Meet William Wingertzahn, Senior Vice President, Head of U.S. Casualty Insurance Claims
What is your backstory? Tell us about your path to Sompo International.
Sompo International is the only insurance carrier I have worked for. I was in private legal practice, including defending Sompo International (then Endurance) insureds, when I was offered an opportunity to interview here for an Excess Casualty Claims position. Having been a litigator for my entire career, I wasn’t sure working for a carrier was the right fit for me, but I decided to learn more about the company and the position. The more people I spoke with, the more I became impressed with the company and convinced that coming here would be a good move. It is now over seven years later and I have never looked back.
What is something about your role / Business Unit that people may not know?
The Casualty Claims team does more than just address claims. We strive to do all we can to assist the Underwriting groups we support – this includes keeping them updated on claims developments on their books as well as in the industry and attending meetings with brokers and insureds when requested. In addition, we collaborate with Underwriting and Legal to address policy language and have given presentations on pertinent industry issues such as opioids, construction defect, risk transfer, nuclear verdicts and communicable disease exclusions.
What do you think makes Sompo International unique?
I have observed one major distinction between Sompo International and other carriers that results in us standing out in the industry – the collaboration among different business units within the company. As Sompo International is the only carrier I have ever worked for, it took me a while to realize how unique we are in this regard. The regular interaction between Underwriting, Claims and Actuarial is integral to our success. When I speak with colleagues who work for our competitors, I often hear that they rarely have contact outside of their unit. A good working relationship between our internal teams gives Sompo International a distinct advantage in the market.
Can you shed light on a current project / initiative you are working on?
We have recently established a U.S. Casualty Insurance Claims team for Sompo International that I am overseeing. Dedicated groups addressing specific types of claims have been established in areas such as transportation, construction and general liability. Realigning the Casualty claims adjusters in this manner allows us to obtain maximum benefit from the team members’ experience and expertise, provide optimum service to our insureds and help establish Sompo as a market leader. In addition, we believe that our underwriting teams will be able to emphasize this specialization to brokers and potential insureds and cite this dedicated claims structure as a reason to place their business with Sompo.
Several of us in the Casualty Insurance Claims group are involved in an industry initiative to address “nuclear verdicts”, excessively large jury results that have unfortunately become more common. We are participating in a task force established by Claim Litigation Management (CLM), a national organization of claims professionals and defense attorneys, to address this trend and develop industry-wide training to combat nuclear verdicts.
What is a trend you feel is impacting the industry at the moment?
There are a growing number of claims issues with the potential to have a significant impact on our industry. The most obvious is COVID-19, which has led to a broader discussion regarding coverage for communicable diseases. Aside from this, there are several other claims areas where we are seeing growth , including opioids, abuse/molestation, PFAS (“forever plastics”), talc, Radiofrequency (RF) radiation, and glyphosate. I am part of a Liability Risk Sub-Committee that has recently been formed to address these issues.
Any advice to your younger self?
Have confidence in yourself. As a young attorney, I was in a role that had me going to court regularly and progressed to trying cases. I was given significant responsibility at a young age and obtained invaluable experience. There were certainly challenges and setbacks, however, my litigation skills and ability to evaluate claims grew. I continue to utilize these tools today.
What do you do when you’re not working?
Primarily, spend time with my family. Also, I try to stay active and get outside as often as possible. I am fortunate enough to live near a wooded area. Even a short hike helps me feel better and think more clearly.
Last words – anything else you’d like us to know?
We are in an ever-evolving industry, so it is important that we remain agile. Each account we write or claim we address is distinct and requires its own individual approach. To continue to be successful, we must always consider new ideas, new strategies and new technologies.