Insurance pro moves from Florida to provide expertise to S.D. businesses

Nov. 6, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company.

Meet Michelle Socia, one of the newest risk management consultants to join the team at Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company. She recently moved back to her hometown of Watertown after spending 30 years in Florida.

To learn more, connect with her on LinkedIn or email Michelle at michelle.socia@marshmma.com with your specific questions about managing your company’s risk.

What brought you back to South Dakota?

I wanted my children to grow up surrounded by people with Midwestern morals, values and ethics. When I told my husband, who is from Syracuse, N.Y., that I wanted to move to South Dakota, he said, “OK, as long as we live on Lake Kampeska.”

What attracted you to Marsh & McLennan Agency?

I began my insurance career 16 years ago and have been fortunate enough to work for and learn from the largest and most well-respected brokerages in the country. I have worked in every department – except for accounting – and have developed a deep understanding of risk and how to manage it.

A great insurance agency needs to have expertise in every industry, access to a wide range of markets and, most importantly, talented employees who are committed to taking care of their clients every day. This means more than just reactively picking up the phone when a situation arises; it means safety engineers designing loss-prevention programs, it means claims advocates working on your behalf because they understand how to get claims resolved quickly and effectively. And it means globally positioned experts uncovering the best programs and developing solutions for emerging types of risks. Howalt+McDowell is a great insurance agency because it proactively provides all of these things.

When it comes to commercial insurance, size matters. Businesses need an agency that understands their operations and has access to the right carriers to structure proper solutions. It is impossible for a smaller agency to be everything to every business. Generalists simply cannot have the depth of resources and breadth of knowledge needed. We have specialists. In everything. Period.

What excites you about the insurance industry?

I was recently visiting with a woman who remarked her grandson had just moved to Boston to work for an insurance company. I told her that’s fantastic and offered my congratulations. But rather than being excited about it, she shared she was disappointed because people will look down on him for being an insurance agent. I was flabbergasted because I know insurance as one the most impactful, ever-changing and challenging careers available. It is an excellent profession, but people tend to dismiss it based on misconceptions.

Insurance is so much more than shopping auto insurance online for the lowest price. I’m providing business owners and their employees peace of mind every day. I’m here to make sure your business won’t shut down and your employees still have a job to come to after a catastrophe. I’m here to help your employees avoid injuries. I’m here to help you attract and retain great employees.

What changes have you witnessed in the industry over the course of your career?

Insurance evolves daily. Insurance companies will write a class of business one day and change their minds the next. In order to stay relevant, carriers adjust coverages and build better programs. Companies create hot products, then discontinue them. The players change as well. Big agencies acquire smaller ones for market share. Small agencies join big agencies because they see the value it will bring to their clients. It’s constantly evolving, and we have to stay on top of the trends to best serve our clients.

What is the biggest issue you see facing businesses today? How can you help?

In South Dakota, it’s workforce, workforce, workforce. Naturally, when you find talent, you want to keep it. What does that have to do with insurance? Again, I go back to who we are as an agency. We help our clients create an environment their employees feel safe in. We develop best-in-class benefits packages. We have resources to help improve culture. We collaborate with tech schools and universities to attract workforce to South Dakota. I have never worked for another broker that is so involved and so committed to helping their clients and the community.

Describe your approach to working with clients.

I want to understand your business. My most important role is helping my clients succeed. I can only do that after I have a deep understanding of your operations and what is important to you in an insurance program. I’m an insurance geek; the last thing I ever want to tell someone after a claim is they have no coverage. I read policies and teach people how their policies will or will not work for them and what can be done to make them more effective. I explain complex insurance concepts with real-world scenarios so clients understand. I play hardball with insurance carriers so they’ll offer solutions that better serve my clients’ unique needs.

To learn more connect with Michelle on LinkedIn or email her at michelle.socia@marshmma.comwith your specific questions about managing your company’s risk.

Insurance pro moves from Florida to provide expertise to S.D. businesses

Meet Michelle Socia, one of the newest risk management consultants to join the team at Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company. She recently moved back to her hometown of Watertown after spending 30 years in Florida.

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