Employee Spotlight: Brian Zematis

Get to know Brian Zematis, our new Alaskan Associate Claims Executive, as he discusses his passion for skiing, workers’ compensation, and why @psfinc’s culture convinced him to join the team. Welcome, Brian! #thePSFdifference

What’s your role at Parker, Smith & Feek?

My role is to provide on-the-ground claims support for our clients and staff here in Alaska, and in the lower 48 as needed. I’m mainly focused on the workers’ compensation realm, having just moved over from a position with the State Division of Workers’ Compensation. Alaska being a non-monopolistic workers’ comp state gives us as the broker more opportunity than in Washington to manage claims, because we can directly work with the adjusters overseeing claims rather than giving up all control to the state.

You’re new to Parker, Smith & Feek, what inspired you to
join the team?

For me, it was seeing the culture of the firm…or, rather, experiencing the culture. I was working for an outside vendor at Parker, Smith & Feek’s Anchorage office holiday party, which is usually a closed event to non-employees. It was a helpful peek through the curtains to meet my future coworkers in a casual setting. That gave me a great insight into the real culture of the place.

Then through research, asking around town, and the course of the actual interviews, I realized that the insurance industry was ripe for young professionals and Parker, Smith & Feek’s sterling reputation made it a prime firm to join. However, what really drew me was the fact that it’s a collaborative company with great character. It’s a place where you really want to come in and work.

What encouraged you to start a career in the insurance business?

It all started when I first moved up to Alaska. I didn’t have any jobs lined up ahead of time; I moved here because I was looking for more snow than LA had to offer. Once here, I found a position with the State of Alaska in their Division of Workers’ Compensation. Through that position, I became intimately familiar with workers’ comp law and how it is applied. Later, I was able to leverage that expertise into my current position here at Parker, Smith & Feek.

What is the most valuable advice you ever received,
or any lessons learned?

If you’re going to do something, do it right; that’s always been my guiding compass. That means not cutting corners, but rather giving your best effort every time.

Do you volunteer with any organizations or charities?

I do! I volunteer as a bartender in the winter as part of the community run Arctic Valley Ski Area in Anchorage. It’s run by the Anchorage Ski Club, which is a non-profit. The Army first developed the ski area as a recreation site for soldiers in WWII. It’s a great way to satiate my downhill skiing craving while helping keep a fun and historic piece of the skiing world up and running.

Who was your most influential business mentor? Why?

My father. He was the best and most visible example of what I thought a businessman should be. He worked for Chrysler for the vast majority of his career, and had an incredible work ethic while also being very active at home. Seeing his dedication to his work while also being a present and involved father with the family was inspiring. That’s a huge part of what drives me.

What’s made you so passionate about the insurance industry?

I like to be able to help people, and that’s exactly what we get to do in insurance. We provide our clients a piece of mind with an insurance policy. Then, from a claims perspective, if they ever have to use the policy, we are there to advocate on their behalf to mitigate any damage.

If you could change one thing about the insurance industry,
what would it be?

I’d love to find a way to make insurance inherently a topic that grabbed people’s attention. From my claims perspective, the opportunity to find solutions and outcomes that will positively affect a business in its time of need is inspiring. Sure, people may understand the importance of insurance, especially when a large loss or other event occurs, but sometimes the subject matter can definitely leave the most well intentioned people disinterested or half-asleep.

What is something your co-workers would be surprised to learn
about you?

I hold a Brazilian passport. Every year I have to apply for my exemption from mandatory Brazilian military service, and if I ever travel there, I don’t have to pay for visa fees. This also usually gives me a fun team to root for in the World Cup (darn Belgium).

Brazil? Did you grow up there?

I was born there, but we did a lot of moving around. That goes back to my dad working for Chrysler. He got on the international track first by helping with the opening of Chrysler Mexico, where my sister was born. Then it took us to Brazil, then to Detroit, then out to Austria, before we moved back to Detroit.

Do you have any favorite memories of growing up so internationally?

I have this one specific memory of falling in love with calamari while sitting next to a canal in Venice when I was eight. That early exposure to cuisine and culture kicked off an excitement for both that I still maintain today.

Get to know Brian Zematis, our new Alaskan Associate Claims Executive, as he discusses his passion for skiing, workers’ compensation, and why Parker, Smith & Feek’s culture convinced him to join the team.

What do you like to do for fun/what are you passionate about?

Anything active and outdoors! Skiing is my big one. I got the bug when we lived in Austria in the early 90s because skiing is such a huge part of the culture there. We’d go on school trips for P.E. class up to the Alps, and it was pretty easy to fall in love with.

I spend summertime mountain biking, hiking, and camping. Anything to get into the mountains.

Tell me about your family.

I’ve got two brothers and a sister. One brother lives here in Anchorage with his wife. My sister is down in Dallas, Texas, and is getting married this fall. My other brother is a bit farther away – he’s about to move back from Japan. He’s getting married too in August, then moving to LA. My dad passed away, but my mom still lives in Detroit. We’re all close and make a point of getting together for a big vacation once a year. It never matters where – what’s important is that we spend time together regularly.

You played American football in college. Are you still a big fan?

My enjoyment of the sport came primarily from playing it, which I loved. Nowadays I will catch some scores here and there, and then head outside for some fun of my own.

Get to know Brian Zematis, our new Alaskan Associate Claims Executive, as he discusses his passion for skiing, workers’ compensation, and why Parker, Smith & Feek’s culture convinced him to join the team.

You have your Level 1 Avy Certification (avalanche awareness and safety). Do you have a good backcountry story you’d like to share
with us?

Luckily, nothing too crazy. One of the things I learned while getting my certification was that you don’t want backcountry skiing to get too exhilarating. It is much like what I learned early while working in private security – if you do have to deal with something exciting, then you’ve done a few things wrong along the way. Backcountry skiing is very safe…as long as you’re constantly evaluating risk.
That being said, I did kick off a small avalanche a couple years ago in Valdez. Seeing a whole mountain of snow turn into basically liquid was pretty shocking, and something I’m not going to forget any time soon. Luckily, nobody was caught in the slide and we learned some valuable lessons.


Where are you from: Brazil and everywhere else in the world

Family: Two brothers, one sister

Favorite vacation spot: Wherever we do the family gathering every year

Favorite food/meal/restaurant: Fondue

Favorite movie/author/musician/sports team: The Big Lebowski

Interviewed and edited by Sara Brauchla, Parker, Smith & Feek’s Marketing Specialist. She is our dedicated copywriter and editor of all published materials, including spotlights, which offer a peek at who our hardworking employees really are when not consulting on our clients’ insurance programs. Stay tuned for her next installment, and refer to our blog or articles page for more of her work.
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