Valiant Residential’s director of risk management on the highs and lows of the challenging market
“When I started out as a young professional, I didn’t think insurance was sexy,” admitted Steven Hartman (pictured). Now, as director of risk management at Valiant Residential, he’s seen the light.
“It has a bit of a perception problem,” he told Insurance Business. “When people think of insurance they think of cheesy commercials and bad claims experiences. But the side of the business that I deal with is very dynamic and challenging.”
Insurance, as Hartman explained, is much more than surface level and shouldn’t be viewed as a commodity. So for younger people just getting into the sector, he tells them that if they really want to advance in their career, there’s a lot to get excited about.
“There is a very high ceiling that you can reach in a stratosphere that’s very dynamic, important and exciting,” he said. “And I like that part of my job.”
Reflecting on his own start in the sector, Hartman remembers his college days. And how his fall into insurance was somewhat by happenstance.
“A friend of mine in college was a mail runner for a local insurance broker,” he explained. “He was leaving and recommended me – I kept that job throughout school. It was a good job while I was working on my education, but I always found it interesting how producers differentiate themselves and their roles.”
The college job turned into a full-time opportunity. He became an account manager, then a producer, then he switched to the client side, transitioning to a risk manager role with Valiant. But Hartman’s move to Valiant was more than just a shift in jobs – it was a synchronization of his newfound passion and profession – helping people in a challenging industry that’s only getting more so.
And because the opportunities of the hard market are difficult for all, Hartman emphasized the importance of standing out in a sea of insureds.
“You have to stand out and be different, and I feel like we do that through our practices, the enrichment of our data, and how we present ourselves in the market,” he said.
To do that, Hartman has a clear focus – fostering strong, genuine relationships with underwriters and carriers. “I want to know who those people are. I want to have meetings with them throughout the year – I want to answer their questions. I want to give them the data that makes their job the easiest so that they remember us, and know we’re being transparent and open with them.”
Hartman’s role at Valiant extends beyond just risk management; he’s the bridge between strategy and execution.
“As the director of risk management, I get to own the strategies as the insured and decipher what we want to implement based on research and other professional recommendations,” he said. “But I’m the one that actually gets to drive the process with my company.”
In his position, Hartman is more adept than most at predicting what the future of the market might hold. And he’s not shy about facing the hard truths to come.
“The market is obviously challenging,” he said. “We’ve been faced with significant percentage increases across our specific industry segment.”
His solution? Communication, transparency, and strategy with clients and brokers.
“Communication is of most importance – frequent and often to make sure we aren’t being surprised at the last second,” he said. “We do a really good job of starting well prior to 100 days out (of policy renewal), ensuring we give and receive updates along the way.
“Gone are the days of just flipping somebody a number without much of a narrative. I appreciate those who just want to know the bottom-line, but I even more so appreciate those that want to better understand the why and how we got there, so we can educate on the importance of what we’re doing; while engaging with our partners. We believe this approach makes us different – and is why we do what we do.”
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