Earlier this week, David and Dorothy Snyder announced that Michael A. Upchurch had purchased The Delta Group of Settlement Companies effective March 1, 2008. As the new owner, Chairman and CEO of Delta Settlements, Michael Upchurch becomes a prominent stakeholder and participant in the structured settlement market. Upchurch agreed to provide S2KM with the following exclusive interview. Upchurch responded in writing to S2KM's written questions:
What is your professional background?
After graduating with an MBA from Southern Methodist University, I began my professional career with IBM. At IBM, l specialized in the integration of advancing technologies into established business processes. This skill set appears to be increasingly important within the structured settlement and settlement planning industries.
In 2003, I entered the structured settlement industry with Ringler Associates. The following year, I decided to focus exclusively on helping injury victims and their attorneys. In 2004, I left Ringler and formed Upchurch Financial Services (UFS). During the past four years, UFS has enjoyed positive and productive relationships with Millennium Settlements and National Settlement Consultants. Throughout this learning process, I have attempted to distinguish myself as a leading structured settlement consultant. My focus has been on increasing the overall utility of the settlement and the efficiency of the settlement process.
Effective March 1, 2008, David Snyder and Dorothy Snyder have announced the sale of Delta Settlements to me. I am honored to be associated with Delta, Dave and Dorothy and excited about the future of Delta Settlements and structured settlements.
What are your interests outside of business?
My wife, Holly, is my college sweetheart from Emory University. We have three children Mick (10), Isabella (8) and William (5). Whatever personal time I have is devoted to my family.
What prompted you to enter the structured settlement industry?
My father, John J. Upchurch, introduced me to structured settlements. My father is a former judge who was instrumental in establishing the mediation legislation in the state of Florida. He retired from the bench and established a mediation practice that has become one of the most successful and respected mediation firms in the United States. As a mediator, my father helps resolve complex cases every day.
My father taught me the challenge and importance of meeting the medical needs of catastrophic injury victims - how to deal with ongoing medical expenses even before a case is settled. That planning challenge requires knowledge about Medicaid and Medicare. My father pointed out the disconnect that frequently occurs among the victims' legal and financial advisors, as well as the defendants, in addressing medical expenses.
My father recognized early the importance and opportunity for integrated analytics, financial services and care solutions. My father thought my business talents and interests would be a good match for the structured settlement and settlement planning industries.
What successes have you achieved in your structured settlement career to date?
I have been fortunate to have great teachers and mentors. I have learned from some of the most influential trial attorneys in the state of Florida. Specifically, E. Clay Parker has played a key role in my professional development. Clay taught me how to evaluate different insurance policies and understand the relationships between the different defendants and key insurance stakeholders. This type of analysis is extremely important when advising trial attorneys on settlement strategy. As a structured settlement professional who advises trial attorneys, I have the opportunity to communicate and practice Clay's lessons on a weekly basis.
Within the structured settlement industry, I have learned from some of the industry leaders. Scott Hoover taught me about the defense side of the business. Chris Diamantis taught me the challenges of building, managing and maintaining a multi-disciplined settlement firm. Most recently, Michael and Bill Goodman taught me about execution, organizational development and excellence. Michael and Bill have been exceptional friends and mentors.
My past successes are defined by my personal structured settlement production. Upchurch Financial and Delta Settlements will continue to be production leaders within the structured settlement industry. In addition to growing the structured settlement market, however, I want to improve the structured settlement industry. I want to do more for personal injury victims and their families.
What changes do you see occurring in the structured settlement market?
This is an exciting time to be part of the structured settlement industry. Many changes are creating new business opportunities. Obviously, the impact of government benefits is significant. Medicaid and Medicare legislation is re-defining structured settlements and settlement planning. Trusts and other banking products are important and those markets will continue to grow rapidly. The secondary markets are impacting all financial and estate planning - including structured settlements. I want Delta to become the most knowledgeable structured settlement company about the secondary markets. We need to help personal injury victims before and after the settlement. The Internet impacts everyone and every business. Delta will continue to be a technology leader within the structured settlement industry.
What opportunities do you see to grow the structured settlement market?
NSSTA published some market research last year that indicated we have hardly scratched the surface in developing the structured settlement market. Annuities are great products. We are fortunate to have excellent federal and state legislation for structured settlements. If we can develop the same type of rules for Medicaid and Medicare, structured settlements have a great future. It is important for all structured settlement stakeholders to understand the issues and to collaborate to develop the opportunities.
Why did you purchase Delta Settlements?
Delta Settlements is a fantastic company. Delta has wonderful owners, outstanding producers and employees. I am honored to be associated with Delta. Dave and Dorothy Snyder and my family share many of the same personal and business values. Delta has an important future. Delta is strategically positioned for success.
What role do you anticipate Delta will play in the structured settlement market?
Delta will continue to be a leader. We want to build upon the legacy and success that Delta has already achieved. We want to be the best structured settlement company - whatever positive performance metrics you apply.
How do you see the following developments impacting structured settlements?
- Government benefits - Medicaid and Medicare legislation have already revolutionized structured settlements. Any structured settlement leader who wants to remain a leader must offer knowledge, services and skill sets specific to government benefits.
- Secondary markets - The secondary markets are a legal and business reality. Unfortunately, our industry has not yet developed an adequate strategy to address the issues created by factoring. As an industry, we should be more proactive in developing best practices related to factoring. We should advise our clients before and following the settlement. Where factoring is appropriate, we should assist the original structured settlement recipient to obtain as much money as possible. Delta Settlements wants to play a leadership role in helping our industry develop a more enlightened, and more effective, factoring strategy. If done correctly, we can improve our sales growth as well as improve the secondary market.
- Internet technologies - As you might guess with my background at IBM, I am very focused on integrating technologies into the structured settlement market. Over the past three years, Upchurch Financial has built and tested a technology-based marketing and case management system. Over the coming year we will extend this platform to Delta and many of our clients. In addition, we anticipate using Delta's website as a platform to provide services and applications for our consultants and clients. Strategically, we expect our technology expertise to be an important differentiating advantage in the structured settlement marketplace.
For additional information about Delta Settlements, see S2KM's blog post titled "Michael Upchurch Purchases Delta Settlements".