Employee Spotlight: Nicholas Kot

What’s your role at PS&F?

I lead the project risk services team specifically on builder’s risk projects. So, I’m essentially a conduit between our Construction and Real Estate Practice Groups, their clients, and the market.

How did you get into the insurance industry?

I started my career with Expeditors International of Washington. It’s a Seattle-based Fortune 500 company that handles global logistics without owning any transportation assets. They are a travel agent and customs broker for freight.

I started in their risk management group with a dual role in account management and claims. In addition to facilitating risk management for the organization, Expeditors operates a wholly owned insurance brokerage as well. While working under that entity, I gained experience in underwriting, brokering, and managing TPA accounts. I also worked in their surety department, dealing with U.S. customs bonds for a while.

From 2012 to 2015, I relocated to the Netherlands to implement the risk management program for Expeditors offices in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. I was fortunate to travel extensively while living in Amsterdam and was able to interact with a number of different offices, client, and cultures.

Upon returning to the U.S., I transitioned into underwriting at The Hartford and then CNA with a focus on both inland marine and cargo. I worked a great deal with Terry Reilly and the project risk team here at Parker, Smith & Feek during that time; I was well acquainted with a number of individuals here before joining the team earlier this year.

Wow, that’s quite the variety of positions. You’ve kind of done it all, haven’t you?

It’s a pretty unique background, yes. I think it has prepared me well for my role here, especially considering the extent of service that we provide for our clients. I’m a little bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to risk management. The international experience is a big bonus too, plus it makes for good conversations!

What do you miss the most about the Netherlands?

It’s difficult to pinpoint what I miss the most about living there. It was a much richer experience than simply vacationing for a few weeks or months.

It was a fantastic cultural experience. Out of 300 people at my office, I was one of only a few people for whom English was their primary language. Everyone else was from various countries from throughout Europe or the Middle East. I was exposed to various cultures on a daily basis. As Americans, we don’t really think about the effects of colonization because it seems so distant. However, in a country like the Netherlands, despite its small size, their history has created a diversity of cultures, foods, and traditions from places like the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and many places in-between.

It was certainly fun to go everywhere by bicycle, tram, or train. I don’t think my wife drove a car at all while we lived there. The Dutch embrace their leisure time, whether it is drinks along the canals, people shopping at farmers markets every few days as opposed to shopping for groceries in bulk, or going on holiday for three or four weeks at a time every summer. They definitely have the work life balance figured out there.

What is something exciting happening in the insurance
industry right now?

For our clients utilizing builder’s risk, the continuing construction boom is still producing a ton of excitement. It’s tough to say whether there’s anything new on the horizon in that regard, but we are continuing to broaden product offerings to support the large amount of business our clients will continue to conduct over the next couple of years. There’s a lot of coming demand for wrap policies, so we’re focused on making our product and management of those policies more robust.

Do you do any volunteering?

I do. I work with a group called Construction for Change, a nonprofit that was started by a group of individuals from the University of Washington. I got involved through a friend who was assisting them with their tax and finances. It’s a great organization; they partner with locally established nonprofits in areas like India, Southeast Asia, and Africa, anywhere there’s a need for them, and provide the construction services for a project that has already been fully funded. They apply best practices ensuring the construction is reliable and resilient, offer unique resources that may not otherwise be available, and, most importantly, provide training to local individuals to empower them with a skill set after the specific project concludes.

Most of my work with them is on a fundraising basis. I get out and help when and where I can, and contribute to their annual events. I’d love to find an opportunity to visit a job site, but that’s rather challenging.

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

I think my background in underwriting allows me to differentiate myself. It allows me to think about a bit more holistically. I’m in this unique position where I can go to a client and say, “I’ve sat on the other side of the table, and this is what they’re going to come back with…” which builds up our team’s credibility. Alternatively, with underwriters, I am prepared to have those frank conversations about what is and is not possible from their end. It’s great for negotiating; I can be tough, but fair. It also helps that we have an unparalleled knowledge base at Parker, Smith & Feek, so I’m able to learn from experts at the highest levels.

Did you have any particularly influential mentors during your career?

I had a mentor during my time at Expeditors. Having someone outside of my direct reporting line that helped shepherd my career path was incredibly beneficial. I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have at the time but to have someone whom I could bounce scenarios off, discuss how to frame conversations, get bigger picture context, that sort of thing, was invaluable.

What makes you so passionate about insurance?

I love the feeling of really coming through for a client. I don’t see it as winning or losing, which is a popular frame in our industry. It’s that feeling of, when someone is in a tough spot and feels they’ve exhausted all of their options and have resigned themselves to the idea that it can’t be done, I can get it done.

That was probably the biggest factor that brought me back from underwriting to the client facing side of the industry. In underwriting, you mostly work within a rigid set of parameters – limits, appetite, letters of authority, etc. All of those things are obviously important for underwriters and brokers, but being able to step outside of that box, apply some creativity, present that new idea to the underwriters, and secure a solution for the client, that’s the fun part for me.

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

Our industry is certainly lagging when it comes to implementation of technology, and I say that knowing this is the direction we’re moving towards. The underwriting side is starting to get automated, but not always in the most effective or needed ways. I know that Parker, Smith & Feek has some great systems in place with MarketLINK and DigitaLINK, but I’m referring to more of the interpersonal aspect. Our clients and us are moving at such a fast pace, but the insurance industry is as a whole is still operating in an emails, attachments, and 48-hour turnaround times environment.

It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how the preferred medium for day-to-day communication change as the workforce in our industry turns over.

Parker, Smith & Feek’s builder’s risk specialist, @Nicholas Kot, is a jack of all trades in #riskmanagement. Learn more about this world-traveling Sounders fan in our latest Employee Spotlight

You are married with a baby daughter. How do you balance your position here with home life?

Yes, it’s a full-time job here and I return to a full-time job at home (laughs). I feel incredibly supported here as far as work life balance is concerned. You want to spend as much time as you can with your family, especially when the little one is still young.

What do you like to do when you’re not working (outside
of changing diapers)?

My wife and I are active hikers, runners, and bikers, so we like to get outdoors as much as possible. Whenever the weather is nice enough, we take advantage. Before my daughter came along, we lived the standard no kids’ lifestyle. We went to a lot of games and restaurants with friends. We tried to soak up as much as the greater Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Longview, Washington, between Seattle and Portland on the Columbia River.  I moved to Seattle to go to UW, and I haven’t left since. Not permanently, at least.

Are you a sports fan at all?

I watch a ton of different sports! I’ve been a Seahawks fan for a long time, born and raised. My dad brought us to games fairly regularly when I was growing up.

I’m also a big soccer fan; I’ve had Sounders season tickets for a number of years. A group of friends and I follow the English Premier League as well, and I root for Tottenham.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I don’t recall what the specific percentage is but…listen more than you talk. Developing that skill early on was very beneficial for me, but I can think of times where I should have been better about employing it (laughs). It can jump up and bite you.

PROFILE:

Where are you from? Longview, WA

Family? Wife, 9-month-old daughter

Favorite vacation spot? Croatia or Switzerland

Favorite musician? Pearl Jam

Favorite food? Thai food

Favorite Seattle hangout spot? Anywhere during summertime in Seattle – it’s tough to beat.

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