A protective shield is guarding arrows pointing upward and a professional's hand from incoming coronavirus.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Eight Months into Coronavirus – What Have We Learned, Where Are We Going?

By Mark Lawrence

I went home from my office at 501 Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA, around noon on March 18, 2020, after making sure one of our new employees had the computer equipment she needed to work from home. During my commute, I listened to a President Trump news conference on CNBC radio discussing the Coronavirus. At the time, I thought we would be home for six to eight weeks, and then we would be back in the office and things would return to normal.

Well, a lot has happened since then.

At that time in March, the underwriting department was split about equally between people working in the office and people working from home (WFH). Other parts of HM had the same or fewer people classified as WFH, and some of our departments were entirely in the office. However, the transition to 100 percent WFH went relatively quickly as our teams worked to ensure we could continue to effectively serve our clients under these unique circumstances.

Since then, we’ve maintained our quote turnaround times, sold new business, renewed existing policies, met claims payment standards, issued policies, paid commissions, filed policies, set reserves and completed our financial statements and filings. We’ve also answered hundreds of questions from brokers and TPAs about the impact of COVID-19 and how our policies would respond to government regulations and plan document changes. Our financial strength of “A” was affirmed by AM Best. From an operational perspective, HM hasn’t missed a beat.

I am exceptionally proud of the way our company and, in particular, our people have responded to this crisis to ensure we continue to meet the needs and exceed the expectations of our customers. It has not been easy, but we’ve made it seem that way. To our brokers, consultants and TPA clients, I would tell each of you – unequivocally – that not only have we risen to the challenges placed in front of us, we are thriving. We are open for business and grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve you and our mutual clients.

We just learned that HM will continue to operate primarily as WFH home until at least July 5, 2021. I am reminded of a quote from Winston Churchill that he made in November 1942, shortly after the British had driven German troops out of Egypt: “It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”

We have all been watching with great interest the announcements from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on their vaccine trials. It appears that positive news is on the horizon. That said, COVID-19 cases are peaking at the highest levels since this pandemic started, and there are significant ramifications from this pandemic, in terms of health and wellness, employment and economic output. And now, there will be a lot of people travelling for the holidays, so further positive cases are anticipated.

On a personal note, my middle son, who is a senior chemical engineering student at Michigan Tech University, has refused to grace us with his presence for Thanksgiving (and apparently Christmas) due to his concern about the pandemic. I am learning to be okay with that, but it is difficult. Things are clearly different – and thinking like an underwriter, is the upside worth the downside?

As 2020 draws to a close, it is clear to me that the impact of this pandemic will be wide-reaching and long-lasting. What the future holds for how and where we work in the longer term remains to be determined. That said, the way we are working today exemplifies our commitment to the safety and wellness of our employees, and HM remains a group of 350 resilient and dedicated employees, working hard every day to meet and exceed expectations for our clients. We wish each of you a healthy and safe holiday season.

Why HM

A strong, experienced carrier, HM responds to market changes and works with clients to ensure their coverage needs are met through expert risk assessment and exceptional delivery of benefits.