Loss adjusting is is often seen as the preserve of men with clipboards and measuring tapes but as Darren Anderton, Head of Major Loss – North, at McLarens explains, the truth is far more digital than you might imagine.
Loss adjusting tends to be viewed as one of the more traditional areas of the insurance market: as a profession founded upon values such as trust, personal relationships and expert knowledge, but one in need of modernisation and disruption.
There is a lazy assumption that loss adjusters are an army of grey-suits in wellies, brandishing clipboards as they tour the nation’s disaster sites. Yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
While we still focus on what we do best – getting people and businesses back to where they were before disaster struck – our armoury of tools is far more digital.
For some time now McLarens have been shifting to an ever more digital model. We operate globally on a remote claims system where all our files and data are stored, where everyone is connected and where we can – as we have recently shown – work effectively as a virtual office. Our global technology strategy is about delivering convenience, agility, and safe services for our clients.
When lockdowns were announced across the globe, we were able to shift to 100% homeworking in 48 hours.
But not only have we been able to work remotely, we have extended our digital capabilities to policyholders. We have a purpose-built, mobile app that allows them to stream real-time, geo-tagged and tamper resistant image evidence of damage to their property from anywhere in the world, by photo or audio-visual recording, directly to our system from where we can start the claims process.
In less complex claims, this level of data can even allow a claim to be settled within hours or days, vastly improving the customer experience.
And that ability to assess and manage claims remotely has been enhanced considerably by the use of drones. They have been part of our toolkit for some time now where we have used them primarily in large losses such as building fires, and in surge events such as floods.
The necessity of lockdown has seen us, and others, deploy them for less complex losses – roof damage to a property for example – and all of that together, all those digital tools working in harmony, has allowed loss adjusters to focus our expertise and experience on what matters most to customers – getting their claim settled quickly and fairly.
A tool in the box
There are some out there who fear that technology, including drones, is a threat to loss adjusting but at McLarens, we see all the digital tools we use as a huge boon – not just to policyholders and insurers but to us too, as a business and as individuals.
Will loss adjusters have a decreasing role to play in low level, low value claims as this technology becomes more prevalent? Probably, over time.
There’s no doubting that investment in front end personal engagement on certain cases brings about a more efficient and better customer experience, particularly for sectors of society such as the aged, vulnerable, and less IT savvy who benefit human contact over technology. But at the lower end of claim values, technology will enable a greater proportion of claims to be managed on a desktop or automated basis and we will see a greater focus on lifecycle reduction.
The secret will be in finding the right balance and ensuring that those claims that require the attendance of an adjuster due to size, complexity or a particular nuance, do find their way to a suitable expert to guide the claim through to settlement.
Far better to focus our energies, our expertise and the technology at our disposal on the larger, more complex and potentially more costly claims. The claims where we can really show the value of what we do. Whilst technology is no doubt assisting and bringing efficiency, it will not deliver the empathy or the innovative loss mitigation solutions that a good adjuster brings to such situations.
I don’t think there is any question that the increased use of technology in loss adjusting is a positive, for every party involved. For McLarens, the only real question is: where the next piece of tech is coming from and can it improve the way we work?
The world of insurance broking can be cut-throat where every client win and reduction in premium counts, says Aston Lark’s head of claims and risk management, Richard Graham. But by embracing tech and, in particular, drones, he is confident that Aston Lark can steal a march on competitors.
Standing out from the crowd
Standing out from the crowd as a broker can be tough, despite what anyone might think. There are a finite number of businesses out there to be insured and every single one of them are looking for the best terms while keeping costs down wherever they can. And they will go with the broker most likely to provide both.
As we progress through a hardening market, the challenge for the broker becomes even more acute which is why at Aston Lark, we are always looking for ways to differentiate ourselves with clients and insurers alike.
Our fundamental approach is to ensure that each and every one of our clients receives an Aston Lark level of service, regardless of who they are insured with. That means taking more responsibility for the services provided – as well as come up with our own innovative solutions. We want to take all the good stuff that insurers and loss adjusters do and do it ourselves but with a level of consistency that cannot be delivered by anyone but Aston Lark.
One of the most exciting and innovative ways in which we are doing that is in our use of drones. They have gained a strong foothold in the claims arena in recent years as they have shown just what they are capable of during surge storm events and in large, complex losses.
Drones in risk management
But the industry has been slow to explore their use in risk management and that is exactly where Aston Lark is headed. We have a large property book and these clients often struggle to provide the information on their properties that insurers would like to have.
For example, one of our clients is a large printing firm with huge premises, some of which were built 200 years ago. They were struggling to provide certain information to insurers as there was a good deal of uncertainty over the integrity of the roof as they simply hadn’t been able to access it properly for a number of years.
