issue 014, 2020

Expert view 014

Q&A with Allison Daly, Vice President, Liability Practice, Sedgwick

The “Expert view” column presents a wide range of topics offering valuable insights and information for customers.

edge:
As we go to print, you’ll be just about to wrap up your first six months with Sedgwick. Congrats! Before we dive into what you’ve got planned for the future, tell us a little bit about the path that led you here.

Allison:
Thanks, it’s been a great start here at Sedgwick and I’m already excited about what we can accomplish. I’m actually a lawyer by training — I practiced for several years before going to work with a carrier, where I spent about 13 years. I held supervisor roles, strategy roles, claims roles — you name it. It was a big leap of faith making that career shift, as was pivoting again to join Sedgwick. But it certainly worked out. I knew that Max [Koonce] and the leadership team here at Sedgwick have great vision for the liability space, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join them.

edge:
You joined Sedgwick just before the world began to contend with the coronavirus pandemic. Will you share your insights on this unprecedented time?

Allison:
It’s been eye-opening, for sure. You can tell a lot about an organization by the way it handles a crisis — it’s been truly powerful to see the concept of caring counts® put into action. I’ve been so impressed by the way Sedgwick has been swiftly making decisions to care for its colleagues, customers, carriers, and all its partners. The amount of work and time being devoted to navigating this process — and guiding others through it — makes me certain I made the right decision to join the team here.

edge:
We’re glad you did. When you envision what the liability space can look like for Sedgwick and our clients, what do you see as our greatest opportunities?

Allison:
The two areas I feel most strongly about are communication and growth. When it comes to communication, Sedgwick has a long history as a go-to expert in all things workers’ compensation. Having come from the carrier side, I know how highly regarded Sedgwick is; I’ve watched as the business developed and grew its auto and liability products. For me, it’s really about making sure everyone is aware that, while the liability group doesn’t have the extensive history that the workers’ compensation team does, we have tremendous talent. This is a team of experts with extensive knowledge of claims, coverage and litigation, and they understand how to manage difficult, challenging types of business, while maintaining strong relationships with both carriers and self-insureds. Our colleagues build their expertise in claims, but they also develop a customer service connection that I think is really special. We need to make sure we’re telling people all this; not just externally, but internally as well. We need to make sure that, as our volume continues to increase, our sales and client service teams understand the resources available to them. People are looking for a place to bring workers’ compensation business and auto and general liability. Seeing that more and more people inside and outside the organization know who we [the auto and liability team] are and what we have to offer — that gets me really excited for the future.

Obviously, Sedgwick is really good at growth. We continue to grow exponentially, organically and by acquisition. With that, we need to make sure the liability team is building relationships, and building confidence in our abilities. We want our sales force to be able to say with confidence that we can handle any liability claim, and we need to be sure we’re constantly improving in order to back that up. To support growth we need to use the claim experts we have effectively, and make sure everyone understands our abilities. As a particularly client-focused organization, we have to take a creative approach to spotlighting our expertise across the company.

edge:
It’s interesting to hear you talk about taking a “creative” approach — that’s not necessarily a word we would think to apply in our industry. What does that mean to you?

Allison:
I love how open this team and its leaders are to creativity — and I think insurance is a place that allows for a lot of creativity. I think a creative approach means not being tied to history or to a specific process, and constantly adapting to client needs. We have to stay open to the possibility of different — better — approaches and not just continue to do things simply because it’s how we’ve always done them.

As Sedgwick has brought together different teams and added new colleagues, it’s given us a unique opportunity to reevaluate our own processes and review service expectations for examiners. We’ve spent a lot of time going through each process, choosing or combining options to come up with the best approach. By being creative and open to change, we built a system that capitalizes on everyone’s best practices. Being open to change is critical to improvement.

edge:
What do you see as the top priorities that will help drive the best possible results for our clients and claims teams?

Allison:
As client needs evolve, relationships are more important than ever. We need to ensure that clients understand and have confidence in our abilities — and that we understand what will serve them best. If our claims organization is ready, prepared and scalable, we’re set to handle whatever comes in the door. It’s imperative that we’re ready at the beginning of any program with the right staffing, the right tools and the right training, so people succeed. We have to be ready to get the best outcome for that first claim in the door, and every other claim after that.

We succeed with new challenges by building off strong fundamentals. Because once you’ve built a firm foundation, you’re better able to develop specialized knowledge. With that experience at our core, we can say “absolutely, we can handle that,” whatever ‘that’ may be. We are building a structure where all our claims colleagues can grow by taking on different types of claims or losses, and we’re challenging them to develop skills across the organization. It keeps our workforce engaged and sharp. I’m a firm believer that the best jobs are those that are challenging and have a lot of variety — and it’s always more fun to have a job you like.

edge:
No doubt, our clients’ service needs and focus have shifted in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. What is the liability team hearing?

Allison:
We are closely monitoring the potential ramifications COVID-19 may have — and is already having — on issues related to business interruption coverage and liability. We don’t know yet what the true cost of widespread recovery efforts will be, or what legislation and coverage challenges businesses will face. In a recent blog, I wrote about the still-unanswered question as to whether insurance policies provide business interruption coverage for losses related to the virus. The information and the answers are still changing on a near-daily basis; we’re in constant communication with our clients to keep them informed and educated.

(Read more from Allison about the coronavirus and its potential economic impact on business interruption coverage here.)

edge:
Any non-COVID-related matters our clients are expressing interest in right now?

Allison:
There’s continued interest in the breadth of our liability capabilities. There’s also an increasing expectation of broad ability in the general liability space, in large part because we’ve been so focused on building on that capacity here at Sedgwick.

In the auto industry, we’re hearing a lot about challenges in the auto space, mostly in terms of profitability, and we continue to work with clients on these challenges.

And, as always, we’re being asked about technology. How to use it effectively, what’s new, how our real-time capabilities are letting customers determine which way will best help them manage their claims. Our flexibility and customer focus are a huge benefit at Sedgwick. Where others are quite slow to adapt to change, I think our clients really appreciate how quickly an ask can be implemented.

edge:
Across the industry, litigation management strategy is evolving. We’ve been watching that trend for quite some time — what kind of changes are you seeing as a result of that shift in strategy?

Allison:
Change happens when you get people thinking differently. That’s happening. We work closely with counsel but the management and outcome of litigation is also our responsibility; we take real ownership of it. That ownership sets us up for positive outcomes. In the liability space in general there are a lot of external issues, but we’re focused. We’re up-to-speed on what our clients expect, but also working hard to stay ahead of the curve.

edge:
We’ve talked before about changes we’re making within casualty as a broader piece of the business: changes to how we’re training our adjusters, giving them new tools and deeper understanding to prepare them best for what needs our clients come to them with every day. How are those new guidelines coming to life?

Allison:
The hardest job in any claims organization is the one our examiners do every day. Regardless of the volume each claim must be a priority, and the expectations are always high. We have to balance the volume with the high expectations when thinking about how we can improve. We are committed to reducing inefficient parts of the claim process — with better tools and technology, fewer phone calls — within the framework of what’s best for the organization and for our clients. When we’re evaluating new approaches and processes, we’re looking at the best tools for the examiner, while always considering how to improve the outcome of each claim.

edge:
As you enter the second half of your first year with Sedgwick, and look to what’s next both in the long and short term, what are you most excited about?

Allison:
I’m excited about getting the message out about the practice as a strong resource. I’m excited to make sure we’re getting examiners the tools they need to do their jobs, and using those gains efficiently to provide even better claims service. That way, the liability team’s abilities and reputation will continue to grow as fast as Sedgwick itself.

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