Spokane Journal of Business

New services here boost Travelers’ employment

Spokane office hasn’t met earlier projections, though, to employ 500 by year-end

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The Spokane office of Hartford, Conn.-based Travelers Property Casualty Corp. wont reach earlier projections that it would employ 500 workers here by the end of 2000, but has added two new servicesand nearly 75 workersduring the last 12 months here.

Travelers currently employs 234 people in Spokaneless than half the number of people the company had projected two years ago that it would employ by this time.

Patrick Gee, Travelers Hartford-based vice president of personal and small commercial lines, says the Spokane operation didnt meet those earlier employment projections because Travelers canceled in October 1999 one of its major programs, called Travelers Secure, which it partly had been handling from Spokane. Prior to that cancellation, the company had believed that the Travelers Secure program held much growth potential.

Travelers initially expected to split its Spokane office into two main groups. The first group, which currently employs about 150 people here, sells and services home and auto insurance policies over the phone for various Travelers programs, while the other group was to push Travelers Secure, which sold auto and home insurance products over the phone to people who had expressed interest in the products to agents affiliated with Primerica Financial Services, a sister company.

In addition to the 150 workers here, another 84 employees work in the two new services and in another service here called the bond insurance unit, Gee says.

Travelers management decided to cancel Travelers Secure because insured losses exceeded levels anticipated in the pricing of the products, and because customers were highly sensitive to pricing increases, Gee says.

This shift really dampened opportunities for us to grow, Gee says. Let me say, though, that the decision to curtail sales was absolutely not a reflection of the quality of work of the employees in Spokane. We have been very pleased with the dedication and results of our employees there.

Whenever Travelers begins discussing where to locate various services, Gee says that Spokane comes up often in conversations. As we make more acquisitions and introduce other services, Im sure Spokane will continue to enter into those conversations.

Thats partly because of the Spokane offices location in the Pacific time zone, which provides increased convenience to customers in other time zones because theyre able to reach the office here later in the evening, such as after work, Gee says.

One of the new services that has been added at Travelers Spokane operation in the last 12 months is called the small commercial line, which allows independent insurance agents to sell to small businesses various products, such as commercial auto insurance and workers compensation policies, that Travelers Spokane employees service on the agents behalf, says Gee.

The small commercial service was added here about a year ago and already employs 58 people, Gee says. Those employees take incoming calls from small-business owners to answer questions, issue certificates of insurance, and notify customers about policy changes, he says.

Gee says Travelers expects that business segment to continue growing, although he declines to project how many additional employees will be hired here.

Meanwhile, in May, Travelers Spokane office also began offering a billing and remitting service, which employs 15 people here, so far.

Those people are subject-matter experts on tough billing questions, Gee says.

Most of the billing questions that are phoned into the office here are from representatives of small- to mid-sized commercial customers that currently buy various insurance products and commercial services from Travelers.

This operation has gone quite well, Gee says.

  • Lisa Harrell

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