During its 2018 annual conference in Houston, CLM presented Sedgwick President and CEO Dave North with the CLM Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes distinguished industry professionals who have made a lasting impact on the industry. In a recent chat, North sheds light on the underpinnings of his success, illustrates his passion for claims, and hints at a future yet to come.
The CLM Lifetime Achievement Award is among the industry’s highest honors. What’s it like joining this exclusive club?
I am humbled to be recognized for this prestigious award. The insurance industry is populated with people who wake up every day with a passion to help those in need. To have had the opportunity to lead some of them and impact how we are perceived and the value we provide is amazing in and of itself. To be recognized for it is incredible.
Is there a career achievement that you are most proud of?
There are two ways to answer this. The most important career achievement is one that happens every day and generally without my knowledge. Someone has an accident and reaches out to Sedgwick for help; one of our colleagues answers the call and provides assistance. Knowing that the individual’s life will be better because we answered that call is an achievement that happens many times every day.
The other is that I have been fortunate to be the CEO of Sedgwick for nearly 23 years. There are not many organizations that are 47 years old and can claim to have had only two CEOs. And very few CEOs have had the chance to lead a company for over two decades. Sedgwick had 500 colleagues when I arrived; by the end of the year, we are projected to have more than 20,000.
Have there been any “learning moments” over the course of those 23 years?
We are in the service business. For us to do our job well, we have to determine what our clients want and need, assess whether we have the ability to deliver what they identified, and then execute. Once you learn that this circle exists, meeting expectations becomes easier. It also means that, from time to time, you have to say no. In the service business, that is one of the hardest things to do, but in the end, it’s one of the most important.
What career advice would you give to claims and litigation professionals just starting out?
Do not let the procedures, regulations, caseloads, or diaries confuse your thinking and lead you to believe that if you do all of those things correctly, then you have done your job well. Your job is at the other end of the phone—the person who needs your help. Of course there are rules to follow, and customers expect us to make good decisions, but the individual at the other end of the line is what matters most.
What do you think the industry will look like in the decades ahead?
Clearly, we will have more technology assisting us in the decision-making process. The administrative tasks will have long been automated, but there will still be a human being involved. There will always be a role for empathy, compassion, and assessment that only a human can provide.
If you weren’t working in claims management, what would you be doing?
I would be a firefighter. It was my original career aspiration and a family tradition. My dad, grandfather, and uncle were all firefighters, and my mom was the dispatcher. It is an amazing job and, in many ways, similar to being a CEO of a claims service organization.