CSAA Specialized Services: From a COVID innovation challenge to a fully-fledged business

CSAA Specialized Services: From a COVID innovation challenge to a fully-fledged business

A long-standing CSAA Insurance Group employee suggested the insurer use its excess claims resources to help local and state governments respond to the pandemic, helping with critical tasks like contact tracing.

“Our claims employees are trained in investigation, documentation, customer satisfaction, and de-escalation of emotions. While this idea had nothing directly to do with insurance, it didn’t take us long to figure out that the job description for both claims and service providers was almost identical to the job description for contact tracers. So, we decided to make something out of it,” said Joey Daryanani, vice president of Specialized Services at CSAA Insurance Group, and former leader of the group’s Claims Central Services organization.

It all started with a “test and learn deal” with an East Coast city that needed 25 people to help with contact tracing. The city’s budget was tight, and the seasoned claims professionals who stepped up to help were high-earning employees – but CSAA charged “peanuts,” according to Daryanani, who added: “This wasn’t about profitability or revenue. At CSAA, our DNA revolves around taking care of our community and the places where we work.”

The team ended their first contact tracing engagement 40% ahead of time and 40% below budget. After that, the CSAA Specialized Services team grew smarter, their numbers surged – Daryanani said employees were volunteering in their hundreds, thanks partly to this initiative coming from ‘one of their own’ – and more contracts came in.

Read more: Lessons learned from the first six months of the coronavirus

Within months, CSAA Specialized Services launched call centers for contract tracing, processing unemployment claims, surveying schools to understand personal protective equipment (PPE) needs, and to operate a state vaccine hotline. The unit later expanded to include third-party administrator (TPA) claims and training programs.

By December 2020, claims volumes started to pick up again and many of CSAA’s claims and service operations employees had to return to their “day jobs”. They were replaced with new resources, many of whom did not have an insurance background, but were drawn towards customer service roles with the aim of assisting the fight against COVID-19.  

“There was an unintended consequence to that,” Daryanani told Insurance Business. “We now have a hiring pipeline into CSAA Insurance Group from Specialized Services. A lot of insurance carriers don’t have that. As our employees are developing greater customer service, investigation, and documentation skills, the CSAA claims department can interview any one of these folks and hire them for a long-term role within the insurance group.”

Read more: Claims innovation a top strategic priority for insurers worldwide

On June 21, 2022, CSAA Specialized Services became a dedicated business unit, with over 400 employees focusing primarily on three areas:

  • Call center support – Full contact center capabilities, with a trained staff handling millions of transactions annually, including community-related services (contact tracing, COVID-19 vaccine scheduling, and unemployment insurance claims filing);
  • Training services – Curriculums customized to meet an organization’s learning objectives, designed to respond to a changing workforce, workplace, and business environment; and
  • Claims handling – End-to-end claims management, as well as specialty services such as subrogation, total loss and salvage recovery, and Medicare compliance.

When asked whether there’ll be an element of “friendly competition” between CSAA’s Claims Central Services organization and CSAA Specialized Services, Daryanani responded: “Frankly, I think there’s enough business to go around on the insurance side, and given the services we can provide within CSAA Specialized Services, I think that will more that cover any concerns around whether they’re competition.

“Also, while we’d love to partner with the top 50 insurance companies, we’re really going after number 51 and beyond because they’re the companies that don’t always get the attention of the traditional TPAs and the vendor community. If we can focus on them and partner with them, I don’t believe the whole competition conversation is even a discussion.”

Looking ahead, Daryanani – a 37-year claims veteran with CSAA Insurance Group – sees “significant growth opportunities with minimal risk” for the new unit. He explained: “I’m not worried about a catastrophe happening tomorrow, where loss ratios and combined ratios are impacted. This is an opportunity for us to grow revenue as an organization and to minimize and diversify our risk.

“My growth target is to build a $5 billion business in five years, and we started at $0. While I don’t honestly know what the future holds, here’s what I do know. If we provide the service we’re well known for at CSAA Insurance Group, and we anticipate the needs of the clients, they will come to us.”