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Claims handling lets professionals leverage a diverse set of skillsets, learn continuously, and help people in the process.

Claim payments are the promise of an insurance policy. Quick, accurate and compassionate service are what insureds expect. Claim professionals, then, need a diverse set of technical and soft skills to deliver on that promise. Though difficult and rewarding, the claim profession’s reputation doesn’t necessarily reflect its dynamic and interesting aspects. So, what exactly draws people in?

We sat down with two of our claims pros, from two very different backgrounds, to learn what attracted them to this line of work and what they’ve learned in the process. Kathleen Hammond is an Associate Claims Adjuster who joined the U.S. Property team in the thick of the pandemic last August. Mike Testone is Head of U.S. Casualty Claims.

Q: How did you make your way to the claim profession?
My background is in the medical field. I started out in nursing and then switched to become a student paramedic. I was looking for a job that would allow me to apply the analytical skills I developed in those roles – internalizing and interpreting information and being able to assess a situation and make decisions quickly. Working in claims allows me to do that.

Testone: My introduction to insurance was through my work at a law firm representing insurance carriers in claims and coverage litigation involving environmental and asbestos matters. I then moved back to Connecticut, where I’m from originally, and was looking for opportunities in the insurance realm. The Hartford was starting a legal unit, so I applied and got the job. That was my introduction to in-house counsel.

Over the years I took on a bunch of different responsibilities. I worked on the underwriting side for a while, then on the claims side. I gained broader insights into the inner workings of an insurance company that you don’t get as outside counsel – claim handling activities, policy drafting, reserving, etc. I eventually made my way to AXA XL in 2014 after being offered a position in casualty claims.

There’s a strong analytical component to claims, and I think my background in law made the transition into my various roles over the years that much easier.

Q: What about working in claims appealed to you?
For me it’s the exposure to a variety of different disciplines. You have to work closely with other units within the company, which provides opportunity to learn about other worlds while also contributing your own perspective. For example, we bring a unique view to loss exposures, policy language, marketing approaches, etc. that underwriters may not have because they don’t always see how policy provisions play out in practice or deal directly with customer and claimant issues when a loss occurs. That collaborative, multidisciplinary aspect of the job very much appeals to me.

Hammond: I would agree with that. Being exposed to U.S. property claims and policies have opened up a new world for me, but it goes beyond that. I am also exposed to other areas, like liability coverages and litigation. That’s interesting to me because I’m pursuing a law degree myself on the side, so it’s been a surprising but valuable learning experience.

Whether it’s a small claim or a multimillion-dollar claim, you have to be able to analyze the facts at a high level and make determinations accurately.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
I started in the middle of a very active hurricane season in 2020. It was a very hectic time, and I expect to very busy again this year with natural catastrophe-related claims. Similar to my previous role as a student paramedic, I think the biggest challenge is being able to work under pressure. You can’t sacrifice your level of assessment no matter how busy you are. Whether it’s a small claim or a multimillion-dollar claim, you have to be able to analyze the facts at a high level and make determinations accurately.

Testone: On the casualty side, one of the major issues that the insurance industry is struggling with is social inflation. Litigation outcomes, especially jury awards, can be very hard to predict, particularly in certain venues. Juries are giving out many millions more than what is fair and equitable, which is a big problem for the insurance industry and its policyholders, as well as society in general as companies are forced to pass along the costs of doing business to the public We are committed to do our part to correct this problem.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
The dynamic nature of the work and the opportunities to keep learning. No two claims are alike. The variety of claims that I deal with and the exposure to other units of the company have kept things interesting and engaging.

Testone: The ability to leverage different skill sets is rewarding to me.

But I think what many people don’t appreciate until they get into a claims professional role is the ability to help people and businesses deal with very difficult and stressful situations. Being able to help customers both financially and even emotionally is very rewarding. Demonstrating empathy and compassion throughout the claim process is a key component to delivering superior customer service.

It’s not easy to do, especially given all the added stress of this past year and the reliance on virtual communication. But I’m happy to say we consistently receive high praise from our customers and broker partners. It’s up to us to deliver when bad things happen. And I’m proud that we’ve been able to uphold a high customer service standard even throughout the pandemic.


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