2016 was a big year for insurance claims – but who are the people behind the scenes, making sure customers receive the best service possible?
|Martin Ashfield, claims technical director, Axa Insurance|
|Eva Berg-Winters, head of UK claims, Hiscox|
|David Bonehill, claims and risk services director, Ecclesiastical|
|Travis Bowles, global head of property and casualty claims, MS Amlin|
|Jon Cawley, underwriting head of claims, Towergate|
|Ian Currie, UK motor and injury claims director, RSA|
|Anna Fleming, UK chief claims officer, Zurich Insurance|
|Adrian Furness, claims director, Covéa|
|Amanda Langer, senior claims manager, global property and casualty, business solutions, Scor SE – UK Branch|
|Sarah Mallaby, head of technical claims, supplier services & experts, Allianz|
|Sue McCall, head of claims, Aspen Risk Management|
|Martin Milliner, general insurance claims director, LV|
|Karl Parr, head of claims technical excellence and development, Ageas|
|John Pyall, head of facilitated claims unit, Munich Re UK branch|
|Andrew Wilkinson, director of technical claims, Aviva|
How would you sum up 2016 from a claims professional point of view?
Ashfield: 2016 has been a relentless year for insurance claims. We started off with major flood events at the beginning of the year, which produced some difficult, long-tail claims. Throughout the year, smaller floods made matters worse. Away from property, we have had to deal with a rising tide of personal injury claims, which takes a great deal of energy and effort to handle.
Berg-Winters: A year of steady progress.
Bonehill: As a property insurer, the unpredictability of weather surge events, more localised, more frequent allied with the need for continuous improvements focusing on delivering service to our customers when they are most in need.
Cawley: A year of many changes providing a huge opportunity for claims professionals and claims functions to demonstrate the value they can add if rapidly adopting digital technologies and robotics to improve efficiencies and the customer experience.
Furness: Exciting. We never stand still. New legislation on potential reform of the legal system and exciting developments in technology, what’s not to like?
Mallaby: 2016 was a mixed bag of ups and downs. On the plus side, following the devastating floods at the end of 2015, we delivered for our customers and we have continued to support them during their time of need. On the down side, phishing, vishing, SMS phishing and the continued cold-calling and aggressive farming of claims by claims management companies, has been increasingly challenging. There is also the need to understand the impact of Brexit, as well as the likely impact of autonomous vehicles and wider digitalisation.
Milliner: A bit like the Hokey Cokey. Dealing with the consequences of the Brexit in/out and then a shake it all about whiplash consultation.
Parr: 2016 was a year of mixed feelings – from frustration to anticipation and excitement. For a claims professional, it is still frustrating the great work that has been done doesn’t get greater recognition. This is especially true when unexpected weather events happen. At these times, the industry focuses on the impact this will have on premiums rather than looking at the positive impact of an expert service received from a claims team when help was needed most. But 2016 has also been exciting because of the constant challenges and changes that have come our way.
Pyall: Another tough year in terms of rates and market conditions with regulation once again coming to the fore. With margins becoming tighter, the use of both internal and external resources is being scrutinised more closely and hard decisions are being made regarding staffing. Whether this will come back to haunt us in the future, if and when, we have further natural catastrophes remains to be seen.
Wilkinson: A very unpredictable year, we have ended up expecting the unexpected!
What words and phrases sum up the perfect claims professional?
What was your claims highlight of the year?
Ashfield: 2016 has been a pivotal year for flood claims. Public opinion, and the view of the media, seems to have shifted, and there is a recognition that the insurance industry is doing its utmost to handle these claims. We are certainly held in higher regard than we were just two years ago and excusing the pun, I am hopeful that this could well be viewed as a watershed moment for the industry. However, we cannot rest on our laurels, good feedback means there are greater expectations. If we collaborate more on these claims as an industry we can improve even further.
Berg-Winters: The Insurance Act 2015 taking effect. I see this as a significant step forward regarding the relationship between insurers and their customers.
