Sunday, April 29, 2012

Does the Claims World Favor Extroverts?

I just finished reading a recently published book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. She makes the point that most of the world puts a higher value on extroversion and that subtle or not so subtle pressures exist to handicap quieter types.

Cain’s book prompted me to wonder if the claims profession follows this mold. Does the claims world favor extroverts? Can an introvert survive, or even thrive, in the world of claims?

This transition hit me in the face like a wet towel when I entered the claims world. I attended my grad school commencement ceremony on a Saturday afternoon. On Sunday morning, I flew to Atlanta to attend Crawford & Company’s five-week adjuster boot camp. As a grad student, I had lived a bookish existence.

The last four months in grad school, I spent writing out a 200-page Masters thesis on comparative political theory. (Subsequently read only by my mother and some chronic insomniacs seeking a cure …) After graduation, armed with a freshly minted M.A. in Government, I plummeted into the claims world. I was dealing first-hand with people from all socio-economic strata. Most of them were stressed out by their loss and wary of this new kid who showed to adjust their claim. I got yelled at, chewed out, questioned and second-guessed.

And those were the nice ones …

Handling claims wasn’t anything like grad school. In the halls of academia, introversion served you just fine.

In the claims world, shrinking violets get stomped on. I realized that, if I was going to make claims a career, some adjustment (no pun intended) was needed.

So, the questions remain. How do introverts grab their “air time” and advance their careers? Can introverts put on a persona of extroversion in order to advance their claims career?

I don’t claim to have the answers, though I can hazard a few theories.

Much of what adjusters do relies on traits we commonly associate with extroversion. Forcing yourself to deal with people who have suffered loss is no role for shrinking violets. You need not only the hide of a rhinoceros but also the self-assertiveness to jump into situations that most people would avoid. Selling a settlement figure to a reluctant claimant or policyholder, entering the rough and tumble of a settlement negotiation with claimant’s counsel, presenting the second-quarter claim results to upper management – these roles call upon the extrovert.

On the other hand, there are adjuster roles that require quieter, more reflective approaches. These include traits we more often associate with introverts. Examples include:

Thoughtfully analyzing a packet of demand documentation to fine tune a reserve and develop a target settlement figure

Conduct a thoughtful performance review of claim staff

Listening empathetically to an employee, a claimant or insured who has gone through a traumatic event

In some settings, the claims professional is better off closing the mouth, opening the ears and being on “receive” mode. In other roles and settings, the adjuster will be more effective assuming a take-charge, vocal and assertive approach.

One key to job and career success is to size up which approach works best in different situations. Possessing this situational awareness can separate average adjusters from the extraordinary. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is doable.

So … what is your take? Is there room in the claims business for introverts? Is being an extrovert ever a liability when performing claims work? For those at one end of the spectrum of extroversion or introversion, do you think it’s possible to re-mold your traits to adapt to job demands and situations?

Please share your thoughts here or reply to

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Claims Coach Podcast Features Interview with Chantal Roberts of Affirmative Risk Management

This week’s Claims Coach blog is augmented by a podcast interview with Chantal Roberts, Vice President of Claims for Affirmative Risk Management in Little Rock, AR. You won’t want to miss this lively and interactive conversation, part of our “Spotlight on Leaders” series that features leaders in the world of claims and risk.

Chantal is a claims executive who works for a family-owned TPA. Many of the claims she handles arise from accounts underwritten by the London market. In addition to being a claims executive, she is a wife, mother, and an athlete in training. A Toastmasters devotee, she gives speeches in a variety of forums, including career pitches to college students on nearby campuses.

Between preparing for 5K races, 50-mile charity bike ride fundraisers and contemplating tackling a triathlon, Chantal studies guitar. (I do believe she also leaps tall buildings in a single bound.)

