#FlashbackFriday to last year’s ACE conference where we got an exclusive interview with Kenneth Tolson, US President of Claims Solutions at Crawford & Company. Listen in to his story of how he got started in insurance, some of the opportunities he is creating at Crawford & Co, his career advice, and what they look for when promoting. He also discusses innovating around the biggest pain points carriers face and integrating robotic process automation.
RISE founder, Amy Cooper, interviews Sedgwick CEO, Dave North. From firefighter to insurance industry. Listen as we hear Dave’s advice to young professionals, aspiring leaders, and those looking to advance their career.
Senior Director, Claims Management Comcast NBCUniversal.
Deborah Saunders is Senior Director, Claims Management for Comcast NBCUniversal. She is responsible for managing all lines of Comcast and NBCU’s claims programs, including Workers’ Compensation, Auto Liability, General Liability, Employment Practices, Property and Media Professional E&O. Prior to joining Comcast in 1998, Deborah was the Workers’ Compensation Claims Specialist for Campbell Soup Company. She started her career in claims as a representative for Travelers Insurance, where she handled both workers’ compensation and commercial liability claims. Deborah earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts. She also holds Associate in Risk Management (ARM,) Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional (CWCP) and Certified Claims Professional (CCP) designations and is a certified paralegal.
“I think when people either look at risk management programs in schools or look for a career path when they get out a lot of focus is on underwriting, but I’ve found that claims provides endless opportunities to do good in the world and to satisfy curiosity and the desire to grow.” Deborah states in an interview with RISE founder, Amy Cooper. Deborah discussed more about what her typical work day is like along with some encouraging advice for young career seeking professionals.
What do your mornings look like?
My alarm is set for 5:25 but I get up between then and 6 am, depending on the day. I actually have an evening regimen, so I don’t need a morning one. I lay out clothes, look at my calendar for the next day, and have my bags packed. That’s a trick I learned from my mom.
What is your commute like?
I go to the office almost every day that I’m not traveling. I cross a bridge from New Jersey to Pennsylvania during my commute, which takes 20-30 minutes. I purposely add one mile to my route in order to pass by the fountain at Logan Circle. It’s one of the many things in the city that makes me happy so I make sure to enjoy it.
What is the first thing you do when you start your work day?
A: I pick up coffee on the way in. The first thing I do when I get to the office is break out the lint roller! I have pets. I update my to do list for the day and carry over any leftover tasks from the prior day.
Who do you work most closely with?
I am responsible for a claims team within the Global Risk Management team for Comcast NBC Universal. There are eight of us in claims, and with our colleagues in program placement, we make up the risk department. I consider our TPA, brokers, and insurers partners to be an extension of our team. Not everyone can say that, but these partnerships are very collaborative.
How do you balance meetings, email, solving problems, and your own tasks?
I’m not a practitioner of a formal time management technique. I’ve been here for more than 20 years and I have a lot of practice pivoting when needed. It’s second nature for me. I have non-traditional work hours while traveling, which is great catch up time. I travel 2-3 times a month but usually they are short trips.
Usually I eat lunch at my desk. When I was starting out, it was Snickers and Diet Coke. I’m doing a lot better with my food choices now, so I typically get soup or sushi. I try to avoid lunch meetings because I find them to be inefficient.
You never get through a day without ______.
On the downside, I never get through the day without falling into an internet news rabbit hole. I’m extremely interested in current events. On the positive side, I never get through the day without stopping to be grateful. I have a wonderful family and fun career. I try to think about it every day.
Who is home waiting for you at the end of your day? What is your biggest motivation in getting up every morning to do it again?
My husband, who is now retired, two cats and a dog. Motivation isn’t an issue because I don’t need to motivate myself since I love what I do. I thought it would be hard to leave the house once my husband retired, but it’s not.
What changes in the role of technology have you noticed in your department? Does this change the skills you hire for?
I began my career with paper files – I’ve been at Comcast for more than 20 years. Yes, it does change at least some of the skills that you’re looking for. We need people who are effective and accurate at a much faster pace, with the efficiencies that come with technology. I appreciate people who are detail-oriented and methodical but need them to be thoughtful about how they spend their time.
What is the most rewarding/favorite part of your job?
I work with great people inside my organization – everyone is smart, creative and looking for solutions that improve people’s lives. I love the diversity of the business in both within Comcast and in the claims profession. I’ve had the same role since joining Comcast, but endless opportunities to learn. Almost every day, there’s something new.
Can you name an innovative solution that made a huge impact for your area of responsibility?
We use data analytics, as a lot of people do, but we tried to figure out a way to use it not just for goal setting, but also to eliminate bottlenecks that stood in the way of resolution and closure. We used data analytics to set discretionary settlement authority limits with our TPA – we figured out how much authority we could give them so they don’t have to wait for our response, while still controlling the dollars. We were able to eliminate 80% of the instances they had to contact us but still keep control over the vast majority of the spend. It worked exceptionally well. We’re also looked at how closely we monitor ALAE. We trust our TPA team as professionals as long as spend is line with industry benchmarks.
When you were 18, did you envision your life to be like this? What advice would you give to your 18-year old self?
I absolutely did not envision it. I have this great career because the path I had in mind didn’t play out the way I thought. Follow your dreams, but if through circumstance you’re diverted, be open and curious. Wherever you can, set yourself up for job satisfaction – there’s always something you can turn into a positive. Find it, build it, focus on it, and you’d be surprised where it can take you. I could not be happier.
What advice would you give to other women who might be considering a career in insurance?
This is so important to me. My advice is to consider claims. I think when people either look at risk management programs in schools or look for a career path when they get out a lot of focus is on underwriting, but I’ve found that claims provides endless opportunities to do good in the world and to satisfy curiosity and the desire to grow. It’s perfect for people who think of themselves as lifelong learners. The number one thing I would say if you’re considering claims – call me! I’ll be delighted to tell you why I think it can exceptionally rewarding career.