Cawley: The government’s decision to press ahead with the consultation on soft tissue injuries, despite the amount of parliamentary time that will undoubtedly be utilised for Brexit. This demonstrates how concerned the government is with the current legal framework for minor injury compensation claims and its impact on the general public’s finances.
Fleming: The government casting an even sterner eye over whiplash injury payouts. We look forward to participating in this consultation and ensuring that we continue to provide redress where genuine accident and injury has occurred. Whiplash has increasingly become seen as the ‘fraud of choice’ for many and we are pleased to see efforts to reduce these claims, which are ultimately funded by all motorists.
Langer: How the London market has pulled together on some global catastrophes.
McCall: Working closely with one of our major clients’ health and safety team, we have reduced claims frequency and average claims costs. Less people injured and less claims is without doubt my claims highlight.
Milliner: Successful and collective action that has finally brought about the whiplash consultation.
What was your claims lowlight of the year?
Ashfield: The ongoing tide of injury claims has been disappointing, especially considering it comes against a backdrop of falling road traffic accidents. To date there has been a lack of progress made in terms of tackling this epidemic but the latest Ministry of Justice proposals, if implemented, would be a huge leap in the right direction.
Berg-Winters: The postponement of the whiplash reforms – but there is now hope again!
Currie: The lack of progress by government in addressing some of the infrastructure issues created or highlighted by last year’s floods.
Fleming: This year and indeed every year I’m frustrated by the continued misconception that insurance companies don’t pay out claims. Zurich UK paid out £1bn of claims in the first half of 2016 – 17 payments of which were over £1m, demonstrating that we are there for our customers when we need to be.
Furness: Not winning Post’s Claims Innovation of the year award.
Mallaby: The continued aggressive vishing against insurers that is driven by the excess cash in our compensation system. At Allianz we are very proud of our vishing counter fraud initiative. The fact that such initiatives are necessary is a sad indictment of the compensation culture in this country.
McCall: As an industry, we did a fantastic job with the year-end floods but that wasn’t reported by the press.
Milliner: The rise in non-personal injury claims costs, in no small way due to the market, almost universally, deciding to take advantage of the consequences of Coles v Hetherton and the inaction of the Competition and Markets Authority enquiry into the private motor market.
Parr: While the way we dealt with the flood claims was a positive experience, that the floods happened and impacted on our customers’ daily lives was a terrible situation. We have been vocal about the need to tackle third-party costs across the industry, and have put innovative solutions in place to do just that. For Ageas, we’d also like to see further regulation of CMCs and medical reporting organisations to eradicate bad practices. Finally, much more should be done by government to invest more money to help improve safety on our roads.
Pyall: The fact the Insurance Act has not even been allowed to embed before brokers are already trying to ‘move the goalposts’.
Wilkinson: After the high of the 2015 Autumn Statement and the promise of a consultation, when it was announced this was to be deprioritised, it was really disappointing and by far the low point of the year.
Claims heroes and villains
Who is your insurance claims hero of 2016?
Ashfield: Former Law Commissioner David Hertzell, pictured, helped bring in one of the most substantial changes in our industry for more than a century when the Insurance Act came into force in August. I’m sure his work with the government’s Insurance Fraud Taskforce will have just as significant an impact.
Currie: Peter Shaw [CEO, Thatcham], has massively raised the profile of the insurance industry’s “hidden gem”.
Furness: The Association of British Insurers’ director of general insurance policy James Dalton for pushing to get whiplash reform on the government agenda.
Mallaby: [Secretary of State for Justice] Liz Truss for surprising us with the launch of the consultation on the whiplash reforms, having indicated that the reforms were to be delayed only weeks earlier.
Pyall: Not sure between Boris Johnson [MP] or Nigel Farage [former UK Independence Party leader], but feel either has managed potentially to keep me in a job for years to come.
Wilkinson: Maurice Tulloch – Aviva’s [general insurance] CEO – he has worked tirelessly both internally and with the industry as a whole on making sure the customers’ best interests are at the heart of what we do.
Who is your insurance claims villain of 2016?
