Magna: Gregory Duca is Chief Claims Operations & Compliance Officer at Hallmark, which is based in Dallas.
Gregory Duca: I’ve worked in a lot of different places but lived in the same area in New Jersey for almost 30 years. I’ve spent a considerable amount of
time working in NYC. (I would commute using planes, trains, and automobiles: 2.5 hours each way. I did that for over 15 years.)
I now work for Hallmark and and myself flying out to Dallas for the weekdays. For the first two months of this year, I was there six out of the eight weeks. But since the first week of March, with COVID, I haven’t been to Dallas. Marriott is not happy with me.
Where did you grow up?
Philadelphia, but I went to college and law school (by night) in Boston.
Night law school sounds like a tough gig.
It was. I worked 9 to 5 at a bank and law firm. After work, I would go to school from 6 to 9:30 PM. The weekends were for studying.
I wasn’t married or involved so I had the time to focus on work and school. I also wanted to finish quickly so I went to law school three summers to cut off a semester. I finished in 3.5 years instead of 4.
What’s the trick to pulling off something like that?
It’s about commitment. Being committed to a goal and the sacrifice to make those goals. I always say, you do what you need to do to get the job done.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An Olympic hockey player.
I lived in city row homes in Philadelphia in the Italian section and fell in love with hockey.
Hockey is not what you might consider an inner-city sport but we tried to make it that. We played in small streets with wooden sticks and rubber pucks.
In high school, I wanted to play ice hockey and taught myself to play. I went to the rink two to three hours a day and started on the high school hockey team.
I graduated high school in 1976 and was what you would call a hard-core hockey fan. I wrote in my high school yearbook that I wanted to be a member of 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.
I didn’t end up being on that 1980 team, but it was quite a team. It won the Lake Placid Olympics, and as the USA Hockey website notes: Sports Illustrated selected the team’s victory over the Soviet Union en route to winning the gold medal as the No. 1 sports moment of the 20th century. It was a magical ride that happened amidst the backdrop of the Iranian hostage crisis and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan – events that made the now fabled “Miracle on Ice” even more impactful on American history.
But you kept at it in college?
I applied to a Division I school, Boston University, and went to try out for the team freshman year. But these guys were in a league unto their own: Those on the varsity team, for example, had been recruited. I thought to myself, “There is just no way I can compete with them.”
But like a crazy kid, you persevere. I said I was going to try out the following year. Freshman year, I worked at the school hockey rink and went to several hockey camps to improve my skills.
Sophomore year, I tried out for the JV team. Making the JV team that year was one of my greatest all-time accomplishments.
By the way, the BU varsity team at the time included Dave Silk, Jack O’Callahan, Jim Craig and Mike Eruzione (for some unknown reason, I still have one of Eruzione’s BU practice jerseys). All of them made the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team that won the gold medal.
With the understanding that it was all downhill after the JV team at BU, how did your career start out?
When I started out practicing law, I wanted to be a prosecutor. I worked in Boston at the DA’s office, moved back to Philadelphia, but could not get a job at the Phila DA’s office because there was a fair amount of politics involved as they tended to hire grads from local law schools. So, I ended up in the insurance defense practice. A few years later, I got a call from a INA/Cigna recruiter, asking “Do you want to go into insurance? We need people with a law background.”
I would say, given your current position, you excelled in the insurance industry.
I’ve certainly learned a couple things. I found that people who moved ahead were specialists, although I would note that I was never a specialist.
For me, now, it’s all about the person you work for. Who am I willing to commit to and make that sacrifice for. At this level, it’s a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job. Currently, I am an operations VP. However, in prior roles, I’ve run a claims department, managed people and done consulting, which is fun and really interesting. I learned a lot and now I want to make someone else successful.
Describe a typical day at work.
Get up. Have a cup of coffee. Go to the computer. See what you need to do that you didn’t do last night.
During COVID, I think now you try to fit your life around work because everyone is working from home; your work life is just a constant. Last night, for example, I was on the computer at 7 or 8 PM exchanging emails with my boss – who is also on his computer.
Working from home, it’s almost like there is nothing else to do but work.
You are maybe not online or as responsive the entire time on the weekends, but you are still checking your emails.
Peter Hecht (Magna Partner & EVP of Sales) probably checks his emails all the time!
I saw someone posted on your LinkedIn that were an expert in liability claims and fraud . I assume that means combatting fraud. So, what’s the latest fraud?
There are a number of fraud rings out of Houston, TX. You have an accident where there are several individuals in a car but it’s a phantom or staged accident. Three or four people go to the hospital, ring up hospital bills, and want to settle.
A lot of fraud is subtle. Magna, for example, can obtain medical records, but you can also have a doctor who is friends with an alleged victim, and fake the treatment.
People will change their names and addresses to try and commit multiple frauds, but we have also found that they keep the same cell phone. So, if you start tracking by cell, you can find out John Smith is also Jonathan Smithington.
When we find fraud such as that, we notify the federal and state authorities and insurance fraud bureau. People have been prosecuted.
Other frauds include people who claim their vehicle was hit or they ran into a pole. But when you examine the damage you can tell it happened years ago.
In one situation, a guy claimed his trailer was stolen. He put in a claim and got money. Turns out the trailer was at his son’s house: His son ratted him out. We sent that case to the police, took back the trailer and sold it for salvage.
We had another guy who claimed that his Audi R8 was stolen. He posted a picture of the VIN. But the guy was basically getting the info off a car dealer website. He claimed the vehicle was his and stolen but it was sitting on a dealer lot.
How did you hook up with Magna?
I’ve known Peter Hecht about 20 years now and have been familiar with Magna since its start 14 years ago through various companies. Magna even hired a colleague of mine from AIG at one point. They are now one of Hallmark’s vendor of choice.
What projects have you done with Magna?
They provide many different services, but I mostly use them for record retrieval: medical records, court records, etc.
Record retrieval can get tricky because every state has different laws about how you capture information. Or, if you have a minor injury and went to the ER, it may be easy to get the documents. If someone was in the hospital for three months, that is a lot more documents.
Magna is doing at least a couple hundred record retrievals a month for us in up to 15 states.
They are our exclusive provider for records retrieval.
We always like to save the tough question for last. How would you describe Peter Hecht?
When it comes to golf, he is no Tiger Woods. At least not yet.
I had the pleasure of golfing with Pete and my boss a couple months ago. It was fun. Pete was on his phone, hitting some balls, smoking a cigar, chasing some other balls.
He will tell you he’s a horrible golfer. When he actually focused, he wasn’t bad. But I wouldn’t put him in the Tiger Woods category just yet.