Meet Muhammed Kazmi
My career journey began way before my professional insurance journey. I grew up in New Jersey, attended Rutgers University and waited tables to pay for school. I graduated in 2002, which meant I was looking for work in fall 2001, right when 9/11 happened.
This was a devastating tragedy for me as an East Coast, New York-New Jersey kid who loved my city and this country. In addition to the devastation, I was worried about my family receiving backlash in the aftermath of such a polarizing event. Then as a man named Muhammed, I began to see during my job search that I wasn’t getting calls back, while my classmates and friends with similar degrees, grades and experiences were getting calls, even though the economy was starting to tighten.
Practicality was top of mind for me. I decided to get away from the East Coast, drive to San Diego and start working there. I waited tables because that was my skill set. At the same time, I applied for entry-level roles and eventually started working at a GEICO call center. I moved back to New Jersey after a few years, and GEICO transferred me to Claims there, where I spent seven years as an automotive claims adjuster.
Claims is a great profession, but I didn’t see a future in it because it didn’t utilize my skill sets nor did it satisfy me personally. Eventually, I moved to another company and started working in property claims as an adjuster and then claims manager. The challenge was that after nearly 10 years in claims, I was pigeonholed into being a “claims person.” People didn’t see the transferrable skills or my personal skill set as being a fit for underwriting, sales and marketing. After applying to every underwriting program imaginable, I was finally given a chance to be an underwriting trainee in National Accounts. So, at the age of 33, I went from managing a team of 10 claims adjusters to sitting in a training class with predominantly college graduates. There is where my new and current journey began.
People First, Bottom Line Second
After being in underwriting for six years I received a call from Arch. At the time I didn’t think I was ready to move again. I agreed to the call and ended up having an almost two-hour conversation. We talked about the culture of Arch and how important it is to be “employee first.” I came to understand that Arch is more than just the bottom line; they see the connection between treating your people well and meeting your bottom-line concerns. During my interview, I was asked what I believe a good workplace culture is, what I need and what impacts I would make. I wanted to have a say, to have a role where my experience and skill set was valued. I believe that if you take care of the colleagues, the rest will follow. That’s what Arch offered me: people first.
I also like the opportunity for growth. I had worked for established places in the past and thought that was the way to go: Why not play for the New York Yankees? At Arch, although the company was still new, I saw during the interview process that I could build a team to become the New York Yankees, which was an exciting chance to make an impact.
My first internal customers are my direct reports. I start with them. My intention to them in terms of how I bond, develop and motivate them, is going to form how they work with our customers, who will always get the best out of us. When the customers benefit, it will always make its way to the bottom line.
One of my goals is to work together more in places where there are silos. For example, our industry verticals, such as healthcare or cyber. You get so caught up in doing your work that you forget there are partners all over the company who you might be able to work with, to pursue multiple lines of insurance and provide a more complete solution to a client. This could lead to increased retention for us, and also, even more effective solutions for the client.
Working together in this way starts with me; it is as much my responsibility as it is my partner’s.
When I think about a great customer experience myself, I think of Trader Joe’s. They manage to make you feel like you’re in a small-town grocer where everyone knows each other, instead of being a national chain, by taking the time to ask you how you are, and what you’re going to make with the items you’re buying. They could just ring it through, but they build a personal connection in a five-minute conversation. In the end, I leave happy, and I think they are too, because they have meaning in their roles. I could go to other grocery stores and maybe even save a few dollars doing so, but I go to Trader Joe’s for the customer service.
I don’t look at my work as selling my clients insurance; I see it as telling them that I hope their colleagues come home safe. Employees sometimes risk their lives earning their paychecks. We provide peace of mind so that if something does happen, someone is going to be there to take care of you. Your company has something to fall back on.
When I think about the value of Pursuing Better Together®, which is Arch’s brand promise, I remember the winter freeze that happened here in Texas in early 2021. This was a devastating natural disaster that impacted everyone in our state. When it happened, our managers told us to shut everything down and go home, take care of our families, and let them know if we needed anything. We were told our colleagues in other regions could temporarily pick up our work and not to worry about it. This wasn’t the reality for others in the industry.
It was so reassuring to know that I had the flexibility. And in the end, because we made provisions to work safely at home, we didn’t have to distribute our work to other regions.
Something I tell my team members is: Build your greatness by building relationships. Talk to everyone at the company where you work and in the industry. Everyone has something you can learn. Reach out to people, even if you don’t think there is any value in it. Trust me, everyone brings some value. As you progress through life, you will find out just how small the world is. There may come a time when you might need someone, or they might need you. Build these relationships authentically, with unselfish intent, although there will be a beneficial result in the future.
RVP, National Accounts Casualty
Arch Insurance | Dallas, Texas