Babs Schultz, Vice President of Underwriting and Member Services at the Louisiana Restaurant Association workers’ comp fund (LRA SIF) is our July “Women in Comp” featured executive. Read on for her perspective on how the workers’ comp world has changed since she started at LRA in 1993, plus her thoughts on work ethic in a male dominated industry.
Comp Blog: Tell us about your personal background. Did you grow up here in Louisiana?
Schultz: I’m from Norco, LA. It is about 12 miles west of the New Orleans Airport. When I lived there it was a very small town. I have two sisters and two brothers. I am the youngest of the family. In 1979, my mother and I moved to Kenner, LA. Moving to the “big town” of Kenner from Norco as a teenager, was a bit of a shock to me. Today I live in Destrehan with my husband and between the two of us we have five children.
Comp Blog: What was it like growing up in a small Louisiana town? Do you feel it influenced you in any particular way?
Schultz: In Norco the refineries are the central part of life. Almost every family had one family member that worked at the refineries. Long ago, my grandparents lived on the refinery grounds back when they had self-contained communities built up around them – a bowling alley, housing, a swimming pool – all right there. That was long gone by the time I was growing up, but I heard many stories about how nice it was to live on the refinery grounds. I liked living in a small town where everyone knows everyone. It is just a different way of growing up compared to a city. I think that living in a small town gave me a chance for more independence at a young age. I was able to explore, go around town on my own, and from that I learned a great deal. My Dad was actually the only attorney in the town for several years.
My mother was a house wife for 25 years of marriage, so becoming a career woman was a new venture for her. My parents ended their marriage, which is why my mother and I moved to Kenner so that she could get a job. She was hired by the Jefferson Parish Federation of Teachers as an administrative assistant. She worked there for many years until such time that she was offered a job as an administrative assistant for another company.
Comp Blog: Do you think witnessing your mother’s efforts to start working after a divorce and remake her life affected the way you think about work?
Schultz: I know the struggles of what my mother and I went through together made me a stronger person and made me strive to the fullest at all that I did. When I started my career, I started at the bottom and I was determined to work hard so that I could move up. I always had the attitude to go above and beyond and learn as much as I could about the company and I never thought that any task was too “small” for me to do. One thing that I feel of importance is to understand the “Big Picture” of an organization. From understanding that, you can see how everything flows from the bottom up and vice versa.
Comp Blog: Any particular education that led to your current position?
Schultz: My formal training is in financing and accounting which led me initially to the banking industry. I believe that the level of attention to detail and structure within that industry contributed greatly to my role as an underwriter today. So much of my job requires a thorough analysis of multiple pieces of information to help make the best decision possible and to price adequately. Of course, continuing education in critical in all industries and insurance is no different. I am constantly attending workers’ comp-specific training and courses to stay abreast of the latest legislative updates, NCCI rule changes, and claims case law.
Comp Blog: Describe a typical day.
Schultz: A lot of emails! I spend a large portion of my day reviewing submissions, which come to me via my assistants. They uptake the submissions from our agents and our regional directors. Our goal at the LRA SIF is to get a quote out as quickly as we can to the agents, and we work really hard to achieve that goal. We strive to offer excellent customer service. Therefore, if I have a completed submission containing a completed ACORD app, loss runs and experience mod, then my main focus is to review and get a quote into the hands of that agent as quickly as possible.
I also do the daily and monthly data reporting to NCCI. Thank goodness all that is automated these days! We used to have to manually write everything on a form provided by NCCI and send by fax. July is actually my busiest and most important month for NCCI reporting. It’s the biggest data dump of the year – approximately 2,300 policies’ data must be reported versus about 200-600 in a typical month. Finally, I spend a lot of time taking calls and addressing issues directly from our members (insureds) on a large array of matters. I consider this the most important part of my day – servicing our members.
Comp Blog: Any hobbies you like to pursue in your free time?
Schultz: I love the outdoors, biking and walking. And Saints football!
Comp Blog: How did you get your start in the workers’ comp industry?
Schultz: I actually started working in the banking industry for a savings and loan company. I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about the industry. Unfortunately in the late 80s savings and loans began their decline and I went to work for the government (RTC) going around closing savings and loans throughout LA and MS. During that time is when I found out about an opening with the Louisiana Restaurant Association SIF.
Comp Blog: How did that transition to LRA SIF go?
Schultz: I began working for the LRA SIF in 1993, when the workers’ comp market was just a “monster” in Louisiana. LWCC was in its infancy and the assigned risk pool was still operating. I started as an assistant to the underwriter, the timing for me could not have been better. Personally, I love troubleshooting and problem solving so being an underwriter for workers’ comp was exciting for me. Since day one, I have loved everything about my job and the challenges it brings!
Comp Blog: Given that you’ve been in the industry and with this organization for so long, how do you feel about the way workers’ comp has changed in the past couple of decades?
Schultz: From an underwriting perspective, I think workers’ comp is much more stable. We have more companies writing workers’ compensation in Louisiana today than ever before. This has resulted in stricter underwriting guidelines and lower premiums for businesses. When I started in workers’ compensation it was outrageous what business were paying in workers’ comp premiums compared to now. It has gone from one extreme to another, in my opinion, some rates are too low for the exposure. On the claims side, medical expenses continue to skyrocket. In addition to medical expenses, there are many factors outside of the workers’ comp system, including Federal and State health policies, that are contributing to the rising costs.
Comp Blog: Is there anything in Louisiana’s workers’ comp system in your day to day that you would want to see reformed?
Schultz: This is more on the claims side, but I’d like to see more workers’ comp reform as it relates to the escalating medical costs. Workers’ comp costs continue to climb as a result of a system that is in need of medical cost reform.
Comp Blog: I’d like to address your experience moving up in two male dominated industries, first banking and then insurance. Do you feel that your journey was affected or is affected by your gender?
Schultz: I was such a hard worker that I think I moved up quicker than I even realized. My work ethic garnered me respect and so the male/female dynamic didn’t come into play to any significant degree. I have been fortunate to have had both male and female role models during my career. In fact, I started at LRA as an underwriting assistant to a man, which was a little different because in my previous job I was in charge. I had to prove myself and it payed off. I was determined to advance in the company by learning as much as I could and working as hard as I could to prove that I could do the job just as well as any man, if not better. I love what I do today just as much as I did when I started. Workers’ comp underwriting management is enjoyable and challenging at the same time and that is what makes my job interesting. It continues to be my joy and privilege to serve the members of the Louisiana Restaurant Association SIF.