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Claims Administration...Cost or Benefit?

When I started my career in insurance claims in 1978 in my native Cork an insured party notified a claim to Insurers who were represented by a Loss Adjuster. The Adjuster then reported his findings to the company and the claim was either paid following negotiation or turned down.

Then, Broker involvement was not a significant factor unless the amount involved was considerable, now how times have changed!

Preferential outsourcing to Loss Adjusting firms and changes in Insurance Companies expectations of them (less detailed reports, reduced fees and the introduction of the practice of auditing Loss Adjusters) has led to marked changes in that profession. Their professionalism remains unaltered but changes imposed on them have led to a real need for insured parties to be independently represented by a public Loss Assessor.

The concept of independent advice is close to the heart of all IBA & PIBA members and indeed is at the kernel of what professional broking is about. Society itself also demands Best Advice from every level, including independent Brokers.

Traditionally in Ireland there were a small number of specialist Loss Assessing firms and a large number of independent assessors, architects, surveyors, engineers etc. who developed reputations and dealt with claims on an ad hoc basis. The market has now changed and there is a real demand for a national professional Loss Assessing firm who can provide comprehensive Claims Solutions for all situations.

Whether from insured parties directly, or from insurance brokers, there is now a real demand for competent and skilled advice in claim situations running from small domestic claims to larger commercial incidents. In the post trust environment the public are not unreasonable in expecting advice on issues of policy interpretation and guidance through the claims process generally.

The Financial Regulator has noted this and has insisted that insurance companies advise clients, when reporting a claim, that they are entitled to retain their own assessor. Unfortunately, it appears that not all insurance companies adhere to the spirit of this instruction and when that is associated with:-

..... Tougher approaches taken by insurance companies when dealing with claims directly;
..... Commercial pressure being exerted on loss adjusting firms;
..... Consumer demand for best advice;

then it is clear that there is a real and expanding demand for independent claims advice.

IBA & PIBA members have a deserved reputation for focusing on their clients needs and have shown a real ability to develop and grow businesses, sometimes from quite humble beginnings. The independence associated with IBA & PIBA which has helped achieve this will, inevitably, lead to a demand for advice on certain aspects of our industry and we believe that utilising the services of public loss assessors like Owens McCarthy can remove the considerable administrative pressure that this places on independent brokers.

As with broking companies, loss assessors vary significantly in size and ability and careful consideration should be given to the following when selecting an assessor:-

a) Is the firm regulated?

b) Can you get advice on policy interpretation, market practice and the suitability of sums insured for your clients?

c) Has your assessor the capacity to provide your customers with the 24/7 dedicated Call Assist Centre vital to the speedy handling of their queries and processing their claims?

d) Has your assessor the financial ability and commitment to develop nationwide, provide specialist IT Services and commit to growth and profitability?

e) Can your assessor achieve client satisfaction by obtaining better and faster claim outcomes through professional representation?

f) Does your assessor operate a Rebate Scheme to reflect brokers involvement in the processing of claims?

In short, the right assessor will...

..... Manage the client relationship on your behalf throughout the claims process;

..... Enhance your reputation and improve client retention;

..... Increase your revenue stream.

In championing the case for Public Loss Assessors I realise that I can be accused of acting from self-interest. However I am convinced that their role in todays changing market place is an increasingly important one particularly for IBA & PIBA members, offering, as it does, an opportunity for them to nail their colours to the mast in defence of their clients interests.

Eamonn Downey is a past President of The Insurance Institute of Ireland and is Business Development Director of Owens McCarthy Ltd. Claims Solution Providers. eamonn@owensmccarthy.com