2020 Risk All Star: Douglas May

Faced with a Talent Crisis, Swiss Re’s Douglas May Turned to His Partners at Sedgwick

Douglas May, head of property claims, North America, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions

In an era when it is possible to work from anywhere, Douglas May earned his laurels as a 2020 Risk All Star for adjusting to a complex situation where complex claims could not be adjusted from just anywhere.

Late last year Swiss Re Corporate Solutions pruned its portfolio and updated its organizational structure. As part of those changes, the Canadian claims team became part of North America Property & Specialty Claims team under May. Despite his every effort to retain the Canadian staff, including meeting with them in Toronto, all but one left within a few weeks, leaving only the most senior person.

“To make matters worse, they left in late November and early December, a particularly busy time of year,” said May.

“We immediately shifted some duties to the U.S., but knowing Canadian customers wanted their claims handled in Canada, we realized that was a temporary measure. Also, our claims team in the U.S. was already at full capacity.”

Finding highly qualified staff quickly in a small market is difficult. And complex, multi-line claims handling requires a distinctive skill set, which meant a temporary hiring agency wouldn’t work.

“I called Thomas Simoncic at Sedgwick,” said May.

“We have a long history together, and his firm had just expanded their Canadian operations. They have been loyal partners of ours and he was the first person I thought of.”

Working around the holidays, it took about a week of intense collaboration for the two firms to settle on personnel and procedures. The arrangement was in place in early January, where upon May could turn his attention to hiring new permanent staff for Toronto. Which by then could not be done in person because of the pandemic.

“We interviewed and hired Canadians for the Canadian office,” said May, “but we have not been able to meet any of them in person. The Sedgwick people stayed through some handoff time in the middle of March.”

Simoncic, president of property in the Americas for Sedgwick, noted that while people can work from anywhere these days, “it made a difference in this case. We had to have people in country. And this was not just a matter of a person in a seat. This was not just 1-800-Need-an-Adjustor. This was about skill sets for complex claims. People who think of the nuances of the program.”

May concurred that the specialized skill set was a factor, as were the number of departures as a percentage of the office, the time of year, geography, and the pandemic.

Both May and Simoncic noted that their stop-gap collaboration has already become an arrow in their respective quivers.

“We’ve already done something similar to handle the influx of Covid claims in Texas,” said May. “We were able to bring in an in-state person. And when a colleague in a completely different group at Swiss Re had a headcount issue, she was able to reach out Sedgwick.” &

Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2020 Risk All Stars.

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