February 25, 2020

SMW Spotlight Series: Diane Swerling

What are you doing to start 2020 on the right foot?

I’m focusing on making sure I take the time to have more fun.  Don’t sweat the small stuff – that’s what I’m planning to tell myself in 2020.  

Who would be your dream dinner guest?

My dad, Bruce Swerling.  I still really miss him.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Soft pretzels.

What is something that’s always in your purse?

I keep packets of hand wipes in my purse at all times – and I use them!

What are some of your top pet peeves?

When I’m eating at a nice restaurant, and someone gets up to use the washroom, the staff will often refold the person’s napkin.  What’s that about?!?  I don’t want someone handling my napkin before I resume using it.

What are a few of the things you view as ‘simple pleasures’?

My pillow; ironed sheets; steam shower; a remote car starter; catching the 4-way pedestrian lights when I’m walking through the city.

What is something someone would be surprised to know about you?

I fast every month, and I’m really careful about what I eat.  I’ve had a vegetarian diet for the last 15 years, and I can tell the difference in how I feel.  I make regular trips to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida to learn new ways of improving my overall health and longevity.  Yay, wheatgrass!

What are the top insurance tips you’d like to share?

For insureds: don’t be short-sighted!  This means you need to understand everything that’s going on in a claim from the beginning. That’s the only way you can plan for the next step.  As public adjusters, we can see the big picture based on our experience and professional expertise. Clients, on the other hand, are caught up in the here and now.  The key is for them to also understand the big picture so they can make the right decisions.  We can give a client advice, and we’re handling the details, but sometimes insureds don’t understand what they must jump on right away.  

How has the industry changed since you started?

Every year, people say it’s harder and harder to handle and settle claims.  But I don’t believe that – it’s always going to be hard!  Technology has made certain areas of the business more challenging, to be sure, because you lose the personal touch.  Everyone is communicating via their devices, and nobody is sitting down face-to-face and resolving disputes.  Coverages have also changed.  Several coverages existed 20 years ago that helped out in certain homeowner claims (fair rental value, for example), but they are no longer around.

Did you see yourself following in your father’s footsteps?

My dad thought I would be in the food business, because I’ve loved to cook and bake ever since I was young.  And then I thought seriously about being a lawyer – I took the LSAT and applied to law schools.  But eventually I realized this was the path for me.

How has your role changed within the firm?

I’ve had every job under the roof at SMW.  In my early teens, I would come in and answer the phones.  I just loved to work.  I started by handling personal property claims, which involved inventories.  I just focused on being the best at that and nothing else.  That turned out to be the best possible foundation.

If I’m going to do something that I’m not familiar with, it’s good for me to get involved.  If I don’t know the answer, I can figure out how to get the answer.

What advice do you have for women looking to succeed in this industry?

This business is predominantly male – it’s important to recognize that early on – and you come across a lot of adjusters who are very set in their ways.  As a woman, it has been valuable for me to understand the subtleties of interpersonal dynamics in different environments.  I think women have to be strong without being confrontational.  Instead of butting heads, I have found it’s more important to finesse situations and relationships.  At the same time, you shouldn’t feel like you have to prove anything just because you’re a woman.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

Miami.

What’s your favorite Boston restaurant?

Either Davio’s or Piattini, depending on my mood – I am a sucker for good Italian food!

What’s the last concert you attended?

Maroon 5.

What’s the worst fad you ever participated in?

Boxer shorts.  When I was in high school, I used to wear them over sweatpants every day.  I would have a wet head, oversized sweatshirt, and boxer shorts.  My mother still tells stories about that look.  I got turned on to real fashion when I went to college – my roommate was from Dallas, and she taught me how to dress up.  My parents showed up for the first parents’ weekend and didn’t recognize me.

When are you at your best?

When I’m eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and regularly working out.  I just have more energy and my mind is clearer.  It also helps if I’m really busy.  I do better when I have a million things going on.

What is your favorite part of the job?

I enjoy helping people.  I find satisfaction in assisting clients when they’re confused.  I can break down complex situations and explain them in easy-to-understand ways.  I tend to understand what people are thinking, and I get when people don’t understand what’s happening.  I try to read people and see when they’re not getting it, and ask the questions that reveal where the disconnect is.

What are some binge-worthy shows we might find on your DVR right now?

Ray Donovan; Power; Real Housewives; Inside the NFL and the FOX NFL pre-game; and General Hospital.

What’s the most recent photo on your phone?

I am obsessed with documenting everything.  So, if I buy something, I’ll take a picture of it.  I just bought a sweatshirt, for example, so I took a photo of it with the tag – that way I know how much it cost, where I bought it, and the brand and size.  I get a lot of ideas, and screenshots from the web etc.  My niece just wrote me a nice note, so I took a photo of that and stored it in my phone.  Those are the kinds of photos you’ll find on my phone.

What was your biggest success as President of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA)?

When I took over the presidency of NAPIA, there was a lot of turmoil within the organization.  I was able to quell tensions and get the organization back on track.  I’m really proud of the work I did to restore order to this amazing organization.  We moved on, and now we’re in really good shape.

What’s it like working every day with family members?

For me, it’s good.  Having my sister one door down from me is a nice comfort.  Of course, it can also be a source of pressure, because you can get upset with one another and it can easily overflow into the personal.  But I don’t consider this a job – it’s really my life.  So, having family involved feels perfectly natural.

What’s your best professional advice?

Learn something every day. Spend at least 30 minutes a day learning a new skill or piece of information.

What is some personal advice you can suggest?

Meditate every day – it’s so helpful.  I recommend the Nucalm device.  For people who have difficulty meditating, it makes a huge difference.  It forces you to meditate.

What’s your biggest fear?

Drowning or being underground.

What do you like most about your office culture?

We’re always having fun in this office – thank goodness.  Our recent photo shoot is a good example of how we have fun together and laugh a lot.  Everyone can let go and have a good time.  And that’s really important.

Swerling Milton Winnick

Swerling Milton Winnick

If you’ve had a fire, flood or other property loss resulting in an insurance claim, and need a public insurance adjuster in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New England or anywhere in the U.S. or Caribbean, call Swerling Milton Winnick. We are the oldest and largest public adjusting firm in New England, and our team of experts will give you personalized, 24/7 attention to successfully resolve your residential or business insurance claim.
If you’ve had a fire, flood or other property loss resulting in an insurance claim, and need a public insurance adjuster in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New England or anywhere in the U.S. or Caribbean, call Swerling Milton Winnick. We are the oldest and largest public adjusting firm in New England, and our team of experts will give you personalized, 24/7 attention to successfully resolve your residential or business insurance claim.