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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Trace Ledbetter reflects on the lessons learned from this turbulent and unexpected year.

2020 Was All About Finding Opportunities Within the Challenges

The end of the year is typically a time to look back and reflect. Given the year 2020 has been, it’s tempting to skip that part! However, before looking ahead to 2021 it’s important to consider the lessons learned from this turbulent and unexpected year. By fully understanding what we did when faced with circumstances that were anything but normal, we can implement what we’ve learned to make our future even better and brighter than it would have been if the challenges of 2020 had never happened.

Rising to the Occasion

A highlight of this year has been witnessing our team’s ability to transition to a work-from-home environment incredibly quickly, maintain all service level standards, and with the business, our clients, and one another. Even with 93% of staff working remotely, we were still able to deliver quality scores greater than 95% in our Contact Center and in Document Processing. And when our clients needed it most, our best-in-class claims payment processes continued to deliver with by far the fastest payment times in the industry.

Working from home didn’t stifle creativity — it fueled ingenuity and allowed us to grow, excel, adapt, and achieve what we never thought would be possible if it had not been for necessity. The longer-term benefit of the shift in how we work will prove to be an expansion of remote work capabilities, a refinement of how our office space can serve as a centralized hub for collaboration and efficiency, and the value of a decentralized staffing model.

What Gets Measured Gets Improved

In addition to our regular departmental quality surveys, our Annual Survey of Service Quality has always been a strong point of pride for State National. We are the only portfolio protection provider to conduct this kind of regular quantitative analysis, and we use the results to refine our product offerings and continually improve service delivery to our clients. It takes extra investment and time to calculate performance, but these efforts pay dividends — year over year we have seen our scores rise, and in 2019 we achieved a stellar NPS score of +77.

Then, of course, the world turned upside down. We didn’t know what to expect from our 2020 survey results, but we did know that what our business partners think is more important now than ever before. How would our clients feel about how State National served them this year? Did we adapt quickly enough to meet their expectations? Did our service relationships continue to support their needs? Or would they even answer this year, given how much everyone has on their plate just trying to run their own businesses and serve their own customers?

State National’s Service Standards Remained Strong

We are still collecting and tabulating survey responses, and so far we are delighted that more than 70% of our customer base has taken the time to respond and provide feedback. Happily, early results indicate that our NPS performance is tracking ahead of past years. It is a clear indication that our team remains dedicated to understanding the needs of our clients, even if those needs are changing, and that we will do what it takes to meet those needs in every way possible.

Bill Gates once said, “In business, the idea of measuring what you are doing, picking the measurements that count like customer satisfaction and performance … you thrive on that.” I couldn’t agree more. Putting the customer first has always been a hallmark of our business, and it’s a core value that helped State National thrive in 2020.

I am continually impressed by the resilience and strength of the people around me. I have long believed that State National’s greatest assets are the people that make up this organization. Watching them address new, unexpected, unpredictable situations both personally and professionally — and choosing to meet and tackle those challenges head-on with strength creativity, and positivity — has reinforced my belief. I have never been prouder of our company and our people.

Continued Growth on the Horizon

With the delivery of multiple vaccines and a well laid out vaccination plan, there is much optimism for 2021. While the year to come will doubtless have its own challenges, they will be nothing like what we saw in 2020, and certainly nothing that can’t be overcome. When our core values remain our anchor, we are able to stay the course even when our way of life becomes unsettled and unpredictable.

It has been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. To everyone reading this message, I wish you a new year of creation, possibilities, and growth. Here’s to smoother sailing in the days ahead as we look forward to a great and prosperous 2021!

Trace Ledbetter
Trace Ledbetter
Trace Ledbetter is executive vice president at State National Companies, Bedford, Texas, where he directs and oversees delivery of all services and products for lender services, including customer relationship management, underwriting and claims.

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Bringing Partnership to Life

