Editor's note: Leslie Miles is a vice president and client services manager for Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Service Inc. in St. Louis. She was recognized as a 2008 Risk & Insurance®
Power BrokerTM in the Education category. Miles began her career in insurance in 1970. Armed with a high-school diploma and great secretarial skills, she took a job as a policy typist for a local brokerage firm in Missouri.
Miles worked her way up the ladder over 18 years and challenged herself further by earning CPCU
and ARM designations. She broke into commercial insurance at Corroon & Black and Johnson & Higgins before joining Gallagher in 1998.
Risk & Insurance® Associate Editor Erin Gazica spoke with Miles in January about her passion for helping clients achieve
their goals and for promoting continuing education.
Erin Gazica: What issues are most common among your higher education clients?
Leslie Miles: They ask me about a new program they want to put into place from an educational perspective or a trip they want to take, or about what are the exposures if they put in a rock-climbing wall, something like that. Generally speaking, higher ed is really looking to be on the cutting-edge of providing programs to educate students. They're under pressure from faculty, parents and enrollment numbers.
The way I approach it is more of an advice type of situation. I don't say "yes" or "no." I want to talk to them about what they are getting into when they are considering these new programs. I review contractual agreements for insurance issues but tell them they need to have their attorney look at it. I hope that the advice I give them ultimately helps them make the decision.
EG: What are some of the emerging risks associated with educational institutions?
LM: There's more overseas travel I think. A different type of student is going to the institutions nowadays. There are a host of medical issues, violence on campus. Campus is not potentially as safe as it used to be. Schools talk to each other though. And if I see issues within a group that are a common theme, I bring it up in a meeting.
EG: Aside from higher education, you manage the workers' compensation pool for a group of 65 sheltered workshops in Missouri. Describe what this client does and how you became involved with them.
LM: Sheltered workshops are employment for people with developmental disabilities. They're unique in that the biggest part of their population are people who may have Down syndrome or some sort of mental retardation, and they are placed in an environment that gives them the dignity of a good job while also keeping them safe. I have a son who is mentally retarded who works in a sheltered workshop packaging tools and loading boxes. That particular account is very near and dear to my heart.
EG: What are the challenges associated with this account?
LM: The insurance industry some years will like to write them and the next year they won't. One year, rates are really high and another, low. The pool is a way to make the budget for workers' compensation a bit more manageable. They are a business just like anyone else, they don't get any special breaks. If we can help them keep their costs as low as possible, then we can help them keep as viable an operation as possible.
I think that the first thing you need to establish is a level of trust with your client. You need them to know that you understand what it is they do and you are looking out for their best interest. In many cases you are putting their interests above your own. That's one of the creeds for the CPCU Society.
EG: How did you become a strong advocate for insurance designations and continuing education?
LM: Back in 1970, women didn't go to college at the rate they go now. I got hired by Bland & Co., a local St. Louis brokerage firm, to be a policy typist. I worked my way through this brokerage firm, and after I had been there for 18 years, I realized I had done everything there. In '88, I said, 'OK, now I have to do something different.' I just fell into insurance, but I really liked it and I wanted to go back to school to get the knowledge I needed.
My saving grace was that I did go get an insurance degree; a CPCU is considered a master's degree in insurance. I did get a good education, I just went about it differently. I'm actually an instructor for some CPCU and INS classes and an adjunct professor for a community college. Adult teaching is a thing that I enjoy. Any individual who wants to make a career out of insurance needs to believe in continuing education. I think it's an absolute must.
March 1, 2008
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