Greg Hamlin – Senior Vice President
Berkley Industrial Comp (a Berkley Company)
In the age of automation, the digital world seems to have taken precedence over people themselves. Greg Hamlin, a pioneer in furthering the cause for workers’ compensation, helps bring back the focus on every organization’s critical resource – their employees.
His contributions to the domain are holistic and go beyond the outcome to focus on the employer/injured worker experience. Greg also co-hosts an innovative claims podcast, with Claire Muselman, to change perspectives on insurance and spearhead the transformation of this domain in favor of the employees.
In this detailed interview with me, Greg talks about the changes he has seen and his journey from studying criminal justice to becoming Senior Vice-President of Resolution at Berkley Industrial Comp.
An Early Start in Workers’ Compensation
Greg completed his college degree in Criminal Justice and was considering career options when he attended a career fair at the University. There he met with representatives from Liberty Mutual and learned about opportunities in the workers’ compensation domain. Though he had no prior knowledge about claims or insurance, he was intrigued by the opportunity and the chance to help people.
Greg entered the claims domain soon after college and recalls his first major account to be UPS, which was a national account. This was a major learning experience for Greg as UPS had a specialized workforce with their own safety people in place. Additionally, the presence of set guidelines, regular claim interviews, and high demands helped Greg develop a strong foundation in handling claims correctly.
‘I learned a lot through my UPS account, their expectations were high, and I think meeting those expectations kind of set a bar for me.’
Another learning experience that helped Greg achieve his leadership position today was running the claims operation for the State of Kentucky. Greg was recruited as the Director of the state fund and led a team of 60 employees responsible for processing workers’ compensation claims. At the time, the fund was set up as a quasi-state entity that allowed the state to compete with private insurance companies while following a non-discrimination policy for all claims. This meant that anyone in need of workers’ compensation could have their claim processed by the state.
‘We were writing anything that happened in the State of Kentucky from people doing a small mining operation to somebody moving a trailer to a temp staffing agency to a horse farm.’
During his tenure of 5 years with the state, Greg gained valuable insights into varied injuries and types of industries that were active in this domain. This allowed for a valuable experience which continues to help him evolve this domain at his current position.
Current Business Scope
In his current role with Berkley Industrial Comp, Greg handles highly specialized and high-hazard claims. WR Berkley has a lot of operating units, over 50 different companies that focus on specialized business.
The company has a strong presence in Illinois and the West coast. While they cover all 50 states, about 16 states are a predominant focus and Greg believes that there is a lot more opportunity to grow as there are several claims that the company hasn’t even begun writing. Additionally, employees that are with Berkley Industrial Comp receive full coverage even when they move states.
‘We’re not looking to expand into other types of insurance or other types of class codes. I think we have an opportunity to grow just doing exactly what we are doing.’
Currently, Greg is primarily involved with high hazard insurance i.e. employees that work with explosives, at heights like steel erections, cell phone tower workers etc. Injuries here tend to a lot more severe than a normal employee but at a lower frequency. The businesses insured by Greg and his company have detailed safety protocols in place that limits the scope of injuries. His current operating unit is responsible for about 50 employees, 20 of which directly report to Greg.
‘We have very specialized people who are really good at what they do and they are trained so that when that bad accident happens, they are on it right away.’
Working with such claims can be deeply concerning but Greg stays motivated by realizing that he is making a difference in people’s lives. Additionally, he is dedicated to improving the lives of his time and works dedicatedly at new opportunities to create better outcomes for everybody.
‘Anytime I can take something good and make it great, that is something that drives me and I feel very fulfilled when those things happen.’
Standout Moments in this Domain
For Greg, a significant turning point was moving to Cincinnati, Ohio as a supervisor after Liberty Mutual purchased Ohio Casualty. Prior to this, Greg had been working as an adjuster for six years.
When he first reached Ohio Casualty, Greg received a lot of resistance from the employees. Most of them were far older than he was and were not eager to take directions from someone so young in the field. At this point, Greg realized that before he could make any changes, he needed to gain the trust of his employees and work together as a team. Not only was he able to win their trust but also help members of his team get a raise or a promotion. This helped him build valuable leadership traits that have continued to serve him till today.
Additionally, Greg was also thrust into the commercial liability domain wherein he had to train three people that were his team. With no prior experience in the field, Greg recalls sitting with each individual as he audited their files and learning through experience.
Moments of Pride at Berkley Industrial Comp
One of Greg’s biggest sources of pride in his time with the company is the team in place today. A lot of people depend on this team in their most vulnerable moments. Everyone is dedicated to giving their best and looking at new ways of promoting workers’ compensation that help numerous people lead a better life.
‘I have amazing people who work with me, who do amazing things and they truly care about making a difference.’
Additionally, a lot of the industry’s focus has been consumed by monetizing every claim or shifting o automation. This loses the individual touch that people rely on, especially during their difficult times. Greg and his team ensure that the focus is always on the individual concerned to help improve their experience and create better outcomes.
‘When it comes to someone who’s hurt, who’s trying to get treatment, they don’t want to have to dial 9, dial 3, wait 15 minutes on hold, leave a message and wait three days to be called back.’
Overcoming Challenges in the Workers’ Compensation Domain
A huge challenge for Greg and his team, currently, is to do with federal black lung disease. The company has insured coalminers for several years and those claims are still around today, even though the team no longer writes these claims anymore.
However, challenges arose when these claims passed the Affordable Healthcare Act, and there was an amendment that changed the laws on workers’ compensation for coal miners.
Many of these claims could go back to maybe 2002 or even in the 1990s. It is very difficult to handle claims where the law has changed. For instance, a lot of coal miners also smoked so it is extremely challenging trying to figure out what is related to coal mining and what’s related to smoking two packs a day for 40 years.
