Behind the list with Bruce M. Eckert

Chairman and chief executive officer of Eastern Insurance Holdings Inc.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your industry right now?
A: The industry … tends to be cyclical, and at the moment, we’re in that part of the pricing cycle where, from the insurance company side, there’s a lot of competition on price. And so, in the vernacular, it’s a soft market as opposed to a hard market. Typically also in the soft part of the cycle, you do get (competition from) some of the national companies that in other parts of the cycle aren’t particularly interested in workers’ compensation, which is all we do.

Q: What do you do about it?
A: We are a mono-line workers’ compensation carrier, and we are heavily focused on providing services to the insured customers through strong relationships with their – and our – agents. So you really try to be as accommodating as you can be on the premium/pricing side, but you really emphasize the fact that, number one, we’re a stable player in the marketplace. We’re not in now and out tomorrow. And then, second, you emphasize the service.

Q: How do you feel about doing business in Central Pennsylvania?
A: We are heavily tied to the Central Pennsylvania marketplace. Workers’ compensation totally runs off of payroll, so we’re very attendant to county unemployment rates and are sort of heartened, if you will, by the fact that even in this economic cycle, the unemployment rates in Central Pennsylvania on average continue to perform better than (elsewhere). We really like where we are.

Q: What’s your biggest personnel challenge?
A: We’ve continued to grow so we continue to look for new personnel. We’ve decided we have to train in-house. There’s just not a lot of insurance industry talent in Central Pennsylvania. This generation has mobility in mind more than previous generations. You’re going to not be able to retain all the people that you’ve (trained). I don’t think that’s unique to us.

Q: What do you enjoy about insurance?
A: I really like the relationships that are important to the insurance industry, and that’s the (relationships) with the American independent agency system and then, though them, their customers. So it’s very much a people and relationship business, and I have always enjoyed that aspect of any type of business.
-David Dagan

About Bruce M. Eckert
Bruce Eckert is chairman and chief executive officer of Eastern Insurance Holdings Inc., a Lancaster-based insurance carrier focused on workers’ compensation. He has 26 years of experience at the executive level in the insurance industry, including a stint leading Rockwood Casualty Insurance Co. in Somerset County from 1989 to 1994. He is a partner at Lewis, Eckert and Robb & Company, a management-consulting firm in Montgomery County.
Eckert serves on the boards of the Pennsylvania Ballet, Mercersburg Academy and several financial companies.
He has a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from the Dickinson School of Law.
Eckert, 64, grew up in Lebanon County and now lives in Montgomery County. He and his wife, Lori, have four married children and 10 grandchildren.

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