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.

Advertisement




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?

Advertisement




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

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Pinnacle Entertainment’s VP of enterprise risk management says he’s inspired by Disney’s approach to risk management.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Bus boy at a fine dining restaurant.

R&I: How did you come to work in this industry?

I sent a résumé to Harrah’s Entertainment on a whim. It took over 30 hours of interviewing to get that job, but it was well worth it.

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

Advertisement




The Chinese citizen (never positively identified) who stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. That kind of courage is undeniable, and that image is unforgettable. I hope we can all be that passionate about something at least once in our lives.

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

Cyber risk, but more narrowly, cyber-extortion. I think state sponsored bad actors are getting more and more sophisticated, and the risk is that they find a way to control entire systems.

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

Training and breaking horses. When I was in high school, I worked on a lot of farms. I did everything from building fences to putting up hay. It was during this time that I found I had a knack for horses. They would tolerate me getting real close, so it was natural I started working more and more with them.

Eventually, I was putting a saddle on a few and before I knew it I was in that saddle riding a horse that had never been ridden before.

I admit I had some nervous moments, but I was never thrown off. It taught me that developing genuine trust early is very important and is needed by all involved. Nothing of any real value happens without it.

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

Advertisement




Setting very aggressive goals and then meeting and exceeding those goals with a team. Sharing team victories is the ultimate reward.

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

Disney World. The sheer size of the place is awe inspiring. And everything works like a finely tuned clock.

There is a reason that hospitality companies send their people there to be trained on guest service. Disney World does it better than anyone else.

As a hospitality executive, I always learn something new whenever I am there.

James Cunningham, vice president, enterprise risk management, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

The risks that Disney World faces are very similar to mine — on a much larger scale. They are complex and across the board. From liability for the millions of people they host as their guests each year, to the physical location of the park, to their vendor partnerships; their approach to risk management has been and continues to be innovative and a model that I learn from and I think there are lessons there for everybody.

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

We are doing a much better job of getting involved in a meaningful way in our daily operations and demonstrating genuine value to our organizations.

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

Educating and promoting the career with young people.

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

Being able to tell the Pinnacle story. It’s a great one and it wasn’t being told. I believe that the insurance markets now understand who we are and what we stand for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Advertisement




John Matthews, who is now retired, formerly with Aon and Caesar’s Palace. John is an exceptional leader who demonstrated the value of putting a top-shelf team together and then letting them do their best work. I model my management style after him.

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

I read mostly biographies and autobiographies. I like to read how successful people became successful by overcoming their own obstacles. Jay Leno, Jack Welch, Bill Harrah, etc. I also enjoyed the book and movie “Money Ball.”

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Ice water when it’s hot, coffee when it’s cold, and an adult beverage when it’s called for.

R&I: What does your family think you do?

In my family, I’m the “Safety Geek.”

R&I:  What’s your favorite restaurant?

Vegas is a world-class restaurant town. No matter what you are hungry for, you can find it here. I have a few favorites that are my “go-to’s,” depending on the mood and who I am with.

If you’re in town, you should try to have at least one meal off the strip. For that, I would suggest you get reservations (you’ll need them) at Herbs and Rye. It’s a great little restaurant that is always lively. The food is tremendous, and the service is always on point. They make hand-crafted cocktails that are amazing.

My favorite Mexican restaurant is Lindo Michoacan. There are three in town, and I prefer the one in Henderson as it has the best view of the valley. For seafood, you can never go wrong with Joe’s in Caesar’s Palace.




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