Inaugural members of Post’s newly established Adjusting Academy talk to Post about the battle for loss adjusting talent and whether there really is a demographic timebomb that needs defusing.
The perceived lack of young professionals has, and continues to be, an issue that has dogged the loss adjusting fraternity. The industry has garnered a reputation for being dominated by a grey-haired, back-slapping boys club, with no room for young staff to develop. Speaking to Post last year, Carmichaels managing director Keith Curling argued that little had been done to solve the problem.
He said: “I’m not aware that there have been great strides taken on this issue. Everyone is acutely aware of the fact that in the next five to 10 years there will be a lot of us grey-haired people disappearing. And who will be there to follow us?”
However, according to the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters, which claims 37% of its members are under 40, and its president Andrew Homewood, steps are being taken to secure the industry’s future. “The CILA has made fantastic strides in providing a platform for the younger entrants. In addition, if we look at most of the medium to large companies they have programmes geared towards attracting younger talent. GAB Robins, Crawford & Company, Lorega and Cunningham Lindsey all have strong training schemes.”
The Post Adjusting Academy is a forum for loss adjusting professionals under the gae of 40 to air their views on the claims industry. The group officially launched earlier this month and has already attracted 50 members.
Join the Adjusting Academy by becoming a member of the LinkedIn group or contact features editor Leigh Jackson.
Michelle Haynes, Davies, Adjuster assistant
The industry still seems to have an ‘old boys club’ attitude, which can often alienate young adjusters, particularly females.
However, there currently seems to be a growing focus upon the lack of young adjusters in the industry. More needs to be done to assist the young people currently working in the industry to keep them on board and this in turn will attract others.
A clear development path should be identified for those qualifying and the industry needs to offer a more flexible approach to working. Young people will often have young families and the industry is seen to be inflexible in this regard. The remuneration package of a general adjuster is also not comparable to that of other industries; it does not reflect the long hours and stress of the job.
An adjuster experiences a lot of pressure from all parties involved with a claim and this is heightened by the fact that there are often times of surge resulting in high volumes of claims.
The real problem is that those outside of the insurance industry do not know what loss adjusting is and have often never even heard of the profession. The industry is still seen to be very male dominated and, therefore, needs to raise the profile of females within the industry and young high achievers.
Neil Stephens, Merlin, Loss adjuster, property
The loss adjusting industry has to focus on attracting college and university graduates who want to sit insurance exams and go through training programmes. In addition, benefits such as flexitime, more annual leave and generous bonuses must be offered. It is clear to me that a lot of the older seasoned adjusters are retiring, leaving the industry, and there doesn’t appear to be the same volume of replacement and experience coming in. I attended the CILA conference last year and I was probably the only one without grey hair.
There are two key areas to tackle: first is how to attract talent into the industry, and second, for organisations to provide training opportunities and incentives to keep talented individuals within the profession. It is important to highlight the existing benefits on offer for young adjusters and to promote the positive elements of the job.
As firms have moved with the times and developed new technologies many have left the traditional adjusters behind. Although this is perhaps what is needed to adhere to ever changing client requirements this will, in all probability, result in traditional adjusters, most of whom are nearing the end of their career, leaving prematurely, thereby creating an even greater skills shortage.
I do not think that there is a lack of quality or experienced adjusters per se but more a lack of adjusters with industry-recognised qualifications. There is sometimes a reluctance on the part of adjusters to find the time to study and sit exams, while working at the same time.
Matt Robinson, MYI, Executive adjuster
Adjusting is a great business and offers a wide range of opportunities. When I joined the profession, it wasn’t after hearing about it in careers discussions or conventions. That was the domain of law firms and accountants who took the best candidates. Our profession needs to get to these people and make careers in adjusting as attractive. I was looking for a career after finishing college rather than going onto university and the profession was recommended to me by a relative working in the insurance industry.
A vacancy for an office-based claims technician at a regional adjusting office in Cambridge was advertised in the trade press. I spent 18 months working as a technician handling claims before being given the opportunity to begin my training as an adjuster. One of the problems in attracting new talent is that the claims process in many firms has been segmented, with adjusters undertaking site visits before handing over the cases to claims technicians, in service centres, to run off.
While this has been necessary to preserve margins, at an adjuster level it has made it difficult to develop and progress to the handling of more complex losses. However, I don’t think the loss adjusting fraternity needs to do more to be noticed. The profession is well recognised and anyone holding the ACILA or FCILA designation is seen as having achieved the premier claims handling qualification.
Lindsay Beckett, Argent, Adjuster
Firms in the industry have to attend more careers fairs. Loss adjusting is not a profession that is widely known of and so graduates may not consider it as a career option. I studied law at university and then worked for an insurance company before learning about liability adjusting and was lucky enough to find a place on a trainee programme which didn’t require prior experience. Some firms are starting to recruit younger adjusters and have provided trainee programmes. However, I still think that more could be done to introduce younger people with potential but no adjusting experience to the industry. I have noticed that, in some firms, career structures are not clear which I think may discourage people from staying in the industry.
Young adjusters may work in the industry for a while but then leave to do something else which they consider gives them better career opportunities. I don’t think many people have heard about loss adjusting and it is not a business talked about by students when considering a career. It should be promoted more as a profession. At Argent, allowing adjusters to assist with more complex cases has proved beneficial in enabling adjusters to gain experience and become more confident in dealing with more complicated cases.
Debra Burford, ASL, Associate director
Adjusting can provide a great career for young qualified professionals, although many junior professionals probably don’t realise this. In particular, young lawyers and accountants who may be finding it difficult to secure the more traditional roles associated with their qualifications. Promotion of adjusting as a viable career at graduate fairs and through university campuses would help raise awareness of what the industry does and the wide range of roles that are available, from general adjusting through to specialist areas where highly skilled people are sought after.
