Sandie Davis, Underwriting Operations Manager for Baton Rouge-based Stonetrust Commercial Insurance Company, is our August “Women in Comp” featured executive. Read on to get Davis’ take on Louisiana’s market conditions, and how she predicts technology may influence the future of the workers’ comp industry.
Comp Blog: Let’s start with your personal background. Where are you from and where did you go to school?
Davis: I’m from a little town in Ohio called Bowling Green. I moved to Texas and went to college there at Abilene Christian College. Most of my family is still in Texas. I have two sisters that live there, and one brother that lives up in the Chicago area.
Comp Blog: How did you wind up here in Louisiana?
Davis: I had a really good friend that lived over here that had a home business. I came over here to work with them for a little while and then kind of got lured into the insurance business.
Comp Blog: Was your first insurance job in workers’ comp?
Davis: I actually started on the agency side in the early 80’s. I was an account manager or CSR/commercial producer for an agency, Bynum, Grace & Joffrion, which was bought out by Brown & Brown Insurance in Baton Rouge. I handled all lines of commercial insurance including the workers’ comp.
Comp Blog: So what led you to workers’ comp, and specifically, to underwriting?
Davis: Well, from that agency I went to work for Audubon Insurance Company and was mentored by an underwriter. During that experience, I worked in all lines that they wrote. I did a little bit of comp but not a whole lot. I had a good friend that introduced me to the world of self-insured workers’ comp and from there I transitioned into working for Stonetrust.
Comp Blog: Underwriting has become a female-dominated area of the insurance industry, but I imagine at that time it was not. Can you speak to that at all?
Davis: It was challenging, but on the underwriting side you learn very quickly that the relationships that you build with the agents will either make or break you.
Comp Blog: How did you get started with Stonetrust?
Davis: Stonetrust began as a self-insurance fund in 1993, and when I started working here we had 11 policies. So I’ve been through all of the growing pains with Stonetrust.
Comp Blog: Are there any aspects of the workers’ comp system in Louisiana that you’d like to see reformed?
Davis: There’s always something going on in the workers’ comp industry. Since we are a carrier that’s now writing in six different states, I’ll say that they all seem to have similar issues. One of the biggest things is the drug formulary. That would help bring costs down in Louisiana.
Comp Blog: What are your thoughts about the persistent soft market in Louisiana?
Davis: Let me put it to you this way. I have never seen the Louisiana market as soft as it is right now. We are seeing that soft market in some of our other states though. Most recently the biggest change we’ve seen has been in Oklahoma, where more carries have gone into Oklahoma as they’ve done some reforms there. Those reforms are not tried and true yet so we’ll see what happens.
Here in Louisiana, I think the fact that NCCI has had several years of decreases in loss costs has attracted some new players into the market. Additionally, multi-line carriers are using the comp to leverage accounts.
Comp Blog: Describe a typical day.
Davis: I would not say that I have a typical day. Being on the operations side of things my day kind of consists of what everybody else’s day consists of. Whenever there’s a problem in a specific state, or a processing error, or a computer problem, I deal with it.
Comp Blog: Do you have a professional philosophy that you adhere to, or words to live by?
Davis: I guess my philosophy is, internal customers or external customers, treat them the way you would expect to be treated, the golden rule.
Comp Blog: Any personal hobbies?
Davis: I like arts and crafts. Right now I’m into woodworking stuff. Holidays are a big thing for me especially and I like to decorate.
Comp Blog: Anything to add about the workers’ comp system in general?
Davis: I think, even more generally, that the insurance industry has a problem attracting young talent. On the producer side, young people are moving in, but on the company side, I think we’re going to feel a squeeze at some point. Overall we don’t do a good job of “selling our industry” to young people. Entry level positions traditionally are not competitive from a salary perspective.
Also, some companies have put a tremendous amount of revenue and time into technology, which a very good thing, but there is a personal element that cannot be replaced by a computer.