Welcome to the next post in our blog series: My Path to HJI. These are stories from associates on how they got started in insurance, what led them to their role at Hausmann-Johnson Insurance, and advice for others thinking about making a start in the industry.
This week's featured associate is Diana Schmidt. Read on to learn more about Diana and connect with her on LinkedIn if you'd like!
What’s your role at HJI?
As a Property & Casualty Consultant, I strive for opportunities to advocate and help our clients and friends who manage business risk do it better.
What was your career path that led you to HJI and your current role?
I started working in the service industry at Dairy Queen when I was 15 years old. I continued working my way through college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as a guest services representative at the Kohl Center. I stumbled into the insurance industry by chance, posting for a claims adjuster job one night during my senior year. I was intrigued by the insurance industry and encouraged by the industry’s support of continuing education since one of my goals was to find an employer who would support pursuing a graduate degree.
Adjusting auto liability and physical damage claims as well as general liability provided a deep dive into insurance that I recommend to anyone pursuing a job in the industry. It allowed me the opportunity to understand policy language, assess insurance coverage, and understand underwriting intent. I learned how to complete accident investigations, assess liability, build and evaluate case reserves, and negotiate reasonable and fair settlements. I learned how to build relationships, listen with empathy and be a pillar of strength for insureds and claimants while their world was falling apart. Each day and each conversation allowed me the opportunity to live out the promise of insurance – to make someone or something whole again. That was it! I was hooked on insurance.
Eager to continue along my path and gain credibility in the industry, I supplemented my claim education by earning my CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) Designation and Associates degrees in Claims, Underwriting, and Reinsurance and ultimately a Master’s of Science in Insurance Management.
Excited to take my experience and education to the next level, I joined Travelers as a multi-line commercial accounts underwriter. It was here that I spent the next 10 years gaining a strong technical skill set for both guaranteed cost and loss-sensitive underwriting and servicing for mid- to large accounts. I had the opportunity to learn underwriting, relationship management, safety/risk management, and claims service from some of the best underwriters, claims, and risk control people across the country. I learned how to build trusted advisor relationships with the agents and insureds and how to deliver on promises made.
The 15 years I spent on the carrier side uniquely prepared me for the opportunity to take the entrepreneurial leap from the comfort of my underwriting chair to the relationship-building, problem-solving role of a trusted insurance advisor. It also allowed me the insight and knowledge into both the independent agency and broker systems in WI. Making the decision to consult came hand-in-hand with a decision of which system could support my goals and initiatives and allow me the best chance to serve my clients the way they deserve to be served.
The merger of HJI in Madison and The Benefit Services Group (BSG) in Pewaukee was the catalyst I was looking for to continue my journey in building strong, long-term trusted advisor relationships. I had partnered and served as HJI’s underwriter for many years during my tenure with Travelers. I had grown strong relationships across the agency and saw first-hand the value and high quality of service they bring to their clients. The merger with BSG strengthened the service and capabilities, bringing an incredible Employee Benefits and Data Analytics consulting platform for three main constituent groups: large self-insured employer groups, health care providers and insurance carriers. Together, I am surrounded by a team of 130 of the best and brightest insurance professionals. We are a strong independent agency, with the agility to provide high-quality risk management services tailored specifically to each of our client’s unique business insurance needs.
HJI is supportive of my professional and personal goal of providing top-notch service to large guaranteed cost, loss sensitive, and captive clients. I am currently completing coursework for Associate Captive Insurance (ACI), Alternative Risk, through the International Center for Insurance Captive Education (ICCIE), and also participating in the 2018/19 Leadership of Waukesha County program through the Waukesha County Business Alliance. I’m excited for the future – building and fostering long-term, service focused risk management relationships in the community.
What do you wish you’d known when you were just starting out?
I wish I would’ve taken some entrepreneurial risks earlier in my career. It’s easy to get comfortable where you are especially if you are seeing some progression or upward momentum. It’s important to never lose sight of your dreams even when the cards seem stacked against you or you aren’t receiving the support to pursue a new challenge. Once you do take that leap it’s important to keep looking forward. I still have people say “you can always go back to underwriting” if this doesn’t work out. I love underwriting and I certainly miss being “comfortable” some days. However, my eyes are open for the opportunities in front of me and I am dreaming big!
What inspires you to come to work everyday?
Family is everything to me. I wake up every day believing I can make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us. I want our boys to grow up in a great community where they can thrive and be positive contributors. I’m hopeful that we can leave the world in a better place than we found it and try to model this in our everyday actions.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does that influence what you are doing now?
As a child, I remember wanting to learn and enjoyed writing. This influences what I do now because it helped me develop the desire and goal to be a life-long learner and focus on effective communication skills.
What advice would you give someone thinking about going into insurance/starting their career?
My advice is simple: look daily for reasons to be grateful and for opportunities to give without expecting anything in return. The reward will be amazing!
Tell us a bit about yourself outside of work.
My husband Peter and I have two amazing 7-year old twin boys, Joseph & Jacob. We are fully engaged in helping build a strong community where they can thrive. You will likely find us cheering at their baseball or flag football games or supporting the Boy Scout troop. We enjoy spending time with family and friends up north near Crivitz or grilling out at our house. I enjoy running, biking, and swimming as well as training for running races. I ventured into triathlons this spring and really learned to appreciate each individual sport involved. This winter I signed up for the Winter Run Series which is a 10K race each month during November-March with a local running group.