Features

Tony Van Eck – Great Northwest Insurance Company and Hawaiian Insurance and Guaranty Company Limited

Ensuring that insurance is personalized and community-based

Fun, animated or unique mascots, more coverage for lower costs or 24-hour live customer service. Different insurance companies market their services in various ways to appeal to customers—and, as Tony Van Eck has learned after over 26 years in the insurance industry, bigger does not always mean better.  

In fact, his current employer, Great Northwest Insurance Company and Hawaiian Insurance and Guaranty Company Limited only operates in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Hawaii and offers limited services: home, dwelling fire, condo, businessowners, general liability and automobile insurance. According to him, that’s exactly what makes it stand out positively against its competitors.  

He tells Vanguard that GNIC/HIG’s agents are “ingrained with the insured,” meaning they live in the same communities as the customers. Other team members, from customer service representatives to executives, also try to live in the communities the company serves.    

Tony Van Eck | Vice President of Claims and General Counsel | Great Northwest Insurance Company and Hawaiian Insurance and Guaranty Company Limited

Tony Van Eck | Vice President of Claims and General Counsel | Great Northwest Insurance Company and Hawaiian Insurance and Guaranty Company Limited

“We have a lot of local contacts and have organically built personal connections,” Van Eck says. “Everything we do here has a personal touch and it’s this focus on people that keeps them coming back to us year after year.”  

He loves this aspect of working with a smaller company, especially after his decades of experience with insurers catering to specific groups like farmers or ranchers. With a company that has less than 50 employees, he can know the names—and interests—of every insurance agent. He also collaborates with leadership as well as the marketing, operations and human resource teams. 

“At GGNIC/HIG, I can see my efforts advancing our growth goals,” says Van Eck, who joined the company in 2015 and was promoted to vice president of claims and general counsel two years later. “I can see the positive impact we’re having as we try to reach more communities.”    

Technology for competitive insurance evolution     

Van Eck makes it clear that small isn’t synonymous with non-competitive. Focused on profitable growth, GNIC/HIG is integrating technology to compete with larger, national insurance companies. 

He says moving from manual to more automated processes for customers and staff will reduce costs and add efficiencies while allowing the company to remain ingrained in communities.  

“Right now, we do have some electronic processes, but it still takes too many clicks for agents and clients to either input or obtain the information they need,” he says. 

For the past three years, Van Eck has been working with the company’s information technology team and outside vendors to implement a new system for claims and policies that will have intuitive intelligence. This platform will utilize the latest in web application programming interfaces—think locators, replacement cost estimators and geo data based on property location—to service polices and claims. It will also interlink with GNIC/HIG’s other systems, such as the data analysis and information searching software LexisNexis and the risk management software Verisk.    

Tony Van Eck | Vice President of Claims and General Counsel | Great Northwest Insurance Company and Hawaiian Insurance and Guaranty Company Limited

The new system should launch within the next two years. After that, an insurance agent can type the numbers and first few letters of a new client’s home address, for instance, and the geocoding in the system will bring up the closest matching addresses automatically. Meanwhile, a client can use the same system to quickly choose the property on which they’re filing a claim.  

Due to privacy and data laws, internal and external users will only have access to certain information. Still, agents or clients can file claims or renew policies in a matter of seconds instead of hours. 

Van Eck, who leads the claims team, says having electronic documentation means that, within seconds, he’ll be able to pull information to send to accounting for completing claims. Digital information can also be used in court to resolve regulatory or litigation matters.  

Because he develops the contractual language in all the company’s agreements, he’ll be able to electronically update or revise contracts based on changing regulations or relationships with vendors. Currently, he has to manually search through physical drawers or files on his computer.    

“We all believe this system will be a game changer for us and help us go toe-to-toe with the larger competitors,” Van Eck says. “That’s why we’ve made this the primary focus of our efforts.”   

Communities and collaborations 

While technology can quickly alter a company’s future for the better, Van Eck has never discounted the importance of working with vendors and external firms.  

For instance, he says even though QEDGS is a structural engineering firm outside of Houston, the team there understands GNIC/HIG’s desire to keep the local flair and feel of its communities. They not only assist with the company’s policyholders but also work with the contractors and any other insurance companies that may be involved in a property alongside GNIC/HIG.  

“If there’s anything technically wrong with a structure, they explain the issues to contractors and insurers, including us, without jargon,” he says. 

Van Eck says these relationships are essential. Many external colleagues are even part of the same professional organizations, including Oklahoma Claims Association, which holds golf tournaments. He plays golf alongside agents, vendors and external counsel, including Chris Wills from Rajkowski Hansmeier Limited.     

Tony Van Eck | Vice President of Claims and General Counsel | Great Northwest Insurance Company and Hawaiian Insurance and Guaranty Company Limited

Building and maintaining camaraderie at and outside of work is as important to Van Eck as the world of insurance has been.  

One of his first jobs after receiving his bachelor’s from the University of Oklahoma in 1994 was a multi-lines field adjuster for the insurance company GAB Robins. He hasn’t veered away from the industry since. 

Starting in August 1995, he spent over 15 years in various roles at American Farmers and Rancher Mutual Insurance Company in Oklahoma City before briefly working at FarmAssure in Edmond, Oklahoma. During this time, he also obtained an MBA in 2003 from the University of Phoenix and his law degree in 2011 from Oklahoma City University.   

Great Northwest was a perfect opportunity to put his new skills and decades of expertise in niche insurance to use, he says. He loves multitasking, from helping adjusters review coverage and underwriters review contracts to attending board meetings and looking at proposed legislative changes and their potential impacts on the companies. 

“I’m expanding my skill set daily and helping GNIC/HIG in their goals to be a strong market competitor and my goals to eventually head up an insurance company,” Van Eck says.  

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer III 2023 Edition here.

Published on: July 25, 2023

regions:

categories:

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.

Testimonials

As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Spring I 2024

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.