Insuring The Headlines With Stefanie Milch

Interview with Stefanie Milch, Vice President of Claims, Hallmark Financial Services

We’ve all seen the stories of mass shootings and other major crises that dominate the headlines. Stefanie Milch has insured those events, and in ways you might not expect.

Milch is now the Vice President of Claims at Hallmark Financial Services, Inc. in Dallas. Around 70% of Hallmark’s work is commercial auto and Milch leads the primary and excess commercial auto groups.

Previously, Milch was Assistant Vice President of Excess Casualty Claims at Allied World in New York City. And that is where the headlines came in.

How did Allied’s insurance coverage work in these high-profile cases? It wasn’t just about insuring damage to brick and mortar buildings.

Allied’s coverage, that we called “strategic response,” handled items such as clean up of a crime scene, counseling for witnesses and victims, and funeral and burial costs.

One of Allied’s clients, for example, was an owner of the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland where 36 people died in a December 2016 fire.

That is certainly a wide range of coverage to include counseling and burial.

Strategic response is doing the right thing: It is good for the insured and the families suffering a loss. But it does not imply guilt.

You worked on a second component of crisis coverage that also goes beyond the things people might think of.

Once or twice a month for very catastrophic events such as shootings and anything generating a lot of media attention. It was invoked not for every incident, but the Ghost Ship was one where it was.

It was almost always purchased on the excess level and it was something that separated us from other companies.

By speaking out and taking accountability, do you also end up admitting guilt?

Taking accountability does not mean admitting fault. You can at least do things such as look to completing an investigation.

How often was strategic response and/or media relations coverage invoked?

The insured would call an 800 number. A PR rep from that area would be found and immediately go to the scene. But the PR rep would not do the actual talking. That is still left to the head of the company, etc. And that way what is being conveyed is more heartfelt.

Even in cases where an insured is only going to make a brief statement – apologizing and noting that they will look into the matter – they will go through media training.

Do you think Pete Hecht, Magna Legal Services Executive Vice President Sales, would be a good crisis communicator?

Of course. His communication skills are phenomenal. He’s clear, concise and convincing.

How long have you been working with Magna?

Since June 2015 when I was at Allied World.

What type of work do you do with Magna?

At Allied and now Hallmark, I use them for mock trials and jury evaluator – where they come up with a value on a case. In other words, if we are considering a trial, we need to know how much a jury thinks the case is worth.

Why do you stick with Magna?

I like the work product. They are accurate, professional and very thorough. They are spot-on when they do their mock trials: It’s almost identical to when we try the case. And with exposures of up to $25 million, you want to make sure you are accurate if you are taking a case to trial.

You were involved with Magna’s Miami Battle of the Experts this year. What did you do there?

I served on the panel and gave my thoughts on effective cross-examination for expert witnesses. For example, just because an expert is good on paper does not mean they are going to be effective testifying in the courtroom. They may have a terrible personality and end up putting the jury to sleep. So, an expert witness may not always work out as intended.

You have a law degree from Pace University and have mostly worked in the insurance industry. You started working at Hallmark this year.

My former boss recruited me to come to Hallmark and I went from an assistant VP at my old company to a VP at Hallmark.

I grew up on Long Island and recently lived in New Jersey and worked in New York City. Now I live in Texas.

Greater New York City to Texas sounds like a big change.

Texas is great, but definitely different. I miss New York a lot, especially my friends and family. I also miss the great bagels and pizza.

Do you have any hobbies?

For now, I’m too busy at work.