How does she do it all? Listen to the podcast! Chantal offers insights on:
• The special challenges of being a TPA in today’s environment

• Why having the hide of a rhinoceros is a handy adjuster trait

• What high-tech and low tech tools help her stay on top of her work

• Achieving work/life balance for busy claim professionals, and

• Why an adjuster’s best stress-reduction tool might just have four legs and fur.

Drop in on the conversation and this FREE podcast at !

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Importance of a Focused Litigation Plan

[NOTE: “The Claims Coach” welcomes a guest post by friend and CLM Advisor colleague John Conlon. John Conlon is an attorney and former insurance claims officer. He presently consults with insurers on litigation management and fee billing issues and blogs about those issues @ He can be reached at or at 317-258-0671. From the time I was a child, I heard the adage, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” In this post, John Conlon explains why the maxim is especially true in the realm of litigation management.]

Harking back to my days as a litigation claims manager, manager of in-house staff counsel, and now consultant to insurers on litigation management issues, I probably have reviewed thousands of legal files in cases throughout the United States on a variety of issues. One thing I consistently notice in many files I reviewed is the lack of a focused litigation plan.

Collaborating on the Litigation Plan

One of the first things I note lacking in a focused litigation plan is that the adjuster is not sufficiently engaged in the planning process. This lack of engagement usually contributes to a lack of follow through on the plan. While it is okay for the defense attorney to take the lead in coming up with a proposed litigation plan, the adjuster should maintain active engagement in the planning process. Too often, I have seen “okay” or “proceed” as the only adjuster comments to an attorney’s proposed litigation plan.

I have noted that the more experienced the litigation adjuster is, the more likely it is that probative questions will be asked or meaningful comments or changes proposed to the proposed litigation plan. But, even less experienced adjusters, who have little to offer but questions, can add meaningfully to the planning process. Sometimes simply asking the attorney why certain things need to be done or why will certain things take so long to accomplish may serve to help the attorney re-think the proposed steps.

Changing the Litigation Plan

A focused litigation plan must always be viewed as a living document that will need to be updated as circumstances warrant. As developments do occur in a case, they must be viewed strategically through the prism of the litigation plan. How does a particular new development affect the litigation plan from a strategic standpoint? Do major revisions in the litigation plan need to be made? If no changes need to be made in the plan, do the target dates need to be revised?

If a development is not of strategic importance, why waste time (and the company’s money) on changing the plan or reacting to it in some way? Remember it is not always necessary that the defense attorney research every issue the plaintiff attorney raises or vigorously oppose every motion filed.


It is possible to achieve a good result on a litigated file in an efficient and cost effective manner without a focused litigation plan just as it is possible to walk outside and find a $10 bill on the sidewalk. However, the chances of either happening – at least on a consistent basis – are rare.

Achieving a good result in a litigated file can only be accomplished on a consistent basis through developing a focused litigation plan and careful follow through, monitoring, and where necessary, revision of that plan.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Five Risk Management Lessons from Steve Jobs’ Life .. and Death

Like many other folks, I just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography of Steve Jobs. Jobs was and is a fascinating character, a visionary who changed the paradigm in multiple fields – personal computing, movies, music, cell phones, tablets. He successfully navigated multiple risks and obstacles, leaving Apple as perhaps the world’s most valuable company.

Isaacson’s compelling biography has shot to the top of current non-fiction best-seller lists. Interestingly, Isaacson will be a keynote speaker at the annual RIMS Conference, held this year in Philadelphia. Someone else must also think that Jobs’ story has lessons for risk professionals.

The success of Jobs’ biography has spawned a new generation of CEO’s who are Jobs wannabees – sporting black turtlenecks, turning minimalist and peppering their conversations with the Jobs-ian phrase, “Oh, just one more thing …”

In terms of navigating external risks in the business environment, Jobs was a genius.
In terms of navigating risks in his personal space, though, Jobs’ track record falters. Ultimately, Jobs succumbed to a form of pancreatic cancer which he had dealt with for years. Long before his demise in October of 2011, though, Jobs’ cancer was diagnosed in 2003. According to Isaacson, his doctors did a biopsy and were overjoyed to learn that Jobs had an unusual form of pancreatic cancer that was treatable through surgery. They – and many of Jobs’ friends and confidantes – recommended immediate surgery to stem the disease’s progression. His doctors lobbied for it. His family urged him to have the operation. Friends prevailed upon him.

