SmartCasualtyClaims Celebrates 75 Years of Exceptional Service to Our Loyal Clients and Friends
By Jonathan Gerdes, Executive Vice President and Andy Richardson, Senior Vice President
SmartCasualtyClaims, one of the nation’s oldest casualty claims administrators, is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee throughout 2021– 75 years of service to our distinguished list of long-time clients.
SmartCasualtyClaims traces its beginnings to Employers Service Corporation (ESC) which was incorporated in January 1946 in Charleston, WV, with H. Herchiel Sims as director of Unemployment Compensation and Paul Sutherland as director of Workman’s Compensation. Sims was the first head of Unemployment Compensation Claims for the state of West Virginia, and in 1955, he formed H. Herchiel Sims and Company, focusing solely on unemployment compensation. Then, in 1962, Sims purchased the entirety of Employers Service Corporation, merged together the two firms, and welcomed his son, Herchiel Sims, Jr. (Herk) to the family company.
With roots firmly planted in the rich history of West Virginia, the mining industry was a natural source of focus for ESC. With the creation of Federal Black Lung benefits in the early 1970s, Sims identified a niche to serve coal mining companies. As a result, ESC began managing the black lung program for Consolidation Coal Company in 1972 and other firms in the coal industry took note.
The company enjoyed significant growth and attracted additional clients in the unemployment and workers’ compensation areas. With this growth came the selection of key associates who would establish a foundation of two core principles that remain vital to SmartCasualtyClaims today:
- First, the selection of highly talented staff that developed intimate knowledge of workers’ compensation, Federal Black Lung, and other core services. This focus on quality talent remains vibrant today.
- Second, the job satisfaction that led key associates to stay for a lifetime career with the company. This workforce stability proved to be a vital reason for the unique synergy that emerged among Smart Casualty Claims and its clients. Long-term client relationships became the norm, not the exception.
The word quickly got out that a high quality of service with a stable team of talent was available from Employers Service Corporation. As a result, clients asked ESC to establish offices in other jurisdictions. More growth resulted, with offices established in 1991in Virginia, and in 1994 in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
The original ESC headquarters, Charleston, WV
The next chapter in Smart Casualty Claims’ history occurred in 1999 when Acordia Employers Service (AES) acquired ESC. Sims, Jr. became president of AES in 1971. The company continued to enjoy growth and success and in 2000, AES was acquired by Wells Fargo. In May 2013, Wells Fargo sold AES to HealthSmart, one of the largest third-party administrators in the country, and the company was renamed HealthSmart Casualty Claims Solutions. In 2019 the name was simplified to SmartCasualtyClaims.
Still based in Charleston, West Virginia, SmartCasualtyClaims is now licensed nationwide and handles claims for employers and insurance carriers in 20 states.
Throughout our 75-year history, SmartCasualtyClaims has embraced abiding core values that focus on quality claims management emphasizing return-to-health and return-to-work. Blending local jurisdictional expertise, national relationships, an emphasis on attracting and retaining quality talent, and a pleasant work culture have led to the extraordinary combination of client loyalty and employee retention – 72 clients have drawn on our expertise for 25 years or longer…some dating back as far as 1955.
Having been in the business so long, our employees have been able to deepen their knowledge and expand their expertise to benefit our clients. With the importance of stability in risk management, few administrators offer this unique level of a stable client base combined with a stable workforce.
The average tenure of SmartCasualtyClaims employees is more than 10 years with 36% of the employees logging more than 20 years each.
We’re good examples of the vast talent that is available to meet our clients’ needs: Jonathan Gerdes has been in the property and casualty claims business for 35 years, having served as the leader of SCC for 3 years. Andy Richardson traces his tenure with SmartCasualtyClaims back over 35 years to 1985, interrupted by an eight-year hiatus to lead West Virginia’s unemployment and workers’ compensation systems as Employment Commissioner from 1989 until 1997.
“My career with SCC spans 33 years, SCC has provided me with opportunities for advancement and leadership development,” says Tammi Bodnar, senior vice president of operations, in Charleston, WV.
I enjoy our teamwork approach and encouraging staff to participate. Our experienced staff, specialized services, high rate of client retention and proven results differentiates us from the competition. I tell new employees that if they are willing to learn and work hard, they will have success at SCC.”
Cheryl Godwin, senior business analyst, in Charleston, WV says, “
I started with SCC 37 years ago when it was Employers Service Corporation. The people I work with and the work itself has kept me at SCC. We are service oriented and willing to do what it takes to make sure our clients are satisfied customers. We truly care about the people who are our clients.”