We suggested that we send up a drone to take a look and the 3D interactive model that was produced from the raw data allowed them to identify trouble spots and put in place a plan to fix them. This in turn also enabled them to satisfy the insurers requirements.
“It’s not just the clients who benefit – that value extends to insurers too”
This is one example, but we are convinced many of our clients would benefit hugely from the same service which is why we are about to launch a drone-powered risk management service to our client base.
It is not just the clients who benefit – that value extends to insurers too. Underwriters are constantly seeking more and more information about a risk and that appetite is only increasing in a hard market. Insurers can afford to be choosy and that choosiness is only satisfied by hard data.
They are always on the lookout for anything that can reduce their indemnity spend post loss so the pre-loss data that the 3D model provides them is hugely beneficial, not just for large risks, but smaller ones too.
For desktop building valuations, we use the drone data to provide our clients with an reinstatement cost assessment that provides insurers with the confidence they need to forego the average clause that’s usually inserted into a buildings policy as they are given a view of a risk that is reasonably close to a traditional boots-on-the-ground survey.
To be able to remove that clause provides a huge amount of comfort for clients where underinsurance is still a huge concern.
As I say, we are still in the early stages of appreciating the full application of drones in insurance, but the prospects are exciting to say the least.
Drone data and the way it is presented helps our clients manage the maintenance of their assets in a more sustainable way, allows insurers to offer better terms based on more granular detail and both of these things give Aston Lark a distinct advantage as we head into a hard market.
How long that advantage lasts will depend upon the speed at which other brokers pick up on this but in the meantime, Aston Lark will continue to seek out new tools and new approaches to ensure our clients are getting the terms and service they need.
The insurance industry had no choice but to keep operating during the lockdown – the financial regulator made it clear that it expected claims to be processed and settled as normal. How exactly the industry should do that, was less clear. Unsurprisingly, for many, tech was the answer and here, Lisa Bartlett, the UK and Ireland President of loss adjusting firm, Crawford & Co, gives us some insight into what that looked like and what role drones had to play in keeping the claims machine moving.
It is a well-established idea that the more we embrace technology, the more we fear it will make us humans redundant. But what has been a gentle jog towards digital over the past few years, suddenly turned into a sprint during the lockdown.
Those that could, turned digital virtually overnight, having been forced to find new ways to operate and maintain customer service. It has shown many of us just how powerful technology can be and has made us completely rethink how we will work when life returns to ‘normal’.
Does this mean the machines have won?
Not necessarily. There is no doubting that the greater use of tech in insurance and adjusting is here to stay. That’s a given. It’s nothing new anyway – we have been introducing more and more digital processes into our businesses for years but perhaps what the lockdown has forced us to do is to really explore its full capabilities.
Crawford has been able to conduct desktop claims handling for some time now but when the lockdown was introduced, we went remote and digital quickly, across the organisation and it worked. But it also evolved.
For some time now, we have been using an app that allows customers to upload photos of damage to our adjusters to help speed up the claims process. During the lockdown, with no site visits possible, we had to find a new way, so we shifted to video conferencing and while not the same as having a human on site, provided the necessary insight for our adjusters to get a claim moving.
To supplement that, we have been using drones to conduct site visits and again, while this is not new technology for us, the use of it has increased and been applied beyond the traditional uses of flood and major fire events.
The immediate operational use of tech is obvious, but it goes beyond the practical and this is what, despite any reservations, we need to keep exploring. Because it doesn’t just make life easier – if used properly and blended with our technical expertise, it will make us better at what we do.
Take the cameras that drones use, for example. These high definition cameras take a series of NADIR (straight down), oblique and horizontal images, which can then be processed through advanced software to create a 3D interactive ‘digital twin’ model of the site. This permanent record can then be shared with all parties, reducing or even removing the need for repeat visits, with the obvious time savings that provides.
But perhaps more importantly, the data and imaging can be used with clients too, showing them what was found, the damage done, what the likely causes of that damage were and what the remedy might be. It just makes the whole claims process much more transparent for the customer and, indeed, for everyone involved.
And this can only be a good thing. Whatever reservations people may have about technology, I just can’t see Crawford, or anyone else, rowing back and not embracing the advantages it provides. Where there is a clear operational and customer service benefit, it is incumbent upon all of us to use it.
That doesn’t mean that technology is the be all and end all, however. Its full potential can only really be realised when it is properly paired with the technical expertise of adjusters. Indeed, as smart as the tech may be, it still needs the insight and oversight that only an adjuster can provide – drones are flown by a human, the 3D images are interpreted by a human and the adjuster is still making the final call on a claim.
And I think that is biggest operational lesson we can learn from all of this – yes, we are all more digital now but no, that does not need to be to the detriment of humans. It is with an open mind and a determination to explore all the possibilities (while reminding ourselves of our own value), that we will make the real digital leap forward that so many have been predicting for so long.