Employee Spotlight: Christine Barton

How would you describe your role at PS&F?

I work with our account teams to set up builder’s risk, owner-controlled insurance programs and other project-specific programs that our clients need. So, I mostly work with either real estate development or contractor clients.

What inspired you to start a career in project risk consulting?

Once I was discharged from the military and moved to Portland, I needed to find a job. My mom was working for a large general contractor and helped find me a position in accounting. I switched between various roles there for almost 11 years before going to a different contractor, where I started to work on contracts, claims management, and their CCIP programs.

After about four and a half years, I was asked if I would be interested in moving to their sister company, which was an insurance brokerage, to handle mostly affiliated companies’ insurance programs, but also other client’s OCIPs.

Because of that experience, Parker, Smith & Feek reached out to me a while back, and I was really excited for the opportunity to come over. That background in construction allows me to deeply understand our clients’ operations and relationships. I understand their daily functions, how their businesses run, and can explain the intricacies of how their builder’s risk or project-specific programs work. I can also speak to our developer clients’ programs – though my experience is from the construction side, I’m no stranger to the owner’s needs during the course of a project.

You served four years in the US Army – what lessons learned do you use to help advocate for and advise your clients?

I had to learn how to be quick on my feet in the environment I was in. I had to analyze situations, weigh the pros and cons, and come up with a plan or best solution incredibly fast. That’s helped me to be direct and responsive with my clients and when solving problems. 

Where did you grow up?

I’m a Montana girl, but my grandparents lived in the Portland area. I always loved coming to visit them in the big city. There are more people living in the Portland metro area than in the entire state of Montana.

When I finished my service in the military, I was stationed in a small town in Arizona and didn’t want to go back to Montana – so I moved out to Portland. It’s interesting to see the cultural differences between my son, who’s grown up here, and myself when I was his age.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Trips. I’m a big traveler. My brother and his family, dad, and I plan a big trip together somewhere really fantastic every couple of years or so.

I am looking to purchase a new house soon, so that is my next financial goal. I watch a lot of HGTV weekend mornings nowadays.

What’s something exciting going on in project risk management right now?

Well, it’s a tough time for insurance right now with the hard market. It’s more important than ever for insurance buyers to be considering the bigger picture of their risk management strategy. A lot of people think that, once a loss happens, you just submit a claim and are done with it – but I’m trying to help clients rebuild their mindset to think of their insurance as a last resort. 

Building an effective risk mitigation plan can help prevent that loss from happening in the first place and present your company in a better light to insurance carriers in obtaining better pricing. It’s a big shift for a lot of clients that haven’t necessarily thought about their programs so proactively before. And it doesn’t just help with insurance – it makes contractors look better to property owners when bidding on projects. If you come onsite with a robust QA/QC program, you’re going to look much more competent than the next guy.

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

I don’t do well with fireworks because I’ve been in a combat zone. If there’s a loud boom or bang, I will jump; I just can’t help it. I’ve been removed from it for almost 30 years and have gotten a lot better at managing the anxiety, but it’s still how I react.

I see it as a reminder to be grateful for where I am and all that I have.

We talk a lot about the PS&F difference. How do you make a difference?

I came from construction; I’ve lived in the world our clients do. I learned insurance one step at a time, and from the perspective of solving problems on the contractor side. I faced situations that pushed me to understand the insurance better in order to prevent the problem from happening again or whether there was a better solution available.

I’ve experienced the heart-racing dread when a pipe breaks on a Saturday night on the seventh floor of a hospital project, or the terrible dismay when a worker is injured or worse. I don’t just listen to our clients and try to understand what they worry about – I’ve gone through it.  

What is your most treasured possession?

That’s hard for me; I’m not really a materialistic person. But I have a ruby ring that was my grandmother’s that, as the family story goes, was bought with bootlegger money. I also have a few art pieces by my great-great-grandmother who was one of the first women to attend Oregon Architectural College, which is now OSU. I couldn’t possibly put a value on those items, as they mean too much to me.

PROFILE:

Where are you from? Montana

Favorite vacation spot? Greece

Favorite television show? Yellowstone

Portland favorites? Springtime, when you see a bit of blue sky and you feel energized.

Childhood hero? My grandmother – she was a sweet, dainty lady, but a tough cookie when she needed to be.


Interviewed and edited by Sara Brauchla, Parker, Smith & Feek’s Communications Specialist and Copy Editor. She is responsible for editing 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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