As a young boy growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Norristown, Pa., Joe Boures knew he would have to work hard to get where he wanted to go in life. The son of a steelworker and a clerk at a telephone company, with four siblings, Boures developed a strong work ethic that has taken him from the world of Division III college football to leading a team of dedicated employees and satisfied clients at a major third-party administrator.
As an offensive lineman in his football-playing days, Boures had the foresight to think ahead and plan his course of attack, always anticipating the tendencies of the defense. That philosophy has served him well, both on the field and off, during his 20-year career in the TPA and insurance industries.
Boures is currently serving as president of Specialty Risk Services LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Hartford Financial Services Co.--a long way from the small steel town and football fields of his youth.
"I always knew I wanted to do something in business, but I knew from the start that, in order to differentiate myself, I needed to have an M.B.A. or some sort of professional designation upon graduating from college," says Boures. He financed his undergraduate education through grants and aid he received to play football at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., along with doing outside jobs like grass cutting, snow removal and landscaping throughout high school. He received a Bachelor of Arts in accounting in 1983 and went on to earn his CPA, landing a job at one of the largest public accounting firms at the time, Pannell, Kerr & Forster, in their Philadelphia office.
After spending almost nine years in public accounting, Boures decided it was time to move on. "In the early '90s, it was very hard to become a partner within a top accounting firm, due to the requirements for buying into the firm and having a certain amount of collateral. I knew I didn't want to spend my life working as a senior manager, so I decided to make a career change," he recalls. At the time, Boures was specializing in construction and insurance accounts, so he decided to take the plunge into the insurance arena.
Boures' financial background led him to a job at Continental Insurance Co. in New York, working in the internal audit department and eventually serving as assistant vice president of corporate and Securities and Exchange Commission reporting. When Continental Insurance was sold to CNA in the mid-1990s, he moved on to a third-party administrator, GAB Robins North America Inc., in Parsippany, N.J., serving as vice president and controller.
Boures had gotten his feet wet doing third-party administration work at Continental, helping to launch the company's TPA, and enjoyed the challenges of the job.
"When you look at the TPA environment and how it has evolved, it was essentially claims adjusting with loss runs that were reported back within the organization. But when you looked at the data over time, you saw that when clients participated in the outcomes--focusing on getting employees appropriate medical attention and getting them back to work--their bottom lines were being impacted because of their proactive workers' compensation or general liability programs. There was a great need for information and a way to organize that information to effect successful outcomes."
This insight eventually led to Boures' leadership role in the TPA industry. When GAB Robins was sold to a venture capital group, he joined The Hartford in 1999 as corporate deputy controller, and in 2002 was named vice president of strategic business development for The Hartford's property/casualty operations.
A year later, a position opened up at the insurer's subsidiary, SRS, a leading TPA that provides claims administration and risk management services for both self-insured and insured clients, which started his focus on technology and the world of risk management information systems.
Since Boures came on board at SRS in December 2003, he has made technology a priority for the company, allocating more than $40 million for technology enhancements in 2006--up significantly from the $1 million technology budget the company had in 1990.
"Back in the mid-'90s," says Boures, "SRS was using a legacy RMIS product that was very difficult to customize. In the late '90s, the company realized that, in order to succeed, it would have to deliver what customers were looking for--a product that would allow them to do more than just claims monitoring."
That need led to the development of @venture, the company's highly customizable, Web-based risk management information system, which Boures has helped to enhance and tailor to customers' needs.
"The @venture system provides our clients with a portal into the claims process," explains Boures. "Using Web-based technology, risk managers have the ability to review and manage claims from their desktop, allowing them to identify hot spots--where claims are occurring and what types of injuries are being reported--look at trends within their claims data and react quickly to issues of concern."
Boures also took it upon himself to work more closely with clients and brokers to put together a game plan to identify how the RMIS system could better meet their needs.
"At SRS, we view risk management as a partnership," says Boures. "A big part of what we do here is really to understand what our customers need and want in order to make their workers' comp or general liability programs the best in the industry. Whether risk managers are looking to do trend analysis, track claims or measure the success of various initiatives they've put in place, we're working to help them achieve those goals."
Boures was instrumental in creating a risk managers' council to discuss clients' concerns on an ongoing basis to help SRS understand their needs and identify what clients were looking for from an RMIS tool. The goal was to give clients a more active voice in the development of the @venture product.
Nancy Brennan, vice president of product development and marketing at SRS, notes, "Ever since Joe came on board, he has been the voice of the customer at the internal table as decisions were made for @venture's development. He feels it's very important to meet with clients face to face and develop a strong personal relationship. Joe understands the unique drivers of risk management departments, and works closely with brokers, carrier partners and clients to better understand their unique perspectives and issues. He has had an influential role in helping SRS play a consultative role versus a service coordinator role for clients," she stresses.
Sharon Van Sant, director of claims management at AmerisourceBergen, a wholesale pharmaceutical distribution and pharmacy services provider based in Chesterbrook, Pa., who has been using the @venture system since it was first offered by SRS, calls the system a "Cadillac," compared to "Volkswagen" RMIS systems available from other vendors.
"When the @venture product first came out, it was somewhat difficult to navigate," says Van Sant. "But the technological advancements SRS has made, largely based on client input, have made it much easier to extract data in a usable format.
"SRS, through Joe Boures' leadership, has always been open to user comments, criticism and ideas, which has allowed the company to build a better system for its clients."
Van Sant notes that her company has reduced reserves by more than $1 million, two years running, as a result of using the @venture system. "The system gives us the tools to manage our claims and organize data, identify where losses are occurring, and work closely with claims managers and adjusters."
"Through client input, we continue to add more functionality, depth and breadth to the @venture product," says Boures. "As we continue to enhance the program, we offer interactive, real-time help to get users on board and provide them with access to RMIS specialists. In addition, the program now offers access to nurse case managers' notes and a disability days tracking report, which allows clients to track and measure specific periods of disability. We continue to work with clients to further enhance this feature, since lost time is the ultimate measure of success of a return-to-work program," he stresses.
"Our success with @venture has been achieved through a truly unique internal culture of teamwork, flexibility and total dedication to the client, which the SRS senior leadership team has been highly successful at fostering throughout the entire organization. We look to our customers to help us give them the product they need to be successful in their business. But at the end of the day, it's their environment, culture, hierarchy and operations that show through."
Looking to the future, says Boures, "we're looking to go after more alternative markets, particularly multiowned captives, focusing on business process outsourcing for insurance companies, broadening our reach and depth in larger accounts, sharpening our products and growing our book of business."
Boures credits his mother and his older brother, Emil, with getting him where he is today. "My mother worked for one of the Baby Bells, part of Bell Telephone, for 44 years. She got up every day and saved her pennies to make sure my siblings and I had all the opportunities in life. My older brother--who played NFL football for the Pittsburgh Steelers for six years--taught me the love of football and gave me an understanding of the time, energy, organization and drive it takes to get where you want to be."
When Boures is not busy leading his team at SRS, you can find him on the golf course or hitting the ski slopes with his wife, Susan, and, of course, on the football field.
"I love to get out to play and compete," he says. "As the father of two daughters, Samantha, 11, and Lauren, 8, I've coached basketball and softball teams, but my true passion is coaching Peewee football every fall." The love of the game has helped Boures to fulfill his dreams and lead his company to success.
lives in Pennsylvania.
March 1, 2006
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