Bonehill: HM Treasury, pictured, for increasing insurance premium tax and putting a further strain on customers’ limited disposable income.
Currie: The weather.
Furness: Anthony Rattigan (jailed for committing fraud to the detriment of his employer, RSA).
McCall: I would put procurement managers at the top of my list. Lengthy tender processes and high-level cost savings do not always benefit the customer or reduce claims costs.
Milliner: The Solicitors Regulation Authority for failing to deal strongly enough with the poor behaviours of a minority of players in the personal injury market.
Parr: The gamers, the exploiters, the leeches, the ‘trying to get rich quick off someone else’s misfortune’ gang.
Wilkinson: Access to Justice action group.
What are the biggest issues your business faces in terms of handling claims in the near future?
Berg-Winters: How we handle cyber risks is a rapidly changing part of the market and evolving our claims response will continue to be a challenge for the whole industry over the next few years.
Bonehill: Supplier capacity for managing a major catastrophe event in the UK – this must be recognised as an industry wide challenge. Ensuring our people have the right blend of technical and soft skills.
Bowles: The single biggest issue to tackle is the continuous penetration of new technologies in the claims handling environment – this is not only from a client experience perspective, but also includes factors like provision of data/analytics and advisory services.
Currie: The potential inflationary impact of Brexit. The probable changes to our injury claims processes. And the continuing increase in customer expectations.
Cawley: Retaining and attracting skilled claims professionals and maintaining investment in digital enhancements to ensure the claims service proposition can keep pace with and challenge our competitors.
Fleming: Talent retention – in a competitive market talent retention will be more important. Automation – the insurance industry has often been accused of being slow to change. However, the increasing way our services are automated, as radical a shift that it might seem, will be of paramount importance to respond to our customers’ needs. Customer expectations – our customers demand more from us so we need to be in constant contact with them to ensure the services we are offering are the services they want.
Furness: Ensuring we continue to put the customer first in an age of digitalisation and meet demands. Dealing with the advance in vehicle technology and repair complexity, and cost, and ensuring we meet the challenge of reducing the impact of the compensation culture.
Langer: Dealing with the economic consequences of Brexit and the US election
McCall: Climate change, maintaining high standards with strong organic growth and staying ahead of the curve with technology.
Milliner: The balance between driving efficiency and controlling indemnity spend, meeting the demands of our customers through digital transformation and supporting our people and supplier partners on that journey. And working with our pricing and underwriting colleagues to make sense of advanced driver assistance system technologies, Brexit and soft tissue injury reform.
Pyall: First, resources and making the most of the resources available to ensure that we don’t face any conduct risk issues. Second, compliance and the increasing need to ensure that we achieve all the necessary requirements regulators have and will continue to impose. Finally, technology and dealing with the digital world and how to respond accordingly.
Wilkinson: Digital/automation of claims processes – we want to incorporate digital and autonomous claims processes to ensure our customers have the best claims experience possible. Autonomous vehicles – this is the future and there are numerous questions about how insurance is going to work and what model should be adopted. Brexit and the uncertainty that comes with this.
Who from the non-insurance world do you think would make a great claims professional and why?
Ashfield: It’s very difficult to choose between tennis player Andy Murray, pictured, and football pundit Gary Lineker. Murray is determined, dogged and a great problem solver – becoming world number one while playing in the same era as Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic is no mean feat. On the other hand, Lineker is a great communicator – the way he conducts himself on Twitter is brilliant – has a great sense of humour and already has an interest in the sector. We would have to remind him that he can’t turn up to work in his underpants though.
Berg-Winters: [Amazon founder] Jeff Bezos: he built a business that is customer-obsessed, constantly evolving to leverage new digital opportunities and successfully using analytics to the benefit of customers and shareholders.
Bonehill: Eddie Jones, England RFU head Coach. Takes individuals and moulds them into a coherent team with real focus on delivering results. No one player is more important than another.
Currie: Liverpool football manager Jurgen Klopp, a charismatic, brilliant leader, no nonsense, understands the importance of team… wouldn’t he be just fantastic taking first notification of loss calls.
