Life at Georgetown – Joseph Smith

By: Joseph C. Smith, CIC, CPIA, CBIA

Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc.

Frederick, MD

Describe your job. What do you do? 

I provide advice and specific insurance coverage to owners of businesses, with a focus on income producing property accounts, such as apartment owners, shipping center owners, office buildings, etc.

How/Why did you get into the insurance industry? 

I initially got in to the insurance business when I was 23 and it was totally by accident. I had declined an interview with Liberty Mutual in their direct sales commercial unit in St. Louis on at least 3 occasions. I finally accepted the interview and that led to being hired with a good base salary that exceeded what I had been making in a retail management training program with a very well-known large retail organization. That began a career that has lasted over 50 years and defined my life as an agent and producer.

What is your daily ritual? What do you do to start and end your day?

I generally begin my day with an hour of circuit weight training or walking on alternate days at least 3 miles. I do that 6 days a week. I am able to check my email messages from my smart phone to see if there is any urgent need for my response, do the usual shower and shave and then head to my office in Frederick.

Since I often have business networking meetings and opportunities through the building industry, my days can extend to as late as 9 or 10 PM. There are some days that I can work effectively from my office at home. My first priority is always to review email messages for any pending issues and I can do that from wherever I might be.  I am often called on by clients to review and comment on the sections of their contracts that pertain to insurance requirements and I can do that from wherever I have computer access.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is to constantly deal with competitive insurance agents and brokers who are trying to take a client away from me. There is an intense tactical side to being a good competitive business insurance agent. You have to always be aware of what the other insurance companies are doing to write business (particularly for the ones you have), and make sure that you have stayed in touch with them and the market place in general so you are not surprised by a super competitive quotation on one of your current accounts.

Of course, I always want to make sure that I have placed my clients with the best combination of very competitive pricing and the proper coverage for their needs. Insurance companies change and come in to the market and sometimes pull back, and it is my job to know who is doing what and who represents a smart insurance buying decision for my clients.

What do you like best about your job and/or working at Georgetown Insurance?

The best thing about doing what I do is the relationship that I develop with clients who have trusted me for over 20 or 30 years to help them manage insurance risks and costs, and then have them properly protected when a loss occurs.

What makes Georgetown Insurance different than previous places you’ve worked?

Clearly the most significant difference in working with Georgetown is our focus and our long term policy of always doing what is in the best interests of our clients. We provide a team of an agent and CSR or Account Executive (that even includes a designated backup person), that work together on my accounts. This has been the same for almost 15 years. Even our Commercial Lines Manager has worked closely with me to serve my clients prior to Carolyn joining me 14 years ago. The continuity that this provides our clients is unmatched in this industry.

What is the most interesting or strange insurance claim, question, or issue you’ve dealt with?  Several years ago, a client was building a 15 story building with 3 levels of underground parking in Northern Virginia. The sheeting and shoring being used to excavate approximately 55 feet underground, started to shift and move (about a foot).

The cause of the earth movement was determined to be a huge mass of marine clay soil, that was outside the sheeting and shoring, was sliding and ultimately would have collapsed the wall into the excavated site. It would have also collapsed the street and the utility vault that was just on the outside of the excavation. This could have caused massive damage and quite possibly many injuries. It took about 45 days to reinforce and stabilize the sheeting and shoring, so that excavation could proceed. The direct damage to the sheeting & shoring was about $ 116,000 and was covered in the policy that I had placed, because I had required that earth movement, not just earthquake, be an insured peril. Earth movement does not require a seismic event to be recorded for the loss to be covered. This was then, and continues to be, a mandatory condition of mine for the underwriter writing the policy. The delay in construction of over 30 days resulted in a “soft costs” loss of over $600,000. That was also covered.

Knowing and understand the risks associated with developing and building such a property is absolutely critical to proper insurance and knowing how to name all the interested parties in the policy.


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