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A Q&A with Nicole Pidcoe, Claim Manager, Equine and Livestock

Most commercial insurance is designed to protect physical and financial assets – properties and products; bottom lines and reputations. All are important, but losses are rarely life-or-death.

That’s where equine/livestock coverage is a little different. The cattle, hogs and horses insured under these policies are living, breathing assets that their owners have often raised themselves and developed an emotional connection with.

“There is an emotional quotient there that makes some claims very difficult. We have to figure out how coverage can be applied to get an animal the care it needs while also comforting the client. It takes experience and a higher degree of emotional intelligence,” said Nicole Pidcoe, AIC, Claims Manager – Equine & Livestock for AXA XL.

We sat down with Pidcoe to discuss the challenges of working in the equine and livestock industry, the expertise needed to deal with a broad set of exposures, and the reason she and her team remain so dedicated to this space:

Q: How did you get involved with the equine and livestock industry?
Nicole Pidcoe: I grew up riding and showing Saddlebreds and have worked on thoroughbred farms and in show stables. I never outgrew my passion for horses, and in this line of work I’m able to apply that passion by helping others take care of their animals.

I started out as a Claims Analyst about 10 years ago with XL Catlin. I moved on to Claims Specialist and Senior Claims Specialist, and last year moved into this role. I have been very fortunate to grow within the company I started with.

Q: Is first-hand experience necessary to manage claims effectively in the equine industry? How do you think your experience helps you in your role?
Our more complex claims often have to do with our Major Medical coverage, so we’re dealing with the health of the horse. Sometimes an insured will call and say, “My horse just doesn’t feel right.” Somebody that sits on a horse on a regular basis understands what that means and knows what questions to ask to really zero in on the problem. If you don’t have that background, you may not know how to respond, and that can lead to frustration on both sides.

That being said, you don’t necessarily need years of first-hand experience to develop that knowledge. Three other claims adjusters on the team grew up riding and showing horses, but we also have specialists that learned the industry through the insurance side, just from interacting with clients and working through claims, which is very impressive.

Q: Are you seeing any trends in equine claims?
Major Medical is so crucial to horse owners because one incident of illness or lameness can cost thousands. We are only going to see more claims under this coverage because the science of veterinary care is always expanding.

New technologies, medical treatments and medications are continuously being improved, developed and implemented. Regenerative therapies for lameness injuries are becoming common place and new versions of these therapies are being developed all the time. Things that were just emerging five years ago are now considered the norm.

We are always tracking these updates and FDA approval status so we can adjust our coverage to reflect current standards of care.

Q: How do you evaluate these new therapies and determine what should or shouldn’t be covered?
We’re based in Kentucky, right in the middle of the industry, and we’re lucky enough to have three world class vet clinics within miles of us. We have access to the experts, so we can get our questions answered by the best.

Industry standard in Lexington, Kentucky may not apply in the middle of Montana. Different areas don’t share the same access to resources or level of care, so we have to adjust for that challenge.

My team and I communicate about news in the industry regularly. If one of my colleagues reads an interesting article about a new treatment over the weekend, I get a text about it and we talk about it on Monday. We discuss about how it impacts our coverage, and if it’s not covered now what will it take to get it covered in the future.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of this job?
Finding innovative ways to approach claims. Equine and Livestock claims can present situations and scenarios you never anticipated.

For example, we once had a truck carrying a herd of cattle overturn on a highway in Kansas in the middle of a wildfire. We provide animal motor truck cargo coverage, which covers animals in transport.

We got the call, and salvaged as many as possible, but even the remaining cattle presented a challenge because there was nowhere for them to go. Ultimately, we identified some food pantries in the area that has been impacted by the fire and were low on supplies. We paid for the processing of the remaining cattle so it could be delivered to those pantries.

The claim cost a little more, but the rewards for everyone were so much better. No cattle were wasted, the rancher didn’t suffer financially from the accident, and we helped to feed a community.

 

The challenges are also what make the job rewarding. They are opportunities to help someone through a difficult time.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about this work?
The challenges are also what make the job rewarding. They are opportunities to help someone through a difficult time.

We don’t just insure cattle ranchers and hog farms and sets of racehorses worth millions of dollars; we also insure the horse in the backyard as the family pet. So we’re not always dealing with risk managers, we’re dealing with individuals.

I’ve lost animals myself, as have many of my colleagues, so we know what that feels like, how heart-wrenching it is. When we can do little things to make that less difficult – something as simple as making an extra phone call so they don’t have to – it feels good to know we’ve taken a little bit of burden off their plate.

And that’s the feedback we hear most often from our clients – that we helped them cope with a tough time and make the best of a bad situation. That the compassion and empathy we bring helps to alleviate their stress and make the claim experience that much smoother.

Q: How has the equine and livestock industry been affected by COVID-19?
COVID-19 has had a unique impact on the horse and livestock industry, from stables not being able to offer lessons, to owners not being able see their horses. Shows and racing have been limited, canceled or delayed.

Livestock packers have faced temporary shutdowns causing a slew of challenges down the chain for livestock growers. That means there are hogs and cattle that should’ve been processed weeks ago, and they’re still waiting, so they have to be fed out longer, and that incurs extra cost.

Vet care has also been affected. Many states have limited vet care to “emergency only” care. Animals which need attention but are not in any immediate danger have had to wait for lameness exams, gastroscopies and other non-lifesaving care. It may not be a potential mortality loss, but it is still something that needs to be addressed.

The way we tackle these challenges is by being open and communicative. We are working with our clients on a case-by-case basis to address their changing needs and exposures.

Q: Do you still ride regularly?
I do. I have a horse that’s 26 years old that I don’t ride anymore because of her age, but I see her every day and I ride other horses at the stable. For me and most members of my team, this is not just a job, it’s our lifestyle. I don’t think we could provide the level of service that we do if not for that passion. 



Nicole Pidcoe is AXA XL’s Equine and Livestock Claim Manager. Based in Lexington, Kentucky, she can be reached at nicole.pidcoe@axaxl.com.


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