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August 10, 2018
I’m a Vice President, Account Executive, and Management Liability Practice Leader.
Management liability is a broadly used term used to describe insurance products intended to protect a company, its leadership, and balance sheet from allegations of mismanagement, breach of fiduciary duty, or employment matters, to name a few. For example, if a company goes bankrupt, then it is highly likely that lawsuits will follow from shareholders, creditors, vendors, employees, or governmental agencies. Most people have heard of coverages like directors’ and officers’ or employment practices liability, however there are additional areas of coverage (fiduciary, kidnap & ransom) that qualify as management liability. These products act as a lifeline for companies in the face of growing defense costs and settlements that could have a crippling blow to a balance sheet.
Growing up in Spokane, I had several family members in the industry. I come from a large extended family, and my uncle and cousins owned successful brokerages. Prior to retiring in Idaho, my grandfather had a long career with Aetna in Los Angeles, so you could say that insurance has been in my DNA.
After graduating from Santa Clara University, I accepted a position with the company where I was interning. In 2002, the job market was tight, so I was fortunate to have an opportunity. My primary responsibility was managing supply chains for printed circuit board components across 75 plants worldwide. I quickly realized this particular career did not align with my goals however, I am grateful for the experience I gained negotiating terms and pricing with a diverse group of suppliers around the world and I have a great appreciation for how difficult increasing margin can be.
I stayed in the Bay Area for about six years, before the pull of the Great Northwest was too great. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to focus on what I truly wanted to do. One of my mentors recommended me to Chubb, and fortunately for me, they had an opening in their management liability practice in Seattle. Originally, my goal was to learn the business on the carrier side for a couple years before transitioning into brokerage. In the end I was lucky to land a few promotions and manage a significant territory and book of business, but the two-year plan turned into nearly nine years with Chubb. In this time, I had the pleasure of working alongside a great group of talented professionals who taught me a great deal.
From there, I came to Parker, Smith & Feek and I’ve been here for just over four years now.
The cool thing about management liability is it allows for a deeper look into how a particular company is run, and the Puget Sound has no shortage of innovative companies. Private companies in the market for management liability continue to reap the rewards of a competitive market with loads of capacity. Certain industries and lines of coverage are experiencing tighter underwriting and pricing, but from a broad perspective, the private company market is stable. Typically, a systemic issue needs to come along and create some pain in order for the market to truly harden.
The #MeToo movement obviously has a big impact. Even though it’s already making waves and headlines, we’re still waiting to see what happens to the employment practices liability market. Some carriers are currently developing strategies to best underwrite and deal with the inevitable fallout in particularly litigious states. Most of these states already have had a history of employment practices liability issues, so it’s not necessarily a new problem, but we expect to see some scaled back coverage, regardless. Washington and California are both fairly active that way, so we are watching to see how this affects our clients.
The president increasing tariffs with significant trading partners is creating some turmoil but again, time will tell if they impact the greater economy and the insurance market in particular.
During my time with Chubb, I worked with close to 40 to 50 brokerage firms in the greater Pacific Northwest, and there are a good number of excellent firms and individual brokers. Granted, this number has significantly decreased in the last 10 years with consolidation within our industry. This exposure into various firms offered me a view behind the curtain. From the time I began working with Parker, Smith & Feek as an underwriter, it was clear the firm was different and I quickly gained significant respect and admiration for the firm and brokers. I was challenged to deliver my very best work for Parker, Smith & Feek clients, and enjoyed how it was more than simply a client/vendor relationship. I felt like a true partner, and that resonated with me until the day I joined the firm.
Every detail that was shared with me throughout the interview process has proven to be true. I have the pleasure of working with intelligent, motivated, and overall good people. The resources, knowledge, and level of detail we bring to the table makes me proud to be associated with the firm. You can see the evidence of that in the longevity of both our client and employee retention.
For a very short time many years ago, I was a competitive wakeboarder. At one point, I could do eight different inverts. And I ran with the bulls in Pamplona in 2011.
I think the answer that some of our colleagues have previously given is certainly accurate – insurance is vitally important to any business. But for me personally, it’s also about the relationships. I get to meet some fantastic leaders from all sorts of companies in the area. It’s pretty cool to be able to say I work with some of the firms that I do.
Well, I have two young daughters, Betty (5) and Lois (2). They have me completely wrapped around their fingers, I’ll admit that. So, the majority of my time is made up of playing with them or shuttling them around to different things.
Behind my kids and my career, my third passion project has been landscaping our property. I don’t seem to be making any headway on it (laughs), but that’s what you can find me doing most weekends.
I think if you ask most people from Spokane, they’ll say that they love it. It gets a bad rap on this side of the state as being kind of a Podunk city, but we do have electricity and everything out there, I promise. I still consider it home in a lot of ways (I even still say we when talking about it) and fortunately get back there to visit my family a lot. It offered me the opportunity to be outdoors. I could step right outside my front door and have easy access to fishing, hunting, skiing, etc. It’s a fantastic place to raise a family. I’m proud to say that I’m from Spokane.
I was once a co-star in a critically acclaimed public service announcement for bicycle helmets, so for a short period I figured I was heading to Hollywood… Honestly, I’m not sure the commercial ever hit the air.
Skiing in the World Cup would have been a dream of mine but I had a hard enough time competing with my buddies locally, so that dream didn’t last long.
My parents. They both did a great job of raising my brother and I, and now our kids. My dad taught me the value of a dollar at a very young age, and as a result, I always had jobs since I was around ten years old, mowing lawns and that kind of stuff.
There’s still a lot of inefficiencies, despite an unparalleled amount of investment in technology services designed to streamline insurance. The problem is that so many are run by startups that don’t quite grasp the nature and complexity of the industry’s regulations. We’ve already seen some get their hands slapped for not following regulations or adhering to licensing requirements. Parker, Smith & Feek has taken advantage of quite a few pieces of new technology to the benefit of our clients, and I think it would be naïve to not adopt some of the new offerings, but it’s still a challenge.
There were a couple of people in Spokane who were extremely helpful in making me aware of what’s truly important in this industry. As a young person, it’s easy to just focus on where you can make the most money the fastest, or get a promotion the quickest. You soon realize – and this is not to say that money doesn’t matter –that those goals aren’t really the most important to have a fulfilling career. Those people guided me to consider things like the firm’s business plan and ownership structure, because those two factors can determine if you’ll stay at the brokerage long term and really be able to learn the ins and outs of the business. I knew I wanted to be at a privately held firm, and one that would remain privately held for a long time. Fortunately for me, I joined Parker, Smith & Feek, where both of those are true.
I also love this quote from an unknown source, but referenced by the great coach Wooden. “I am not what I ought to be, not what I want to be, not what I am going to be. But I am thankful that I am better than I used to be.”