An Interview with Mike Cescon
An Interview with Mike Cescon

At the end of the day, this industry is all about relationships. That’s the view that Mike Cescon, executive vice president, Old Republic Insured Automotive Services Inc. (ORIAS) has taken, and continues to believe in.

ORIAS is part of Old Republic International, along with sister company Old Republic Insurance Co. It offers vehicle service contracts and GAP, as well as full administrative services for any product branded with its name, or via private label agreements. “We provide insurance to a premier provider of ancillary products in the market space, as well as underwriting and insurance for multiple TPAs and agents with private label programs in the GAP and service contract markets. Current service contract relationships do not include claims authority today,” said Cescon. “We also underwrite and insure ancillary products for a handful of OEMs and are always looking to expand upon those relationships when the opportunities arise. We have long-term relationships with very reputable dealers and dealer groups.”

To make all of those relationships work, Cescon noted, ORIAS prides itself on both fast speed and good service. “When speaking to potential business partners, a few things that I point out to them are our customer service, accessibility and responsiveness. In particular, we strive to pay GAP claims within three days of receiving a complete claim file, and service contract claims are basically paid the same day because a high percentage are processed via credit card. Our company has established these as service standards and our employees are committed to meet these customer expectations. So, what sets us apart are our claims process and our ability to provide a timely and accurate response to a customer or perspective customer’s needs.”

But Cescon sees it as more than just speedy claims that set his company apart. He also believes that giving partners, agents and customers all direct access to decision makers is a key part of the success story. “I do think that this is a primary distinguishing factor in our favor,” he noted. “I also had someone recently tell me that for him to be able to pick up the phone, dial my extension, get me on the phone and talk to me to resolve a question is different from what they’re used to.”

And those relationships span the industry. ORIAS has relationships with independent agents, third-party administrators, dealers and even direct with some OEMs. “We offer ORIAS branded service contracts and GAP products to the independent agency market and provide insurance on a wide array of ancillary products through TPAs and directly to OEMs,” Cescon explained. “We’re constantly seeking new relationships through these channels and are now able to allow a qualified, unaffiliated TPA to have claims authority on vehicle service contracts. This is a significant change in the way we have done business. We’re excited about bringing Old Republic Insurance Company into this market segment and believe that it will provide an attractive insurance company option to the TPA arena.”

A Changing Landscape

Cescon noted that much has changed in the industry, even in just the last five years. One of the big areas he’s noticed the most change has been around product delivery and underwriting. Today, ORIAS receives the majority of its business electronically, something that wasn’t even possible just a few years ago.

“Technological advances have allowed us to receive production through a variety of paperless delivery methods,” he noted. “We receive data file transfers from some business partners and also have e-contracting available through various menu systems through our own sales portal. This has definitely allowed us to operate more efficiently and utilize our resources more effectively. When I first joined the company in 2000, dealers used paper rate charts and applications. At that time, we had our own small, proprietary software packages on floppy disks that we provided credit unions. When we had a program change, we had to reproduce all those disks and mail them out. That process actually evolved into an e-contracting setup where we put the application on the disk and the credit union had to complete the application. From a technology standpoint, it’s so much easier to deliver your products and there are so many more opportunities today to process business electronically contrasted to when I first began. You can literally be informed the same day a contract is written compared to when I started when it could be 45-60 days.”

Cescon doesn’t see that drive toward finding newer and faster ways of doing business letting up any time soon. He believes all businesses, in this and every industry, will be forced to change and adapt as technology moves forward. Providers, in particular, he believes will be at the forefront of this push, finding new ways to make product sales and delivery more and more efficient.

“When I started at Old Republic 13 years ago, I was new to the industry,” Cescon said. “I had several years of experience in the insurance industry but none in this market segment. I read and listened to as much as I could every day. I would recommend that everyone in our industry strive to learn every day and to understand that when they think they have it all figured out, keep pushing to learn even more because the industry is constantly changing and evolving.”