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Claims Executive

Seven Questions for Patrick J. Walsh

Consistently getting the fundamentals right is a key focus for York Risk Services' Patrick J. Walsh
By: | May 12, 2017 • 5 min read

Patrick J. Walsh recently joined York Risk Services Group as Executive Vice President, Chief Claims Officer, and President of Risk Management Practices. He is responsible for leading all of York’s national claims operations and providing direction and expertise in servicing York’s self-insured and deductible clients. Risk & Insurance sought his views on trends shaping the claims business and his goals in his new position.

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R&I: What’s your view on how to get the best out of claims handling talent?

PJW: I believe the secret is genuinely caring about the success and working environment of those with whom we work; and leading and acting every day with integrity, honesty, and transparency.  The constant churn and stress that comes with the claims role creates an interesting challenge for managers.  There’s almost a ‘negative foundation’ that adjusters, unit managers, case managers, etc., inherit when they step into these roles.  Leaders have a responsibility  to ensure people in these roles understand the incredible value they bring to the industry and how they can make or break the experience of customers, claimants, and other stakeholders.  In my view, claims professionals deliver the promise we make to our customers and they deserve our respect and support. They also deserve our honest, constructive feedback so that we can work together to develop the best possible work environment and support their individual and collective success.

R&I: What must a claims handling organization be more adept at now than it was, say, five years ago?

PJW: The obvious answer here is data.  Everybody talks about the importance of data and how it will drive our industry in the future and I agree with that perspective.   But for all the advances in technology and data science, we can’t overlook the importance of people in the claims process.  To succeed, companies need to be adept at identifying, hiring, training, and retaining employees, at all levels, who LOVE this industry.  I believe there is a lot of untapped talent out there and the company that is willing to invest intelligently in recruiting and training non-traditional sources will have a significant advantage in the future.

R&I: You’re clearly passionate about what you do. Talk about what you derive from insurance’s higher purpose, that it repairs people and property and tries to make them whole again.

PJW: I do love this business.  I love the fact that we help so many who are in need and that claims professionals get to deliver on the promise made to the someone by, for example, an employer or an insurer.  I get personal satisfaction from working with other insurance professionals who are interested in the well-being of their clients and claimants who are, after all, relying on us to help them recover when something terrible happens to them.  I’m proud to talk about what I do with my family, friends and people I meet.  While many like to tease about the ‘sleazy insurance guy’ I believe they know that our industry does so much good work and has a positive impact on individuals, companies and our economy.

Leaders have a responsibility  to ensure people in these roles understand the incredible value they bring to the industry and how they can make or break the experience of customers, claimants, and other stakeholders.

R&I: In this new position Patrick, what are key goals for you?

PJW: My focus is on three things that will ultimately deliver value to our many stakeholders.  First, build an environment that York associates can be proud of and that is focused on creating a great work experience for them.  Second, deliver an experience to our customers, claimants and other stakeholders, that is second-to-none.  Third, aspire to zero defects in our work product, because that allows our employees and customers to focus on innovation and more exciting ways to support our collective success.

R&I: What are some keys to maintaining York’s low employee turnover rate?

PJW: Low turnover is driven by a combination of good choices during the selection process, engaging employees from day one, training employees before we ask them to perform work on behalf of our clients, and delivering honest and constructive feedback on their performance that is focused on their individual success.   An organization’s employees are their greatest asset.  By focusing on their success I believe we create a much better experience for our customers.  And when customers are happy they engage more and develop relationships with our employees that deepen our partnership.   We want employees to enjoy their environment and their client relationships – when we reach that point, turnover becomes a very manageable issue.

R&I: What challenges do you see in this segment going forward? What will you have to get right over the next five years to achieve the successes you are after?

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PJW: While there are obviously lots of challenges I’ll concentrate on a couple of things.  First, we have to do the basics right ALL THE TIME.  We can deliver innovations and talk about cool new stuff but if we don’t do the little things and get the fundamentals right, none of that will matter.  Second, we have to continue to work with customers and their representatives to develop trust. Third, we need to reimagine processes to remove some of the barriers that add additional expense to risk management programs.

R&I: What’s the most difficult kind of claim to resolve? And what are some of the most trustworthy methods to resolve difficult claims?

PJW: This is an article in and of itself.   Regardless of how I answer the first part of this I’ll get beat up by people who handle other types of claims so I’ll simply say this….the most difficult kind of claim to resolve is the one where there’s simply too much emotion and the parties will not step back and look at the facts and reality of the situation.  This is when honesty, transparency, and sincerity come into the equation – those behaviors build trust.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

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The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]