Cawley: Virgin founder Richard Branson: A man with vision, not afraid to take risks, embraces the new opportunities and relishes being a market disrupter.
Fleming: I’m a huge fan of former rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward. He has the ability to inspire a whole team while simultaneously bringing out the best in individuals.
Furness: Spanish football coach Pep Guardiola – passionate, innovative, solution focussed and strives to give the customer what they desire.
Mallaby: Allianz is a very proud sponsor of Paralympics GB. I had the pleasure of listening to several of our medal winning Paralympians talk at our recent managers’ conference. Paralympian Hannah Cockroft spoke with passion and energy about equality. She is a determined individual who demonstrates all the attributes of a world class leader. Her pragmatic style and approach would fit in perfectly in a high performing claims team.
McCall: Comedian Stephen Fry – smart, charismatic, engaging, a great sponsor of diversity and an all-round hero of mine.
Milliner: Judge Rinder: Gets the evidence, makes sound and balanced judgments. And like most people in insurance claims, doesn’t mind making a fool of himself on the dance floor!
Parr: TV character Homer Simpson because he could predict the future – Donald Trump as President. If you could do that then that then just imagine. He also has a sense of humour and likes the odd beer, which also helps.
Pyall: England football manager Gareth Southgate, who has succeeded on a smaller scale when nobody really noticed. A person nobody really can take offence at and who manages to stay positive about a team that everyone knows isn’t really any good. And, typically for claims, he gets promoted because he is the only one left after everyone else has made a mess of things.
Wilkinson: Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO – he is bringing new ideas to an established company which are enhancing the customer’s experience.
If you could go back in time five years what would you do or change to positively influence the claims sector in 2017?
Ashfield: If we could have foreseen the proliferation of CMS and the disruption caused by the growth in dishonest personal injury claims, I’m sure the insurance industry would have done more to exclude these firms from the claims process.
Berg-Winters: Build an industry platform to better exchange (anonymous) data to prevent and mitigate losses.
Bonehill: Engage earlier with some of the technological developments that are happening and available to improve service to customers.
Bowles: Recruit a higher number of younger people into the business who are more advanced in the adoption of new technologies.
Fleming: I’d try even harder to devise innovative ways to attract and retain the right talent to help support future growth.
Furness: Try even harder to reach agreement on insurer subrogation practices and credit hire reform.
Mallaby: Ideally, I would have liked to go back further in time and campaigned against the recoverability of success fees and after the event premiums introduced in 2000 and the lifting of the ban on referral fees in 2004. While both were reversed through Lord Justice Jackson’s 2013 reforms, the claims farming industry created on the back of those reforms, now appears irreversible.
McCall: I’d start with the schools so we could attract and develop technically excellent claims people for the future. As I’m allowed to make changes, I’d also alter the global weather and remove all the catastrophe claims and prevent the devastating affects upon people and communities.
Milliner: Having been far more active in campaigning for ‘Safe Young Drivers’, an issue that is shamefully still well down the list of government priorities.
Parr: I’d look at preventing how claims can be gamed and prevent it at source. I would also look at the use of credit hire and work out how the need for mobility could have been better provided for all of our benefit. And, by taking a broader market and product view a few years ago, we could have prevented some of the issues we try to combat today.
Pyall: I would look to convince claims people to look beyond the existing infrastructure and examine how they could approach cloud based technology so that we were not two steps behind other financial services but one step ahead.
Wilkinson: While the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act has had a positive impact, if we knew then what we know now we would have been pushing for a more radical agenda.
How would you sell a career in claims to someone who was just starting their insurance career?
Berg-Winters: Claims is the heart of insurance – what we sell is a promise to pay and claims delivers that promise. It touches many parts of the business – from underwriting and operations to customer service and communications – and a career in claims provides great career opportunities.
Bonehill: A real focus on the personal aspects of claims management with the ability to make a difference to people’s lives when they need support and solutions.
Currie: As a claims handler, you get to be a ‘superhero’ every day to the legion of customers who need our support in their time of need.