Jobs refused.

He did not want “his body to be opened up.” Instead, he delayed and dallied. He explored holistic regimens to address his cancer: alternative therapies, including diet and visualization. Throughout his life, Job had experimented with offbeat diets and regimens. He fasted regularly. He was a “fruitarian” for one phase. Perhaps one of these regimens could address his pancreatic cancer.

They did not work.

By the time Jobs was willing to undergo surgery in late July of 2004, the window of opportunity for effective intervention had passed. The cancer had spread. He bought time with a liver transplant and various other treatments, but he failed to heed the advice of doctors and others that could have saved his life or extended it well beyond the span that he lived.

Five risk management lessons emerge here:

1. Weigh the advice and counsel of experts. Here, virtually everyone around Jobs suggested surgery. He discounted the advice, having succeeded in “willing his way” around most every other problem he had faced in his life. His “reality distortion field” did not extend to willing away pancreatic cancer cells. You don’t need to be an oncologist to understand that cancer cells don’t stop metastasizing because you are on a macrobiotic diet. In the realm of risk, if your defense attorney and policyholder are telling you to move to settle the claim, NOW, maybe you should listen.

2. Listen to your gut, but don’t always trust it. Instincts are not unerring. Experts are not infallible, but then neither are your instincts. No one wants to undergo surgery. No one wants to die, either. By undergoing surgery, though, he might have avoided premature death. Is it your gut that’s talking or is it the whisper of wishful thinking?

3. Human will is strong, but you cannot “will away” certain risks.
Companies may wish to ignore risks because they resent having to deal with them. The Ostrich Approach of sticking your head in the sand leaves you exposed. Companies targeted in lawsuits may resent finding themselves as defendants. “This is a bogus claim!!” They can become so mentally wrapped around the axle with indignation, they cannot view a claim unemotionally. Around a boardroom or conference room table, they convince themselves that they have no liability exposure. There is boardroom reality, though and there is courtroom reality. Unfortunately for companies, claims are tried in the latter, not the former.

4. Risk mitigation opportunities often have short windows. Seize them. Individuals – and companies – often have to seize the moment. Once passed, the window of opportunity may close and forestall opportunities to change one’s fate for the better. Timing is critical when it comes to mitigating emergent risks. Failing to address an employee unsafe practice on a “near miss” may open the door to more serious accidents down the road. It may also compromise the ability to later deny claims due to violating a safety standard. The toothpaste won’t go back in the tube. Carpe diem!

5. If you neglect personal risks – especially those regarding your health – you won’t be able to address external, macro risks. Put bluntly, you cannot continue to make ”insanely great” products if you are dead. In a sense, personal risk management – starting with managing one’s health – is the bedrock. Neglect that, and everything else that you set out to do can become moot. Before an airplane’s takeoff, flight attendants go through their safety instructions. They tell you that, in case of lost cabin pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first before trying to assist a child. This advice underscores the reality that you cannot help others without first taking care of yourself.

Steve Jobs was undoubtedly a genius. Perhaps it is unfair to expect a person to exhibit genius in all phases of his life. When it came to his own health and weighing medical risks, though, Jobs’ decision to forego rapid and decisive action deprived Apple of his continued leadership and deprived the public of an ongoing stream of innovative products which he might have developed through a longer lifespan and more sensible personal risk management.

Kevin Quinley CPCU is Principal of Quinley Risk Associates in the Washington D.C. area. He is the author of ten books on various aspects of claims and risk management. You can reach him at