“In addition to the people/friends I work with and relationships I have made with my clients over the past 31 years, the company’s generous benefits are a big reason I’ve made my career with SCC,” says Lori Nichols, senior claims manager, in Charleston, WV. “The mentoring and support employees receive to do their job is outstanding. You can count on co-workers to share their knowledge to help solve client challenges. The longevity of the employees and their relationships with their clients go hand-in-hand to build confidence and trust that the best interest of all parties is being met. I tell those considering a career at SCC that if you join our family, you get more than a job, you will have a fulfilling career.”.
We know the culture and the presence of long-term professional adjusters is one of the secrets to our success. Over the years, our employees have gotten to know our clients and our clients have come to rely on them to deliver the SmartCasualtyClaims difference. This special dynamic of long-time employees and long-time clients has created relationships built on trust and respect, the unbeatable combination that has underpinned our successful history.
We’ve included additional quotes from other long-term employees at the end of this blog that capture the spirit and dedication of SmartCasualtyClaims.
We have always seen our clients as our partners; their success is our success. Our approach to our clients’ success is simple: we listen to client needs, act with integrity, treat our clients (as well as their claimants) with respect, dig deep to understand the industry of each client, and assemble an experienced team to provide customized, flexible solutions.
In addition to our original client base of coal mining companies, we have grown over the years to provide customized services to more than 300 clients in a wide variety of businesses and industries – the service industry (grocery, delivery, hospitality, medical, convenience stores), public sector and government (cities, counties, towns, villages, education, guaranty funds, state funds), heavy industry (energy, manufacturing, construction, transportation), and alternative risk (captives, group, self-insured, high deductible).
We often tell potential clients if they want to invest in a long-term, stable partnership, we’re probably a good fit for them. If they’re looking for a “cookie-cutter” solution, we probably aren’t for them.
The property & casualty claims business continues to evolve every day. We are committed to staying ahead of the curve, helping to shape the industry and improving the outcomes for our clients. The future looks bright for SmartCasualtyClaims as we build on our successes and innovate for the coming years.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to history and our story of success. And, happy Diamond Jubilee to SmartCasualtyClaims!
What other long-term SCC employees are saying:
“I’ve been with SCC for 38 years. Over the years I’ve had excellent managers who have given me the tools and independence to successfully complete my tasks. We provide service to our clients in a personal and expeditious manner. I’ve been servicing ost of the same accounts since 1999. I, and other long-term adjusters, have built strong relationships with our clients. SCC is a wonderful place to work.” Edward Pauley, senior claims manager, Charleston, WV.
“My co-workers have kept me at SCC for 29 years. We have an outstanding group of employees that work well together, showing support and respect for others. We work together as a great team and truly have the common goal of the continued success and growth of SCC as a priority. I believe our clients stay with us for years because our team has the same customer service experience in providing prompt responses and always going above and beyond to ensure our clients’ needs are met.” Karen Johnson, claims office manager, Abingdon, VA.
“From the first day of my 36-year career with SCC, the company has been my family. We strive to always keep the client’s needs met, even if it takes extra time, we go the extra mile. Our people are great, and we take care of each other in good times and bad.” Joan Moran, business system consultant, Charleston, WV.
“When I started with SCC 24 years ago, I was looking for a job closer to home. I was pleased to find a company that was family oriented. I have been fortunate that my dedication and work ethics have afforded me opportunities to advance my career. Quality service to our clients is a top priority. We listen to the needs of the client and make every effort to accommodate them. SCC’s longevity and good reputation speaks volumes to our clients. I would tell someone considering employment with SCC, if you are looking for a company where you work with great co-workers, that provides the tools you need to do your job and provides advancement opportunities, you’ve found it with SCC.” Sue Martin, claims manager, Lexington, KY
Jonathan Gerdes, CPCU, SCLA, AIC – Executive Vice President, SmartCasualtyClaims
Jonathan Gerdes joined HealthSmart in 2018 and brings more than 35 years’ property and casualty insurance claims experience. As Executive Vice President of SmartCasualtyClaims, he is responsible for managing HealthSmart’s casualty claims division which delivers effective, comprehensive claims and administration services for workers’ compensation, liability and disability.
Jonathan has extensive experience helping claim organizations and their clients achieve their full potential through the consistent delivery of superior claim outcomes. Prior to joining HealthSmart, Jonathan was Vice President, Claims TPA Oversight for Enstar (US). He was previously Claims Director, Risk Management for CVS Health and held VP roles in Claim Field Operations and Casualty Claims for QBE The Americas.
Jonathan earned his Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration degrees from Stetson University.
Senior Vice President – Andy Richardson
Andy is a 35‑year veteran of the casualty claims industry and a prior public servant at the state, county, and municipal levels of government. Andy’s professional background includes serving as the assistant prosecuting attorney in Kanawha County, WV; CEO of the former monopolistic West Virginia Workers Compensation Fund, preparing that organization with internal checks and balances that lead to privatization. Andy is licensed in West Virginia as an attorney and insurance agent.