Gerry Loughney, chairman, Cunningham Lindsey UK - A born leader

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The winner of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award has dedicated his working life to the loss adjusting profession - and to the development of many of those working in it - as Anthony Gould reports

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After nearly 40 years in one industry, and in one company, give or take a few takeovers, mergers and acquisitions, Gerry Loughney - chairman of Cunningham Lindsey UK - is the undisputed statesman of the loss adjusting fraternity. And, after all these years in the profession, his passion for claims is unremitting as evidenced by his recent decision to take on the role of chair of the Faculty of Claims.

Mr Loughney started out as a trainee adjuster at Ellis and Buckle in 1970 - having joined from insurer General Accident - becoming a branch manager in Swansea in 1973. In the same year he completed his Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters exams and was an institute prize winner.

A former colleague says it was clear from the early days that he was earmarked for greater things by the management at the time, and five years later he became an associate director - also completing his FCILA that year. In 1983 he was moved to Ellis and Buckle's head office in London's Shaftesbury Avenue and - lo and behold - five years later he became managing director.

The majority of market commentators agree that he has consistently been at the front of the pack in the loss adjusting sector, leading and inspiring his teams to meet constantly changing market and client needs. For example, he picked up early on that the insurance market wanted different approaches to subsidence and major loss claims - and he delivered new solutions - setting up a specialist adjusting unit to handle major work, staffed by senior adjusters who did not get diverted to management, and putting together a project-managed approach to subsidence. Both initiatives ultimately changed the way the industry handled such claims.

In 1993, the company was re-organised to form a more modern professional practice with regional and technical directors - and a small board for quick decision making. The focus then, which was not common in the industry, was very much on the customer and the motto was "customer driven, expertise led". A later motto, and again one that still has resonance today was "delivering the promises" - these both get straight to the heart of what claims is, or should be, all about.

In the early 1990s the market was changing - yet again - with insurers bringing in loss adjusting panels and beauty parades. This not only resulted in major wins and losses for adjusters, but also necessitated the need to be able to offer insurers a national service. All adjusters had to adjust to the changing market - and the squeeze on margins, but Mr Loughney acknowledged that the panel system - with its early focus on driving down costs - was at least a catalyst for the industry to become more efficient. As he told Post: "We did not fully understand our costs and so found it hard to get the pricing right. You need to understand the causes of costs, that is, understand the costs of the things we are asked to do."

The panel system also made the industry reflect on what it actually did: "The challenge for the sector as a whole is to properly evidence what it does. As an industry this is our biggest challenge. We have no future if we cannot show that we deliver value," he added on another occasion.

In 1998 his business merged with Cunningham and he became chief executive officer of Cunningham Lindsey and director of Cunningham Lindsey's global executive board. Two years ago he became chairman of Cunningham Lindsey UK.

Colleagues say that over his long career he has created a landscape and culture of listening and learning from others, and he has certainly been key to the development of many of those high up in the profession today.

His business acumen also speaks for itself. Described as a deal maker, a non-traditional thinker, and as highly principled, his mix of strong leadership, strategic thinking and, of course, nerve, have clearly served him well.

As one former colleague says: "To have been bought and sold twice and to have delivered profit every year but one is a legacy to be envied. He has been a survivor, which only happens if you remain focused on what you do well and Gerry does that."

Always leading and inspiring his team to meet the changing needs of clients, he has never been afraid of making tough - and sometimes unpopular - decisions to ensure that the loss adjusting profession, of which he is fiercely proud, has remained at the leading edge of the insurance market. And with adjusters accounting for a major part of insurer's revenue at any one time the respect they deserve is indisputable.

In the final analysis Mr Loughney is undoubtedly the best president of CILA the institute has never had - as his tour de force of a speech at a recent CILA annual luncheon stands testimony.

His career is still not over as his move to chair the Faculty of Claims proves, but as the after dinner speaking circuit, spending more time with his family and watching West Bromwich Albion beckon, he is a worthy winner of the British Insurance Awards Achievement Award 2008.

WINNING WORDS

Gerry Loughney remains confident the industry will continue to rise to each new challenge.

The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra welcomed Gerry Loughney, chairman of Cunningham Lindsey, to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall to the Superman theme tune, and after joking that he was disappointed not to be there collecting the Young Achiever Award said the accolade was "an unexpected honour".

He added: "Like most of the people here tonight I came into the industry by accident; but the minute I found myself in claims, I never wanted to be anywhere else. When I started at Ellis and Buckle I'd found my niche. The world has not changed that much: clients want us to pay claims that are covered, not pay those that aren't, treat policyholders well, keep people informed and not upset the broker. When policyholders make claims this is the opportunity to prove what we are selling because the reputation of the industry depends on the quality of the claims experience.

"Right now the industry has a lot to prove and everyone who works in claims does a remarkable job. Last year we went through an extraordinary period and the flood brought huge demand - but the industry did great. And in many cases the enthusiasm and stamina of those in the industry made the difference. There has been no Northern Rock wobble and no Terminal 5 chaos in the British insurance industry and I am confident the market can rise to any challenge.

Mr Loughney concluded by thanking - among others - his wife and children and his PA of the past 25 years, Julia. "It has been, and still is, a privilege to work in an industry where we uphold the client promise and work alongside great people," he said.

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