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Change comes quickly when you least expect it

9/11 changed everything for a lot of people. I was at my desk at One Liberty Plaza across the street from the World Trade Center when the attacks occurred. I was literally shaken from my desk and the world would never be the same. There were significant emotional and physical issues to deal with. I will not get into those here, but they were as expected and significant. We were lucky in our department and lost no one to the horrible events of that day – other colleagues were not so fortunate. It was amazing to see those within the company and those outside rise to assist where they could. As low as humanity reached that day, evidence of the wonder of the human spirit revealed themselves in the days and weeks that followed.

By the end of the day I was on a conference call with others from the senior staff trying to figure out our next steps. The company had set up an employee assistance program, which was used by many to deal with the emotional aspects of the tragedy. As a management team we had to deal with the business aspect of getting claims up and running.  In the short term we were able to re-route claims issues to other regional offices around the country. Regardless, we had over 75 claims professionals that needed to get back to work. Unlike other firms, we were mostly paperless making recovery significantly easier. There were a few snafus such as when the back up tapes had not been taken offsite, leaving claims data delayed for a short time. As part of the recovery team I helped to establish a remote office of Specialty Claims staff in one of the Zurich field offices outside the city. For over a year claims professionals worked in cramped and close temporary space designed for a quarter of the people that we had. It was a challenge to get everyone up and running and I am proud to say we were able to get almost the entire staff up and running within one week. It was truly an extraordinary achievement at the time.

Challenges of an office fragmented

After a few months of settling in and dealing with physical and emotional issues, the business of running a claims office continued. We would not move back to the lower Manhattan for nearly a year. In that time, we had to make due with the fragmented nature of our division. Our claims department had been moved to more locations and faced more challenges during the immediate post 9/11 period than I thought could have been possible. The management, underwriting, claims, actuarial and other key departments previously located in one building in New York was now spread across the tri-state area in 4 locations.  Having a paperless claim environment made it much easier to move claim files and documents between offices. Over time the business developed a rhythm that enabled the department to succeed. Once the temporary offices were up and running, I shared a long desk with the Chief Claims Officer for Specialty Claims where we were able to handle the day-to-day operational concerns as they developed.  I increased visibility with my underwriting counterparts and worked with IT to create new reports to assist them in understanding claim trends.

All was on the right track and I was assigned to work with the Home Office IT department to help rebuild the legacy claims system that had been in place for over a decade. Just as this was taking place, my immediate boss was hired as the head of claims for a start up insurance company. The thought of working in a fresh environment in an entrepreneurial setting was very appealing to me as well. Within three weeks of his departure I got the call and he wanted me to come in and help him build the new operation. There was little for me to consider and within two weeks I was part of a new start up insurance operation responsible for building a claims department.

Posted in My History.

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