Fleming: If you’re looking for the variety that comes from communicating with people from all walks of life, daily challenges that will really test your intellect as well as the chance to make a genuine difference, then join claims.
Furness: It’s fast paced, dynamic and requires innovative customer solutions. It’s also an opportunity to really make a difference to both customers and the business. Surely that’s an easy sell?
Langer: Emphasise opportunities, variety and relevance.
Mallaby: It is a profession. After a few years study, you will be a chartered insurer. The opportunities within claims are vast and interesting. The casualty claims handlers of today will be the cyber risk specialists of tomorrow. The motor claims handlers of today could be investigating hacked driverless car claims and potentially passenger carrying drone claims. Property claims can involve innovative solutions to keep commercial customers trading. Claims departments never stay still. We are constantly evolving, adapting and innovating in an ever changing legal framework. We are engaging with solicitors, barristers, loss adjusters and other experts. Niche specialist insurance products require specialist claims handlers. We live in an increasingly global claims world. Insurance is exciting and claims is absolutely part of that.
McCall: Claims is the most interesting part of insurance. I’d only need 10 minutes with them, a few examples of how they can make a difference by delivering on that contractual promise or getting someone back to work and they’d be on board.
Parr: Claims has a variety of opportunities – with such a wide range of areas including customer services, claims adjusting, engineers, project management and analysis, we are even able to influence how the government looks at what the public requires from insurance. Having previous claims experience is not essential for the role – because you’ll be given all the training needed to help you become the best. There are probably a whole host of skills you already have and which you want to develop and a career in the claims industry is an exceptional place to work on your personal development. And what more could you want from your working day than going home in the knowledge that you have solved a variety of problems and made a real difference to the people when they need help.
Pyall: I would not. At this point I would suggest to people that unless they had a very specialist knowledge that they could use specifically in the claims arena or a real passion for handling claims I would suggest that a ‘career’ in claims is very unlikely. It would be important that people understand claims and how this area is key in the overall management of insurance products but as a long-term career it would not be something I would promote given the pressure on resources at this time.
The Post Claims Club has been a fixture of the UK insurance market for almost 15 years, offering a forum for senior insurance professional to network, debate and set the agenda for claims sector.
As we enter 2017, Post has decided to freshen things up, and to make sure the membership is fully engaged we are requesting all members reapply and reaffirm their support, with the added bonus that all members – previously only senior claims officials – can now nominate a rising star from within their organisation to join them.
Among the benefits you will both receive include:
- FREE access to our series of quarterly meetings
- FREE access to the annual Claims Club Summit on 27 September 2017
- COMPLIMENTARY place at the annual Claims Club Dinner on 16 March 2017 at The Under Globe, London
- 50% DISCOUNT on our annual Motor Insurance World on 25 May 2017 at Fenchurch Street, London
- 10% DISCOUNT on Post premium subscription in print and online
The first quarterly meeting is already looking like a must-attend event, with a focus on how digital is revolutionising the claims space, something the Club’s advisory board has noted is among the most important issues facing the sector according to the responses in this article.
Among the speakers are:
- Gareth Howell, managing director of personal direct and retail partnerships, Axa Insurance, on handling claims in partnership with insurtech start-ups such as Trov
- Paul Lynes, managing director, Back Me Up, on introducing fraud controls in a digital market
- Neos chief financial officer Michael Postle and Homeserve Labs managing director Craig Foster on the connected home
- Dylan Bourguignon, CEO, So Sure, on peer-to-peer insurance
- Renaud Million, Co-founder & CEO, Spixii, on use of chat bots and automation
So if you were a member before, re-sign up; if you have never been a member now is the perfect time to get on board. For details of how to join and attend the meetings go to www.postclaimsclub.co.uk
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Marking #InternationalDisabilityDay with some great personal stories highlighting the unique talents people with disability can bring to our business. Thank you to all our speakers Steven Dows, Emma Case, Marianne Waite, Paul Dockerty #futureisaccessible pic.twitter.com/7x4eWGtEWh— AXA UK (@AXAUK) December 3, 2019
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