How State National’s Client Advisory Council Creates a Virtuous Circle At State National, client experience is the foundation of everything we do. We don’t see our client relationships as static; each one is dynamic and evolving as a living, breathing entity. And it’s vital that we prioritize and nurture our client partnerships as we do with the other foundational pillars of our company. One the most effective ways we do this is to collaborate with our clients. We talk to our clients, we ask them what they want, and we include them when crafting our business strategies. We have always considered actively getting feedback from our clients as an integral and critical part of our strategic planning. It’s why we conduct our Annual Survey of Service Quality as well as other surveys measuring other aspects of our service delivery. Our #1 goal is to help our business partners succeed, so finding out what they want and need, and how we can better provide it to them, is always top of mind. Taking the Quest for Feedback to the Next Level In 2018, we went a step further and created the State National Client Advisory Council (CAC) to convene a group of some of our top clients to discuss issues that are critically important to them and to us. It’s a forum to share information, gain consensus on key topics, and collaborate with peers and partners to creatively pursue problem-solving strategies and growth opportunities for their institutions As I said in my last CAC blog, our intention in establishing the State National CAC was, and still is, to listen carefully to the voices and concerns of our clients, foster an atmosphere where collaborative insights can emerge, and allow our strategy and product development to be guided by those who will actually be using it every day. Specifically Designed to Add Value — For All Yes, the CAC is of great benefit to State National, because it gives us opportunities to deepen relationships with some of our closest partners, and align our organization more precisely with our clients’ perspectives. We get to hear both what’s working well as well as challenges they’re facing, not only in our area of expertise, but in all areas of their institution. As we’ve been known to say a time or two, we’re successful when our clients are successful — so anything we can contribute to help them grow and succeed ultimately contributes to our own success as a company. But it’s definitely not all about us! Our council was created with a true desire to provide members with tangible, real-world benefits that not only make it more than worth their time but also add tremendous value they don’t get from any other partner. But don’t take it from us — here’s what some of our current CAC members have to say: “By having open conversations about what’s going on in the marketplace with other credit unions who are going through the same things, I’m able to learn how others are attacking certain problems and I’ve absolutely taken some things back to my credit union and implemented them.” ~ Mike Shockley, VP of Lending, True Sky Credit Union, Oklahoma City, OK “It’s great to talk about emerging technologies or other ideas we can bring back to our specific credit unions and share with our leadership team — ideas we might otherwise not have been exposed to. The volume of information at a very high level that someone can obtain by joining the CAC is wonderful." ~ John Cotner, VP of Commercial & Mortgage Lending, Horizon Credit Union, Boise, ID “When it comes to topics like innovation and technology and AI, I think I've learned more from the CAC than I have by going to conferences and things like that, because you can really have more intimate conversations with your peers at the council, and State National does a great job of bringing in great presenters that really position the topics well, so it's easily understood as we're reviewing certain new innovations.” ~ James Bolin, SVP & CMEO, Silver State Schools Credit Union, Las Vegas, NV “One of the benefits of being on the CAC is not only meeting some of the participants from different parts of the country and having discussions, but I have also been able to take away two specific strategic business initiatives that directly impact the credit union that came about through my participation on the CAC, including one that is a multi-year strategic initiative.” ~ Steve McIntire, SVP, Enterprise Risk & General Counsel, SELCO Community Credit Union, Eugene, OR State National is a great partner. I'm glad they asked me to join the CAC because it gives me an opportunity to keep that partnership active and very vibrant. And I enjoy the fact that I get to see what State National is doing and what’s on their horizon and how it’s going to benefit not only my credit union, but the credit union industry. So it’s been really awesome.” ~ Karen Hoeppner, Chief Lending Officer, My Credit Union, Minneapolis, MN A Real-World Example of CAC Value The council’s 3rd quarter 2021 meeting provides an illustration of the tangible benefits of this ongoing collaborative sharing of ideas and insights. The council met in August in Irvine, California, headquarters of Filene Research Institute. Filene is an integral thought leadership partner for State National, and that partnership further extends directly to our CAC members. The business portion of the event was held at Filene’s innovative West Coast outpost. Dr. Bill Maurer, professor at UC Irvine, Director at the Institute for Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion, and research fellow at Filene’s Center of Excellence in Emerging Technology, conducted a working session called “The Pandemic as Practice for a Less-Predictable Future.” Group discussion led to shared best practices on how credit unions can automate communication regarding the notice cycle, which improves their member perception of CPI. Participants also explored other risk mitigation strategies credit union peers are using and how they are approaching risk mitigation overall in light of the uncertainty and turbulence caused by the pandemic and other economic shifts. Relevant, Actionable Insights Following Dr. Maurer’s presentation and discussion, CAC members and SNC directors formed working groups to discuss business challenges related to highly relevant credit union hot topics, including data governance, AI implementation, and digital automation, including mobile. After a lively conversation and sharing of experiences, each working group was tasked with conducting further collaborative research into their group’s subject area. With their curiosity sparked, CAC members made plans to dive in together to produce real-world insights they can share with other decision-makers in their credit union. The groups will also present their findings at the Q4 CAC meeting in November. Personal Connections When the day’s work was over, members joined State National representatives for an enjoyable and relaxing evening outing. After the mental stimulation provided by the day’s deep dive into important credit union topics, it was nice to move to a casual setting on the water and interact on a more personal level, while enjoying excellent conversation and lots of laughter. Then, the next day, it was time to head back to their credit union homes, bringing knowledge, insights, advice, and inspiration with them as they work on their findings and look for openings within their institutions to leverage what they’ve learned. Discover More Are you a curious credit union professional, always looking to grow and give back to your organization? Do you enjoy bouncing ideas off like-minded people in your industry and get a little thrill when you see these synergies expand what’s possible for you and for them? Are you a believer in true connection with those you work with and mutually beneficial partnerships with your service providers? Contact Heather Clyde, State National’s Client Advisory Council Program Manager, at HClyde@StateNational.com to explore the possibility of council membership. “The CAC has exceeded my expectations. On a fun note, the group is great. My colleagues on the CAC and the staff at State National are all very enjoyable and very professional. State National does a wonderful job of putting the events together. They’re well thought out, well organized. I think it’s a great two-way relationship, the CAC. I think we’re benefiting State National, and they are certainly benefiting us.” ~ John Cotner, Horizon CU   “State National has always considered our clients as more than just clients — we truly do see each and every one of these connections as an authentic partnership. Our goal for client relationships is always more than transactional; we’re always going for a win-win situation and strive to evolve all of these partnerships to serve the long-term strategic business goals for both parties. Our CAC is growing to be a vital component of State National’s overall corporate strategy, and it’s very gratifying to see that it is already helping to serve the long-term strategic interests of our CAC members and their credit unions.” ~ Heather Clyde, Client Advisory Council Program Manager