right down to the individual associate.”

Advertisement




Safety data is available in an online portal, and associates can share information, suggestions and comments, too. Also accessible is an online learning management system, including OSHA training, designed to improve safety. “And we’ll never do away with face-to-face meetings and sending sales and service reps on the road to visit Benco’s five distribution centers,” said Peet.

Of prime importance, too: that first call from staffers in need of advice about their workers’ comp claim. “We’re very high touch here,” said George Rable.

“People do not want to call a third party about their benefits. They want to be able to speak with someone here who will better advocate for their needs. And we have that in Brigid and Brigid’s team.” &

_______________________________________________________

More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.

 

Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.

 

Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

 

Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.

 

Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.

 

Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.

 

David Godkin is a freelance magazine writer based in Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

High Net Worth

High Net Worth Clients Live in CAT Zones. Here’s What Their Resiliency Plan Should Include

Having a resiliency plan and practicing it can make all the difference in a disaster.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 7 min read

Packed with state-of-the-art electronics, priceless collections and high-end furnishings, and situated in scenic, often remote locations, the dwellings of high net worth individuals and families pose particular challenges when it comes to disaster resiliency. But help is on the way.

Advertisement




Armed with loss data, innovative new programs, technological advances, and a growing army of niche service-providers aimed at addressing an astonishingly diverse set of risks, insurers are increasingly determined to not just insure against their high net worth clients’ losses, but to prevent them.

Insurers have long been proactive in risk mitigation, but increasingly, after the recent surge in wildfire and storm losses, insureds are now, too.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy,” said Laura Sherman, founding partner at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners.

And especially in the high net worth space, preventing that loss is vastly preferable to a payout, for insurers and insureds alike.

“If insurers can preserve even one house that’s 10 or 20 or 40 million dollars … whatever they have spent in a year is money well spent. Plus they’ve saved this important asset for the client,” said Bruce Gendelman, chairman and founder Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.

High Net Worth Vulnerabilities

Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

As the number and size of luxury homes built in vulnerable areas has increased, so has the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, harsh cold and winter storms, and wildfires.

“There is a growing desire to inhabit this riskier terrain,” said Jason Metzger, SVP Risk Management, PURE group of insurance companies. “In the western states alone, a little over a million homes are highly vulnerable to wildfires because of their proximity to forests that are fuller of fuel than they have been in years past.”

Such homes are often filled with expensive artwork and collections, from fine wine to rare books to couture to automobiles, each presenting unique challenges. The homes themselves present other vulnerabilities.

“Larger, more sophisticated homes are bristling with more technology than ever,” said Stephen Poux, SVP and head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for AIG’s Private Client Group.

“A lightning strike can trash every electronic in the home.”

Niche Service Providers

A variety of niche service providers are stepping forward to help.

Secure facilities provide hurricane-proof, wildfire-proof off-site storage for artwork, antiques, and all manner of collectibles for seasonal or rotating storage, as well as ahead of impending disasters.

Other companies help manage such collections — a substantial challenge anytime, but especially during a crisis.

“Knowing where it is, is a huge part of mitigating the risk,” said Eric Kahan, founder of Collector Systems, a cloud-based collection management company that allows collectors to monitor their collections during loans to museums, transit between homes, or evacuation to secure storage.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy.” — Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

Insurers also employ specialists in-house. AIG employs four art curators who advise clients on how to protect and preserve their art collections.

Perhaps the best known and most striking example of this kind of direct insurer involvement are the fire teams insurers retain or employ to monitor fires and even spray retardant or water on threatened properties.

High-Level Service for High Net Worth

All high net worth carriers have programs that leverage expertise, loss data, and relationships with vendors to help clients avoid and recover from losses, employing the highest levels of customer service to accomplish this as unobtrusively as possible.

“What allows you to do your job best is when you develop that relationship with a client, where it’s the same people that are interacting with them on every front for their risk management,” said Steve Bitterman, chief risk services officer for Vault Insurance.

Site visits are an essential first step, allowing insurers to assess risks, make recommendations to reduce them, and establish plans in the event of a disaster.

“When you’re in a catastrophic situation, it’s high stress, time is of the essence, and people forget things,” said Sherman. “Having a written plan in place is paramount to success.”

Advertisement




Another important component is knowing who will execute that plan in homes that are often unoccupied.

Domestic staff may lack the knowledge or authority to protect the homeowner’s assets, and during a disaster may be distracted dealing with threats to their own homes and families. Adequate planning includes ensuring that whoever is responsible has the training and authority to execute the plan.

Evaluating New Technology

Insurers use technologies like GPS and satellite imagery to determine which homes are directly threatened by storms or wildfires. They also assess and vet technologies that can be implemented by homeowners, from impact glass to alarm and monitoring systems, to more obscure but potentially more important options.

AIG’s Poux recommends two types of vents that mitigate important, and unexpected risks.

“There’s a fantastic technology called Smart Vent, which allows water to flow in and out of the foundation,” Poux said. “… The weight of water outside a foundation can push a foundation wall in. If you equalize that water inside and out at the same level, you negate that.”

Another wildfire risk — embers getting sucked into the attic — is, according to Poux, “typically the greatest cause of the destruction of homes.” But, he said, “Special ember-resisting venting, like Brandguard Vents, can remove that exposure altogether.”

Building Smart

Many disaster resiliency technologies can be applied at any time, but often the cost is fractional if implemented during initial construction. AIG’s Smart Build is a free program for new or remodeled homes that evolved out of AIG’s construction insurance programs.

Previously available only to homes valued at $5 million and up, Smart Build recently expanded to include homes of $1 million and up. Roughly 100 homes are enrolled, with an average value of $13 million.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work.” — Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“We know what goes wrong in high net worth homes,” said Poux, citing AIG’s decades of loss data.

“We’re incenting our client and by proxy their builder, their architects and their broker, to give us a seat at the design table. … That enables us to help tweak the architectural plans in ways that are very easy to do with a pencil, as opposed to after a home is built.”

Poux cites a remote ranch property in Texas.

Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“The client was rebuilding a home but also installing new roads and grading and driveways. … The property was very far from the fire department and there wasn’t any available water on the property.”

Poux’s team was able to recommend underground water storage tanks, something that would have been prohibitively expensive after construction.

“But if the ground is open and you’ve got heavy equipment, it’s a relatively minor additional expense.”

Homes that graduate from the Smart Build program may be eligible for preferred pricing due to their added resilience, Poux said.

Recovery from Loss

A major component of disaster resiliency is still recovery from loss, and preparation is key to the prompt service expected by homeowners paying six- or seven-figure premiums.

Before Irma, PURE sent contact information for pre-assigned claim adjusters to insureds in the storm’s direct path.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work,” said Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting for Ironshore’s Private Client Group.

Advertisement




“If you’ve got custom construction or imported materials in your house, you’re not going to go down the street and just find somebody that can do that kind of work, or has those materials in stock.”

In the wake of disaster, even basic services can be scarce.

“Our claims and risk management departments have to work together in advance of the storm,” said Bitterman, “to have contractors and restoration companies and tarp and board services that are going to respond to our company’s clients, that will commit resources to us.”

And while local agents’ connections can be invaluable, Goetsch sees insurers taking more of that responsibility from the agent, to at least get the claim started.

“When there is a disaster, the agency’s staff may have to deal with personal losses,” Goetsch said. &

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]