“I just love hearing the stories of our members,” she says. “There is so much history, nostalgia and emotion in every car and it is amazing to be able to offer a service at Hagerty that allows people to follow their passion.”
All about the people
Champagne has always been a sociable person. A graduate of the University of Michigan’s Executive Human Resources program and a member of the Society of Human Resource Managers, she began her career as an executive at a national bank specializing in retail lending, where she oversaw a region’s generation of federally guaranteed mortgages.
Champagne joined Hagerty in 1999 as Head of Sales and Service Operations. In 2002, she was promoted to vice president of human resources and later to senior vice president and chief people officer. In this role, she was responsible for setting strategic direction and ensuring Hagerty’s workforce was prepared to deliver on company growth initiatives through recruitment, corporate development and maintaining employee touchpoints that reflect the company’s unique corporate culture.
In 2018, Champagne became the second woman in Hagerty’s history to be appointed chief operating officer. Today, she works with Hagerty’s leadership team to oversee the company’s member sales and service, strategic planning, human resources, employee engagement, growth culture and more.
“Hagerty has become a market leader and an automotive brand recognized worldwide for excellence precisely because we have such great people,” says Champagne. “Since joining Hagerty, my passion has been helping employees reach their full potential so they, in turn, can continue to help us make Hagerty a stronger company and a great place to work. That continues to be a key focus for me as COO.”
“I just love hearing the stories of our members. There is so much history, nostalgia and emotion in every car and it is amazing to be able to offer a service at Hagerty that allows people to follow their passion.”
creating a community
During Champagne’s tenure at Hagerty, the company transitioned from an insurance-based model to a membership model, with a vision of nurturing one of the world’s largest communities of classic car enthusiasts. Hagerty continues to offer market-leading classic car insurance products, including specialty offerings such as estimated residual value coverage, immediate purchase coverage and auto show health coverage. It also operates the Hagerty Drivers Club, which gives members access to world-class roadside assistance, including guaranteed flatbed truck towing, real-time truck tracking and unlimited service calls per year. Members also receive daily updates on the classic car market and can sign up for monthly newsletters or the bi-monthly Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. They also get exclusive event access and discounts from automotive suppliers.
“We are successful because of the strength of our brand,” says Champagne. “We have an amazing brand team that works incredibly hard to create and maintain this wonderful customer experience and that has really contributed to our incredible growth trajectory. We now have more than 650,000 Hagerty Drivers Club members, 3.1 million followers on Facebook, 287,000 Instagram fans and 20,000 Twitter followers, not to mention 1.6 million YouTube subscribers – and they are all committed to the brand Hagerty and her car enthusiasts regularly.”
“We have an amazing brand team that works incredibly hard to create and maintain this wonderful customer experience and that has really contributed to our incredible growth trajectory.”
Hagerty Drivers Club members do not need to take out insurance to become a member. Many first join to become part of the community, explains Champagne, and as they engage with Hagerty’s ever-expanding range of services, they naturally turn to the company for their classic car insurance needs. This has led to growth in Hagerty’s direct-to-consumer offering, which accounts for 46% of sales alongside sales through agency partners (54%).
“One thing that’s really close to my heart is attracting and retaining top talent,” says Champagne. “In a way we are fortunate because many of the people who work for Hagerty bring with them a passion for classic cars or motorsport and they look forward to connecting with our members and finding new ways to connect with the community . But it has always been my policy to attract the best possible talent to the job, regardless of their background or interests. Insurance is a people business; it’s about relationships and we’re looking for talent who can meet the unique needs of our very passionate members.”
Hagerty’s support of its members also extends to community grants. In April 2020, the company launched a Restore the Roar grant initiative to help enthusiastic vehicle restorers, specialty parts manufacturers and other related businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19. Hagerty has reallocated its entire budget from partnerships and events (which have been canceled due to the pandemic) to support small businesses with grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. “This is another example of how we support our members’ passions even during these unprecedented times,” said Champagne. “We’re all in this together.” It’s often said that the best cars are the ones with great stories; Perhaps the best insurers are the ones with great brands. That’s certainly the road Champagne has been cruising – and she’s had a pretty smooth ride.