More engagement with graduates will also raise awareness of some of the perks of a career in adjusting which include the diversity of industries and professions that we work with. A trainee adjuster can also expect to travel extensively and meet a wide variety of people which may not be available in other professions.
At the moment, there does not seem to be any obvious succession planning being undertaken by the profession as a whole. One area that adjusters could look at in order to tackle this problem is the viability of recruiting professionals with complementary skills and teaching them adjusting skills.
The insurance industry seems to suffer an image problem which trickles down to adjusting. When most people think of insurance they think of their retail experience and don’t realise the depth of the industry and the career opportunities that are available. Adjusters could do more to promote their work and industry. Most people I speak to outside of the insurance industry have no concept of what adjusters do or that there are so many different types of adjusting. I think that the adjusting industry needs to first establish an image before we can work out whether we have an image problem.
Fionnuala Hay, GAB Robins, Casualty adjuster
Along with the usual tactics, I’d like to see the use of social networks to advertise vacancies as well as raising the profile of loss adjusting through revised PR to emphasise the interesting and diverse work that is done. GAB Robins has run a successful graduate programme for the last few years working in partnership with Leeds Metropolitan University. With increasing university fees, the newspapers are talking about apprenticeship schemes from A Level and that may be another entry point for new starters.
The balance of staff at my firm is 50/50 between those above and those below 40 years old so, in our case, I’d say we had a good balance. Around 37% of the CILA’s membership is under 40, so it is hardly enough to call it a problem. Given employers also have to contend with anti-ageism legislation at the other end of the spectrum, I’d say that a lot of effort is being made to pass on today’s experience to tomorrow’s adjusters. Due to the nature of our business, loss adjusting hits the headlines when a disaster occurs. Our job is to help people and businesses recover from disastrous situations. Therefore, the population only hears about us when something bad happens — good news is not publicised.
David Cresswell, Cunningham Lindsey, Property adjuster
The loss adjusting profession is extremely interesting, but I don’t think it’s perceived that way. There is a tremendous variety in the work that we handle within a range of different lines. On a daily basis, you are working with people from all walks of life, some in a real state of crisis, and they are depending on you to provide help when it’s most needed. Perhaps more could be done to promote the real values of the profession in schools and universities or perhaps through social media — reaching a younger audience at a time when they are making career choices.
I worked for an insurance company for 12 years and became very interested in the claims aspect of the industry. I applied and was successful in gaining the position of claims technician within the Leeds office of Cunningham Lindsey. I joined the business during the 2007 floods and so really was thrown in at the deep end. I thoroughly enjoyed working directly with policyholders, helping them through some very tough times and assisting them at each stage as their claim progressed.
In my personal experience, the problem of attracting young people into adjusting is being tackled reasonably well. Cunningham Lindsey encourages employees, who demonstrate good technical abilities, to take up the opportunity to become fully qualified loss adjusters. They have various training and support programmes and the success rate is remarkably high.
Kerry Archer, Crawford & Company, Business operations manager, general property unit
We should do what other professions are doing — target people as they leave school. Young aspiring professionals should be brought into the company at a young age and groomed to qualify. This way they gain by not incurring tuition fees while learning an enjoyable profession. They believe in the industry and learn from real experiences and get paid well. There has been an improvement in awareness of professional qualifications available through the CILA, which has been evidenced in growing membership numbers, but there is still a concern that the numbers of those becoming qualified is slower to increase.
A large percentage of the population will be ignorant to the existence of loss adjusting unless they have made a claim or are aware of someone who works in the field so exposure and awareness are very limited. Adjusting is still perceived by many as being old fashioned, very conservative and male dominated and these attributes would fail to attract many young people due to the higher appeal of many other industries. While it is important to maintain a professional image, younger people would certainly be more attracted if they were aware of the dynamics and exciting opportunities across our organisations and of the many opportunities available that would enable them to build a good career.
To some extent, insurers have required the experience and knowledge of more senior adjusters in the handling of their higher value claims, and recruitment has therefore been mainly aimed at professionals with high skill levels. There’s no getting away from the fact that while loss adjusting is an emotionally rewarding profession, the demands can be perceived as higher than other similarly regarded professions. This may dissuade some from coming on board.
Many of the claims handled by Adjusting Academy members went far beyond the mundane.
The cannabis factory
One interesting claim I worked on was a claim in North London for fire damage. The insured owned a large warehouse and office located on a small industrial park; the premises were let to a tenant. Upon entering the warehouse, which was the point of ignition of the fire, I discovered that it was entirely full of cannabis plants and heating lamps. The tenants had been using the warehouse as a cannabis factory, unknown to the insured. We even discovered a make-shift bed in the warehouse, where it appeared that the tenants or one of their associates had been sleeping to keep an eye on their bumper crop of cannabis.
The Algosaibi family
I am still involved with a number of matters arising out of a major banking fraud in the Middle East. /the matter is well publicised and involves allegations of forgery and fraud by a prominent Saudi Arabian family, the Algosaibis, against the manager of the financial arm of their business, the very wealthy Mr Maan Al Sanea. The Algosaibi family have refused to satisfy transactions and facilities running into hundreds of millions of dollars to banks around the world.
The contaminated shipment
The client was a major tinned fruit manufacturer based in the Philippines. During production, a can of intrinsic reducer oil was accidentally kicked into one of the production lines resulting in the widespread contamination of products. Unfortunately, the incident was not reported by the worker and approximately 35 million cans of product had already left on container ships for docks around the world before it was discovered. The claim was presented in the region of $32m (£20m) with a final adjusted loss agreed at circa $24m, thus representing a considerable saving to insurers and a good job well done.
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