Timothy Ziegler, head of East York-based McConkey Insurance & Benefits’ construction division, started his career in insurance twelve years ago after responding to an online ad for a job with Travelers Insurance.
Newly graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science in crime, law and justice, Ziegler took the job at Travelers, knowing that he could both scratch his itch for the legal field and find himself in a profession he could grow in.
A self-proclaimed “insurance nerd,” Ziegler said he has since found a love for reading policies and a fulfillment in knowing that he is helping his clients protect themselves.
Throughout his career, Ziegler has worked primarily with companies in the construction industry and today he oversees McConkey’s construction practice as one of the firm’s principals.
Ziegler spoke to the journal about his career growth, working with construction clients and how his firm handled the pandemic:
CPBJ: How would you describe your career so far? What did it take to get to where you are today?
Ziegler: If I had to pick one word, it would be fortunate. I have been extremely fortunate to be presented with some great opportunities during my career and have some great mentors who invested in my success.
Travelers invests a lot of time and money into their training program and is a great place to start and have an insurance career. After spending a few years in claims, I was accepted into their Underwriting Development Program and would work in their construction division.
This 6+ month training program really set me up to have success in the role. I loved the aspect of trying to find solutions as an underwriter and one of the agencies I worked with was McConkey.
They saw my “find solutions instead of excuses” approach and knew I’d be a great fit for their team. McConkey was a great fit for me because they allowed me to learn from some really great people.
CPBJ: What differentiates construction clients from other clients? What do they need from you as their point of contact?
Ziegler: Arguably the most important thing for our construction clients is for us to understand the risks they face day to day because their business is so unique.
I could have all of the insurance knowledge in the world, but if I don’t understand how risk is transferred through contracts or what exposures they have on a jobsite then that insurance knowledge will be useless.
Specializing in construction was a great fit for me because of how much overlap there is between the transfer of risk that occurs when contract is signed.
There are liabilities passed down from the owner to the General Contractor and various subcontractors and only some of that liability is going to be covered by a standard insurance policy.
Clients need to know how to modify contracts so that they aren’t assuming liability for things that their insurance policy won’t cover. If the contract requirements cannot be modified then we need to work with their carrier to get the proper language in their policy.
Sometimes you cannot amend the policy to reflect the liability assumed in the contract and that’s where you need to be able to explain what risk the client has and allow them to make a decision whether or not they are comfortable with it.
In almost every circumstance we perform a coverage analysis for a new client, we find areas where they are not providing the insurance coverage they’re contractually obligated to based on the contracts they have signed.
CPBJ: This year you took the role of vice president and principal at McConkey. How has that changed what you do in your day to day?
Ziegler: My primary role of working clients and overseeing our Construction Practice remains unchanged, but I have taken on new responsibilities and the COVID-19 has led to some changes in our business.
Weekly meetings with the other principals has shortened the learning curve on running a business. Most major decisions are discussed prior to being made so I’ve learned a lot about aspects of the organization I haven’t been involved in before – our employee benefits division, finance, personnel, long-range planning, etc.
CPBJ: What advice would you give someone getting into the insurance industry or particularly someone working with a client in construction for the first time?
Ziegler: I might be a little biased, but McConkey has a great internship program and training program for people who don’t have any insurance experience.
A list of open positions can be found on our website! Local insurance carriers are also a great place to look to start a career because they really invest in their training programs for those who don’t have experience.
Looking online to see what positions are open and spending time on LinkedIn is a great way to find out what is available. I’d be happy to give anyone guidance who has any questions on the industry!
CPBJ: How would you describe your first year as a principal?
Ziegler: While this year has been a challenge, I’m much further ahead in my education than I’d normally be so I would say eye-opening.
I’ve learned all the things it takes to run a business and have seen the thought process that goes into making certain decisions instead of just seeing the result. Many companies say “Our people are our greatest asset,” but I can see that the other principals at McConkey firmly believe this.
Some decisions are hard to make, but we’ve always had the best interest of employees in mind. We can’t take care of our clients without taking care of the employees first.