By PETER ROUSMANIERE, an expert on the workers' compensation industry
The secret ingredient inside every workers' compensation expert is a career-long desire to improve the system as she or he sees it.
Bob Petrie has devoted his entire career to risk management information systems (RMIS) for corporations. He founded and led the development of Marsh's CS Stars. Two years ago, he co-founded and became president of Chicago-area Origami Risk, bringing a new generation RMIS to market.
Petrie cited Dave North, CEO of the third-party administrator Sedgwick CMS, as an inspiration and example he's followed for more than 20 years. North, he said, built a leading company in a very competitive market through hard work, great teamwork and attention to detail. They worked together at Johnson & Higgins, the insurance broker, in the early 1990s and have been in touch ever since.
The most significant development in Petrie's career has been the improvement in technology to support risk management. Workers' compensation from a data perspective is complex. Twenty years ago, only the largest companies could afford a RMIS. Today, midsize companies can cost-effectively use the same techniques to integrate, analyze and display data.
Asked about personal avocations, Petrie responded, "Are you kidding?"
The Tampa Tribune called Mary Ann Stiles the "queen of workers' comp" thanks to her persistence and peer recognition as an attorney representing corporations and insurers on workers' compensation issues and as an advocate for state legislative reform.
Stiles is president and CEO of Tampa, Fla.-based Stiles, Taylor & Grace, a five-office firm which she founded in 1982. Since then, Stiles has been involved in major workers' compensation legislative battles.
In the early 1970s, while a full-time undergraduate student, she got her taste for it. Then, she was staff to the legislative committee overseeing the workers' compensation system. She met a young lobbyist for Associated Industries, Jon L. Shebel, who has been her mentor ever since. After earning her law degree, Stiles worked with Shebel on behalf of a reform package that passed in 1979. The law cut premiums in half before being gutted by the courts.
In the early 2000s, she was deeply involved in the enactment of another reform package that triggered another huge reduction in system costs. She has served and continues to serve as a lobbyist.
To young lawyers, she counseled, "Get involved in the legislative process. Make a reputation for yourself and stand your ground for what you believe. Do not compromise when it is not necessary."
Vincent (Vinny) Armentano is senior vice president of business insurance claims at Travelers, stepping up in 2005 from running workers' compensation claims.
In the late 1990s, he moved the company from a cradle-to-grave claims-adjusting approach to a specialized approach that matched claims with the right claims handler and provided focused claims handling on key segments of a claim. Travelers later built a website that allowed injured workers to view their own claims, see if their bill was paid and learn about the system.
The biggest change during his career, he said, has been the integration of medical management into a seamless claims process, breaking down the silos of traditional claims adjusting and case management. The need to manage the medical side of claims continues to expand, he said.
To enjoy a career in workers' compensation, according to Armentano, who also is an attorney, a person must begin with how she or he views her or his role.
"It is not to manage a claim," he explained. "It involves taking a person who has been injured and helping them during one of their most traumatic experiences they may ever have--including their health and ability to support their family."
"Workers' compensation is a mirror into society and is impacted by most aspects of our environment, including individual worker behaviors, employer trends, medicine, law, politics, the economy and seemingly an unending number of unique events," he added. "The better the system, the better our environment becomes."
Starting as a claims adjuster, Dan Kugler has risen to direct the workers' compensation program for a highly visible employer. He is also a board member of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS).
Kugler works for Snap-on, the Kenosha, Wisc.-headquartered global manufacturer of tools, equipment, and related products and services, a company he has been with since 1979.
Kugler's best education in claims and corporate safety came from a plant manager in Carmel, Ill., when Kugler left his corporate headquarters office to spend months at the plant running a successful project to reduce the frequency and severity of injuries.
The most important change in workers' compensation during his career, according to Kugler, has been the emergence of "full transparency" about benefits, rights and responsibilities of all parties connected to the workers' comp system. Through education, he said, "employers need to dispel myths and misunderstandings about the system at every level management and labor."
Kugler teaches courses for risk managers. Part of his advice to young professionals is to set themselves on a path of continuous learning, improving their abilities so they can better deliver to customers--and have fun.
For these four professionals, persistence has paid off. And the industry is better off for it.
November 7, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications