Power Broker Brian Chance Shares How a Mix of Hard and Soft Skills Led to Industry Success
It can be said that the best insurance brokers are a little bit of an attorney, a little bit of a statistician, a lot of a business manager, and even a touch of the actor.
Looking back on the natural course of his life he confessed plainly that “there was no planned career path, it just evolved.”
But he scarcely could have done better. Though he once dreamed of going to law school, Chance has carved out a successful career as a workers’ compensation broker, allowing both his hard and soft skills to come to the fore.
Breaking Into Insurance
Growing up in southern New Jersey, not far from Atlantic City, Chance loved history and thought of becoming a lawyer. In high school he was on the debate and public-speaking teams, ran cross country, and performed in several musicals.
He got his first big break in college – and didn’t take it.
“I was taking a bachelor of science in management at Rutgers University, Camden campus, which at the time was a commuter school, I was also working part time as the managing editor of the campus newspaper. I did write a few stories, but mostly my job was to sell ads, collect money, and deal with the administration,” Chance said.
“I was still considering law school. I sat for the LSAT and the GMAT, and was helping one professor with research for a book he was writing. That professor nominated me to a joint JD/MBA program that included a teaching assistantship. But after four years of school I realized I wanted to work, not stay in school full time.”
Chance took an interest survey at the career-planning center that indicated he should go into insurance; either underwriting or claims.
“Claims sounded more interesting,” Chance said. I still liked the law and appreciated how legal systems worked, how laws are written. Claims management means managing litigation.”
He initially took a position as a claims representative with Cigna while taking graduate-school courses at night.
Chance’s career accelerated rapidly, and within a year he found himself as the state-wide claims rep for third-party administrator (TPA) ESIS, handling major corporate accounts including Ford Motor, Texaco, and pharmaceuticals firm Upjohn.
Chance recalled thinking “here I am, just a year out of college, and I was responsible for managing claims and litigation on behalf of those major corporations.”
Becoming a Workers’ Compensation Broker
After about four years, Chance sought some new challenges. “I was recruited by a broker in Philadelphia, The Graham Company,” said Chance. “That was my first exposure to workers’ compensation.” He joined Stephens in December of 2019.
“I focus solely on large, self-insured companies that carry large deductibles and essentially pay their own claims,” Chance explained. “The emphasis is on stripping out waste and excessive costs. In many situations we are able to find savings of 15% to 30% in medical costs and fees. Some systems are very inefficient.”
To help make workers’ comp programs more efficient, Chance had to turn to two skill sets he developed during his MBA at Drexel University: organizational behavior and statistics.
“I never thought I’d be saying that I loved statistics,” he quipped, “but there, I just did. It is true that statistics can make the data tell whatever story you want, but if the data is examined carefully you can cut through the story and get to the heart of the matter.”
Chance further elaborated that studying statistics “also exposed [him] to the concept of continuous process improvement under which you plan, do, check you work against the plan, adjust, and plan again. It’s a constant process.”
Using statistics and the continuous-improvement approach to workers’ comp, “money starts coming back to the employer and at the same time the employees are still getting good-quality care,” Chance said. “The results encourage the employer to keep improving.”
Balancing Soft Skills and Numbers
Some of the time Chance works with clients on their internal processes, but mostly he advocates for them with service providers, calling on the in-house TPA experience from early in his career, as well as on his technical and legal acumen: “I focus on the systems the service providers have, their processes, work flows, and their vendors as well.”
Chance’s approach is a balance of soft skills and hard numbers.
“The way we approach a client starts with benchmarks and metrics. We dig in and review the client’s data. There is my love of statistics again. Then we work collaboratively with the clients and their vendors to implement savings,” he said.
Many brokers cite one or another specific mentors that they have had, either early in their lives, or at an important juncture in their careers.
In contrast, Chance said that “I’ve worked with really good, smart people in every job I have had, including this one. I’ve had many mentors, and would like to think that in the same way I have been a mentor to many people.”
Chance is married with two grown children, and the apples did not fall very far from the tree: His daughter is a social worker at a local hospital, and his son is a high-school science teacher. And while his favorite destinations are the Atlantic beaches of Mexico, Chance added quickly that “because I have to travel for work my favorite vacation is a stay-cation, playing golf with my wife and swimming in our pool.”
Chance’s fascination with the law comes to the fore even in relaxation. “I read a lot of articles about politics and legal rulings, especially from the Supreme Court. I like to read what the Justices themselves have written, rather than what the analysts have to say.” &