How JoAnn Pickel Used Advanced Claims Training to Stem Adjustor Burnout and Job Flight

JoAnn Pickel sees the opportunity for a breath of fresh air in the claims adjusting space and revels in the chance to make a difference.
By: | July 14, 2023

JoAnn Pickel, director of operations at Pacesetter Claims Service, started in the insurance industry after her husband landed an underwriter job with State Farm.

In short order, they had a claims position open.

“I joined the claims training team in 1998. It did not take me long to realize that claims were a great fit for me,” Pickel said. “I loved helping people understand their policies, and they were so appreciative when we were able to help them recover from a loss.”

After 20 years with State Farm, Pickel moved to the independent side of claims, serving as quality assurance manager at Eberl before joining Pacesetter as director of operations.

“During this time, I realized the gap in training our claims force. We had a lot of great adjusters who wanted to do a good job but needed some direction and mentorship,” Pickel said.

“Moving into the role at Pacesetter has allowed me the platform and authority to make changes in our industry with support from my executive team. We understand we don’t have all the answers, but as a collective industry, we can be a force to reckon with.”

As Pickel pointed out, most independents are trained as catastrophe adjusters, but firms now realize that independent adjusters must be knowledgeable in other areas as well.

“Adjusters need to be open to claims that are outside catastrophe and be willing to acknowledge what they don’t know. In turn, the vendor industry must be okay with the fact they need to train on some of the daily-type losses,” said Pickel.

Heather Blevins, senior project coordinator at State Farm, said, “JoAnn was my mentor as I entered the insurance industry, not really knowing anything about insurance. “She taught me to be an efficient and effective claims adjuster, but more importantly, a compassionate one who cared about our customers.”

In Blevins’ opinion, the largest challenge facing the independent claims adjuster space is lack of training and resulting burnout.

“Without proper training, IAs tend to suffer from the burnout of failures,” Blevins said.

“JoAnn saw this as a strategic risk to the industry as a whole and took it upon herself to build a coalition of individuals who want to stop the burnout and subsequent fallout from IA work,” Blevins added. “She has recruited individual competing agencies to come and teach at her events, and designed connection points, webinars, videos and social media content to educate and inspire the IA world.”

Pickel hopes that with more collaboration in the industry and among educators, adjusters may find a career in claims to be a noble role.

“To help people have a love for what they do is a huge driver for me,” Pickel said.

“Success isn’t about me; it’s about the people I lead. If they are giving it their all and feeling great about what they do, they are more engaged and more successful, thus so am I.” &

Every year, Risk & Insurance selects deserving candidates to become Risk All Stars. These are risk managers who, through their perseverance, passion and creativity, make a big difference to the stability of their organizations.

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Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Maura Keller is a writer, editor and published book author with more than 20 years of experience. She has written about business, design, marketing, health care, and a wealth of other topics for dozens of regional and national publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

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