Business Plans Moving Forward
The path forward for Greg is not necessarily working on something different but rather growing in their current scope of business. He believes there are plenty of opportunities in the class codes that they are at currently.
Their offices in Las Vegas-Nevada, Lexington-Kentucky and Birmingham-Alabama are sufficient to cover their business with chances that they might extend their reach to other states.
‘Our focus is to provide excellent options for high-hazard workers’ compensation in offering monoline workers’ compensation.’
Talking about their marketing strategies, Greg says they work a lot with agents. Additionally, they also publish several LinkedIn posts, safety posts, and offer a lot of free safety material to encourage people to take a look at their services. Additionally, Greg also started a podcast about 4 or 5 months ago to talk about issues in workers’ compensation.
Top Philosophies and Core Values in Business
Greg says to start by doing the right thing and everything else will sort itself out. Even when it comes to hard decisions, do the right thing and it will always be better in the long run.
Another philosophy that has served Greg well is not delaying the big or tough decision. He believes it is important not to delay things that can slow one down, but rather finish them at the earliest, to optimize every day.
‘I start my day usually much earlier than everyone else. I am always one of the first in the office and during that time I pick that one thing that I don’t want to do or that I am dreading and I get it done right then. This relieves all the pressure from the rest to the day to focus on other things.’
Finally, Greg believes empathy is crucial in this domain. It is important to care about people.
Advice for Individuals Starting Out in Workers’ Compensation
This domain requires constant learning according to Greg. There isn’t any single degree that can set up someone in this domain. There are numerous aspects to learn here and it is important to come in with an open mind and a willingness to learn.
Another important trait for a good claims adjustor is to have good time management skills. One has to understand medical terminology, anatomy, be able to read medical reports and make decisions off of those. Additionally, it is important to understand financials and how they work, the laws involved and how they apply to the claims, as well as be able to wear the investigative cap on occasions.
‘I think the first couple of years that anybody is in workers’ compensation feels a little bit like drinking from the fire hose but if you just keep after it and keep learning, those things will come.’
Two Learnings from Experience in the Industry
- Keep people at the heart of every decision
Every decision should be made keeping in mind the people involved. This could be the injured workers or employees. Focus on doing the right thing by everyone and things will fall into place.
‘If you look at everything through the lens of a spreadsheet and a dollar sign, you’re going to miss a whole lot.’
Care about the people who work for you, care about the people who are hurt, care about the employers who are spending their money for your insurance. People are not computers. It is important to connect with individuals and understand what drives them and motivates them to achieve better outcomes.
Key Benefits of Resolution Services Offered by Berkley Industrial Comp
A key benefit at Berkley Industrial Comp that is often missed by peers is that the company has its own safety people in place. These safety people meet with the company’s employers and insureds to talk about how they can avoid injuries. This additional service is often missed by other companies. The result is a win-win scenario for everyone because people pay less premium, fewer people get hurt, and there is less exposure.
Additionally, the company also offers a sponsored service called MedCall. In case an insured remote worker is injured, they can talk to an ER physician over the phone or video through an iPad and get the initial treatment that they need on the job site. In case a specialist is required, that is taken care of as well. The cost of this service is borne entirely by the company and allows for instant care of the injured worker.
Vision for the Workers’ Comp Domain
For Greg, diversity in skillset is what can strengthen the team and the domain in years to come. He and his team have been growing leaps and bounds by adding a variety of skill sets that may not have been traditionally associated with this domain.
For instance, Greg has added a flight attendant to his team as someone who can handle high-pressure situations, deal with angry people offer excellent customer experience because of her training. Another innovative addition was a business analyst from a hospital for their analytical skills, nurses with medical backgrounds, and customer service managers for their ability to offer excellent customer experience.
‘I want to have the best of the best. I want people that come to us and say if you want an amazing claims team, this is it. There’s nobody better and one of the things I have tried to do is add people with very different skill sets into our team so that we have a lot of different options and abilities within our department.’
Emerging Trends Expected in the Workers’ Compensation Space
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a major spanner in the works. While the company hasn’t’ faced much of an issue but the overall industry has been affected. A lot of people are still trying to figure out the ramifications of the pandemic which is likely to continue for a while.
Another concern will be regarding medications. There are new medications in the market all the time, some of which are priced expensively. It is important to make decisions based on the desired outcomes as well as the price to better help people.
Finally, Greg also talks about the opioid crisis rampant in the country. A lot of injured workers in the 90s and the early 2000sstarted on opioids and that is a thread that is still unraveling while trying to figure out how best to help people.
‘I think the future is going to be looking at people holistically and it will be interesting to see how that develops in the workers’ compensation space. Things like cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and motivational interviewing, are going to be looked at actively as possible options to deal with pain.’
For people looking to stay successful in this domain, Greg has one important piece of advice – hire amazing people. A great team can help organizations get through the toughest of problems with innovative solutions.
Leadership Lessons Over the Years
One of the most important lessons according to Greg is to take time to listen to people and truly seek to understand them. It is important to know how to best lead a team and it won’t be possible unless you take the time and that takes patience, it takes effort, it takes time.
Greg has regular meetings scheduled every week or two weeks with every individual reporting to him. This is an important time to connect and talk about what’s on their plate. It is important to understand people’s situations and provide empathy and support. When people feel like they have those things they’re a lot happier and when people are happier, they work harder.
‘One skill that every leader would benefit from will be to take some time, read some books, go to some listening seminars but spend time to figure out how to hear people and listen. You will gain more from that than you will from 10 other different types of training you could do.’