Women in Insurance: Q&A with Allison Nicholas, Claims Director, Litigation, Injury and SIU, SafeAuto

Women in Insurance - June 30 2020

In this interview series, we profile women who are shaping the future of insurance. By highlighting their achievements and sharing their insights, we aim to have an open dialogue about what carriers, brokers and InsurTechs can do to promote greater gender parity and diversity in the world of insurance and increase the number of women in leadership positions. This week, Allison Nicholas, Claims Director, Litigation, Injury and SIU at SafeAuto shares her insights on how technology and data are making the binding and claims process more efficient and customer-oriented, the importance of owning your own career and leadership development, and what the insurance industry will look like in 5 years.

Allison, tell us about your path to insurance. What attracted you to the profession?

Right after I graduated from college, I began working for a third-party administrator in Massachusetts handling all-lines claims investigations. I loved digging into different fact sets and investigating claims.  My goal was always to figure out what happened in a loss, and no loss is the same.  I am extremely inquisitive by nature, and as time goes on, I have learned you can never know everything about insurance and claims. The laws and facts are always changing, and this keeps me motivated to continue to learn and grow as a professional.

After about a year at the TPA, I decided to move back to Ohio. I interviewed at SafeAuto to become an adjuster trainee.  SafeAuto has supported my training and development throughout my career. As a leader now, I fully focused on the development of our team. The insurance industry is all about people, and that continues to keep me engaged and focused.

What do you find most fulfilling about the work you do?

Again, insurance is a people business, and I love working with my managers and their supervisors to help develop and coach our team of adjusters. People come first, and that is the most fulfilling part of my day. Our number one goal is to develop our people to follow processes and guidelines to best service our customers in their time of need.

The insurance industry is in the midst of massive change. What do you think the insurance business will look like in five years?

In 5 years, I believe there will be more automated processes leveraging technology and AI to increase efficiencies and provide a better customer experience. I believe that more customers than ever will be leveraging applications to complete binding and claims processes. In addition to a better claims and binding experience for our customers, these processes will make insurance professionals more efficient allowing them to focus on the right claims at the right time.  

If you had to pick one technology trend that will fundamentally transform insurance over the next 5-10 years, what would it be? 

In 5 to 10 years, insurance carriers will have to provide application-based end to end claim handling.  Claims will be reported through an application. Coverage and liability will be determined through the application. The application will be able write estimates with photos with artificial intelligence, and the customer will be able to accept and process a claim payment all in one application. This technology will be completely customer focused and be the best way for us all to serve our customers. 

The insurance industry faces a recruitment challenge with millennials choosing professions they deem to be more progressive, challenging and fun. What can insurers do to entice new talent?

As a millennial myself, the insurance industry has always been challenging. Laws and statutes are always changing. Insurance fraud scheme are always changing. Technology and artificial intelligence are constantly improving and will continue to change the insurance industry. The only constant in insurance is change, and change is fun! The change and development make insurance progressive. 

Insurance companies need to entice talent through their social media presence highlighting what the company has offers and supports a cultural match for employees. The posts should focus on cultural insights, career pathing, photos of workspace and team members collaborating. Companies should consider paying for ads that promote the company for prospective employees as much as it does for prospective customers.

According to a 2017 study, just 12 percent of insurance companies’ top corporate officers are women. Why do you think there are so few women in senior leadership roles in the insurance industry? 

Many companies do not have a defined path to creating and promoting diversity in all levels including senior leadership. Companies need to define the strategy to promote moving women into leadership roles. At SafeAuto, we are very focused on promoting female leaders, and we offer a program to specifically develop women. The program is called GROW (guidance, recognition, and opportunity for women). The program offers both personal and professional growth opportunities specific to what women are looking for and need. 

What can insurance companies do to ensure that women not only stay in the profession but advance in their careers?

The best way for insurance companies to keep female employees engaged and help them advance their careers is have an environment and culture that supports them. Women want to be developed and to grow their careers. If they are supported, they will be encouraged to stay and advance. 

As a mother of three, I have had to spend time away from my career while on maternity leave. I have always felt supported in my personal life as well as my professional life.

What recommendations do you have for young female professionals entering into the insurance on how to find a mentor and develop the relationship? 

As stated in the 2017 study referenced above, women in the insurance industry make up 12% of top corporate officers. When entering the industry, a young female should not be intimidated by this deficit, and young females should proactively seek advice from peers and members of their leadership team. It can be easy to be intimidated when entering the work force, but I recommend that young female professionals own their success by actively seeking out mentorship. If it is hard to find someone at your own company, connecting with other female leaders in the industry through LinkedIn is a great start!

Does your firm have initiatives in place to encourage gender parity and diversity?

At SafeAuto, we have a program called GROW (Guidance, Recognition, Opportunity for Women). The program promotes workshops which include executive coaches, book clubs, retirement planning and so much more! It is a great place for women to come together and be supportive of one another!

What positive changes have you seen since you began in your career?

The most positive change I have seen is the industry’s focus on advancing technology and data to provide a better customer experience. The focus on making the binding and claims process more efficient and customer oriented is exciting, and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years offer for our customers.   

What advice would you give the next generation of women considering a career in insurance? 

As a leader, I work with our next generation of women leaders every day. I regularly discuss with them the importance of owning their own development. Read books on leadership and insurance to expand your knowledge. Every day put in all you have in your pursuit of excellence. From personal experience, hard work does pay off. The extra time and work will give you a competitive advantage to peers.  Determine what you want and go for it!

Allison Nicholas[2]

Allison Nicholas is a claims leadership professional at SafeAuto Insurance Company who currently serves as the Litigation, Injury and SIU claims director. Allison attended the University of Connecticut for her undergraduate degree in communication where she was also a member of the varsity Track and Field team. Allison began her career in the insurance industry in 2007 as a claims adjuster for a third-party administrator in Massachusetts. Allison joined SafeAuto in 2008 as a claims adjuster trainee, and she has held numerous leadership positions throughout the claims department. Allison is the first female Litigation, Injury and SIU claims director in SafeAuto’s company history. 


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