In this edition of A Day In The Life, we will give readers an idea of what the typical day looks like for a Claims Director. Mike Galati from Berkley Professional Liability has generously volunteered to enlighten our audience with his insights. In this edition we will discuss Mike’s background, the skills that lead to a successful career as a Claims Director and what the industry can do to attract more young talent.
Claims Directors generally handle the claim process for the organization that they represent by communicating with brokers, insureds and defense counsel to track the progression of claims, reviewing the applicability of coverage provided by the insurance policy, strategizing on methods for resolution and participating in mediations. Claims Directors can focus on one line of business, like D&O, or multiple across different coverages (like D&O, Employment Practices, Fiduciary and Transactional Liability).
What is your current position? What was your major in college?
I am currently a Claims Director for Berkley Professional Liability. I have been in the position for 2 years, after being introduced to insurance through my prior job as a Senior Associate in PwC’s Mergers & Acquisitions Tax group, where I participated in Representations and Warranties insurance underwriting calls. When I decided to move from the tax world, I began looking in the insurance industry and decided that the claims side would a great area to utilize the skills I’d learned while I was obtaining my Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law.
I received my undergraduate degree in Accounting from Hofstra University in Long Island, New York in 2013. Following graduation from Hofstra, I attended the St. John’s University School of Law in Queens, New York where I earned my Juris Doctor in 2017.
What positions have you held to date? Why did you get into the insurance industry?
My experience in the insurance industry is limited to my two years with Berkley Professional Liability. Following my first year with Berkley as Senior Claims Specialist, I was promoted to Claims Director.
I had never really considered a career in insurance until an old colleague of mine left PwC to join Liberty as a transactional risk underwriter. That was the first time I realized that the insurance industry was a viable option for me. After researching the different roles available (e.g., underwriting, claims, brokering) and interviewing for various roles, I decided that claims would be the best fit for me as I would be able to use the skills I learned while obtaining my Juris Doctor.
What do you love most about your position?
My last job involved a lot of repetitive tasks but working in a claims role allows me to handle and learn something new every day. Additionally, I enjoy the fact that I often deal with issues and/or items that are at the forefront of the business world. If you’ve seen a subject featured in the Wall Street Journal, I probably have worked on a claim related to that subject.
What is one misconception about your position?
One common misconception I find about being a claim adjuster is that we can quickly and accurately predict how a claim will turn out, based on the few facts we have at the time we receive a first notice of loss. Very often I find myself giving the answer “it depends”, which can be the most accurate answer but, obviously, an unsatisfying one. There are many factors that go into determining a claim’s trajectory and they can take time to develop, as well as surprise even seasoned claim adjusters. Sometimes the best answer we have in a given moment is an uncertain one.
What professional designations do you hold (if any)?
I have my Juris Doctor, which I think was an essential part of getting my job. While this isn’t always required for a claims position, it certainly is helpful, as most of your time in claims roles is spent reading and analyzing motions, orders, rulings and other court documents.
I have yet to obtain any professional designations such as the RPLU designation but it is something I have considered as I know it would help advance my career.
What skills make someone successful in your position?
In my opinion, the skills that make someone successful in my position are a willingness to learn and attention to detail. Being detail oriented is definitely more in the category of nice-to-have, whereas a willingness to learn is absolutely essential. Starting out, you routinely encounter topics and theories that are foreign to you. The ability to recognize what you know and what you don’t know and the willingness to dig in to learn about and eventually understand the topics you don’t already know are essential.
What does your morning routine consist of?
The first thing I do each morning is create a to-do list of things I want to accomplish that day, starting with tackling anything urgent that has arrived in my inbox since signing off the day before. To-do list items can be anything from reviewing new claims and connecting with brokers to preparing for mediations and having meetings with management.
What tips do you have for hosting meeting effectively?
Make everyone feel welcome at the outset. After you’ve gotten past pleasantries and introductions, provide an outline of what you plan to discuss during the meeting and what you’d like to accomplish. If things go off the rails a bit, don’t be afraid to speak up and bring the conversation back on track.
How do you achieve work life balance?
Achieving work-life balance was difficult for me in my last position and when I began my position at Berkley, I found it hard to adjust, and even felt guilty if I wasn’t working late. It took probably around 6 months and multiple conversations with my boss to shake that feeling. From there, I started to schedule time to do things for myself (e.g., daily exercise, basketball on Monday nights, softball and golf during the summer, etc.) and time to do things with friends and family (e.g., weekly date night with my wife, making time for a night out with friends or a long weekend away, etc.).
What do you do to ensure you are progressing in your career and continuously learning?
On a regular basis I ask my boss and more experienced colleagues if there is anything I can do to improve my performance. Understanding what you don’t know and seeking feedback from those around you is a great way to become a more well-rounded professional. Additionally, I regularly attend industry events and participate in webinars and training sessions offered by colleagues, other insurance professionals, and our legal partners whenever possible to do deeper dives on key topics, network and learn from others’ perspectives.
How do you approach mundane or administrative tasks?
I try to handle similar mundane tasks at the same time. I find that when I block similar mundane tasks together I’m able to handle them more accurately and efficiently, which allows me to spend less time on things I don’t enjoy as much as others.
How has COVID-19 changed your daily habits?
I was a COVID hire so I interviewed via Zoom and started my position remotely, which presented me with both hurdles to overcome and hidden benefits. On one hand, I didn’t know any of my colleagues and it was hard to form relationships with individuals in a Zoom with many participants. On the other hand, members of my team realized that I wouldn’t be getting the benefit of being in the office and learning from others around me, so they set up multiple one on one calls with me wherein we discussed the ins and outs of the claim process. This not only allowed me to form relationships with each member of my team, but also gave me the opportunity to pose questions that I may not have otherwise asked.
What advice would you have for someone starting a remote position?
If I were to give any advice to someone who is starting their position remotely, I’d tell them that it’s essential that you make an effort to introduce yourself and make connections with your colleagues. At first it may seem a bit awkward but think of a zoom or a phone call as akin to walking by someone’s desk to chat.
What is the most challenging part of your day and how do you tackle it?
The most challenging part of my day tends to be time when I need an update or additional information on a claim but the information is not available and/or the people who have the information are not being responsive. I’ve come to learn that forming good relationships with your counterparts and others in the industry helps in these situations. An email may get overlooked but a phone call or message to someone you’ve formed a relationship with very rarely will.
What is your favorite part of the day and why?
My favorite part is when I receive a claim related to a novel topic or an emerging industry. To truly understand the issue and assess the claim, you have to do a bit of digging and learning something new is always fun for me.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take a breath, slow down and don’t be so hard on yourself. No one’s perfect and most of the time people would rather work with the person that has a good attitude and is willing to roll up their sleeves than the person who pretends to know everything.
What is one of your goals you are working towards and have not yet accomplished?
I want to continue to develop my business acumen and skills as a claims professional so that I can continue to grow within my organization.
What can the insurance industry do to attract and retain talent?
To attract talent, industry representatives should go to colleges and business schools to explain what professional liability underwriters, actuaries and claims professionals do, the compensation structure for those positions and the work-life balance available in the insurance industry. In order to retain talent, the insurance industry needs to offer flexibility and work-life balance. Most people work to live, rather than live to work.