Zachry would relate how he was the playground director in Daly City, Calif., while he was in college at San Francisco State.
"I arrived at the playground one morning, and there were two girls fighting," Zachry recalls. "I went to break up the fight, and eight guys attacked me. One of them had a knife, and the knife went through my back and it went through a lung, through the diaphragm and through the spleen. So I was in the hospital for about a week. They took out my spleen. So that was my introduction to workers' comp."
Since then, Zachry has built a distinguished career in the workers' comp field, starting with a job as a workers' comp claims adjuster at California Casualty Management Co. After nine months he was promoted to supervisor and a year later he was promoted to senior supervisor, staying in that position for four years.
Then he went to a company called SIP, Self Insurance Plans, which specialized in long and short-term disability administration. There, Zachry worked on Fortune 500 accounts such as Hewlett-Packard and Intel as well as Stanford University. At SIP he was given supervisory responsibility for claims coming from some of the state's cities.
After SIP, Zachry worked for Western Employers as a claims supervisor and settlement specialist, flying around the country settling workers' comp claims. "I'd fly into Dallas on Monday, learn Texas law on Tuesday, then start settling claims on Wednesday," he says. "I did that in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Hawaii as well as Texas."
But it was in the late 1990s that Zachry got a big break on the learning curve. That's when, as a senior vice president, he was given responsibility for company staffing and claims at C.E. Heath Insurance in California.
C.E. Heath, an enterprising Australian, was one of the first Lloyd's underwriters who started doing underwriting other than marine for Lloyd's. "He did smallpox, personal property and all sorts of things," Zachry notes. But in California, C.E. Heath Insurance was a workers' comp specialty carrier. Zachry helped Health grow to 10 offices throughout the Western United States, pulling in about $150 million in annual premium.
When C.E. Heath joined the 28 other small insurers that went out of business in California in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Zachry jumped ship in 1998 to Zenith Insurance Co., run by the well-known workers' comp insurance figure, Stanley Zax.
"He still to this day is one of the most knowledgeable people in the workers' comp system," says Zachry. "His focus has always been on quality claims administration, quality underwriting, good loss-control effort and he does it pretty much better than anybody else in the system. So he usually makes money at it."
Finally, before joining Safeway, Zachry was part of an Internet startup company, eStellarNet, that created a system for sending bills and reports via the Internet rather than hard copy. Just as the project was beginning to lift off, Sept. 11, 2001, struck and the venture capitalists backing the deal pulled their money almost immediately.
"Fortunately, there was an opening at Safeway," says Zachry, which is where he's been, safe and sound, ever since.
September 1, 2008
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