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Are You Keeping Up?

The pace of change facing the independent adjuster, along with the entire P&C insurance industry, is blistering. And the risks of not keeping abreast of new developments are high, for small and large firms alike. So where's an adjuster to turn for advice and education in the brave new world? Turns out there are options; you just have to find the time.


April 1, 2016   by Emily Atkins, Editor


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Are you keeping up? Or is keeping up keeping you up at night?

Chatter in the industry-at conferences, industry gatherings and, no doubt, around the water cooler-frequently turns to the rapid and occasionally bewildering pace of change for the P&C insurance business these days. And the challenge of keeping up with that pace is one that concerns many independent adjusters.

It’s not just about ensuring that legislative changes are managed, nor following the latest developments, or having the right systems in place. While these are important it’s also a matter of making sure you are positioned with the skills and abilities you need-and your company needs-to adjust claims in new areas and in new environments.

Luckily, there are numerous avenues you can pursue to improve your chances in the jungle. From formal designation programs to continuing education, mentoring and simple networking, there are plenty of ways to learn and adapt to become better at your job, and even take a leadership role in helping the industry move forward.

The new environment

A quick look back over the past few months highlights some of the areas where changes are creating vacuums of knowledge.

For example, at the annual joint conference of the Canadian Insurance Claims Managers Association/Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association Ontario Chapter in February, Paul Hancock, national director of global technical services at Crawford & Company told attendees there is a “growing need for more and different complex loss adjusters. The future of adjusting will be engineering, IT professionals, data analysts, lawyers, accountants, quantification experts doing their thing, for the most part, 24/7, 365, remotely and virtually.”

There are several areas “where the risk and expertise required is new,” he said. Driverless cars, drones, the Internet of Things-all these will pose new challenges and illustrate the need for a new kind of adjuster equipped with a different skill set.

Add to this the continuing evolution of regulations, claims management systems and the increasing emphasis on customer service in the era of instant communications and social media feedback, and adjusting firms and individual adjusters alike face a potentially bewildering array of challenges.

Risks

Since risk management is the industry’s bread and butter, it should be evident that failure to maintain pace with change could produce catastrophic results.

For Lisa Boniface, vice president of programs at the Insurance Institute of Canada (IIC)-the industry’s own not-for-profit education provider-this is motherhood: “It’s been a stable field of work for many, many years,” she says. “But in recent years there have been very significant changes that have resulted in new products that were never even thought of before, and there are new things impacting both claims and insurance. When there’s that kind of change going on, it’s just imperative that professionals in this field are continuing their education and are current.”

The risks apply just as much to the adjusting firms, both large and small.

“If we’re not current with technology, legislation, current adjusting expectations then the risk is that we won’t be a provider to the industry,” says Albert Poon, CEO, Canada with Cunningham Lindsey Canada Claims Services Ltd.

With insurers no longer paying the independent adjusting firms to train staff, “how do we remain relevant in the business if we’re not able to offer them something they can’t do themselves?” he asks.

Identifying the gaps

Acknowledging that you must stay current in order to survive is the first step. Figuring out which changes require adaptation versus what can be ignored takes more analysis.

This places a lot of pressure on the IIC to provide the educational programming that helps the individual adjuster learn the necessary skills.

Legislative and regulatory changes require predictable updates to curriculum. But it’s the non-mandated evolution of educational needs that keeps the Institute on its toes. Boniface notes that professional development programs and seminars often need be developed on the fly to respond to changes in the industry and get them to the market.

“We’re so embedded in the industry that we’re able to be in touch with the needs before developing something new,” Boniface says. When they do decide to build new curricula “it’s because we’ve heard over and over again that something is needed, whether it’s a broad need across the professions in the country or whether it’s something specific.”

Cyber security and insurance is one topic the Institute has chosen to focus on, commissioning a comprehensive research paper that was published last year, delivering webinars and developing new course material. The next big topic under development is driverless cars. A second research paper is being written to guide the industry on the issues around this quickly emerging technology.

The Institute relies on its curriculum advisory committees and other volunteers for input into the learning it delivers, which includes the Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) and Fellow (FCIP) programs, and continuing education. The FCIP, in fact, has a focus on emerging issues, with a complete course on the latest topics, and how to identify them (for details on the latest issues identified for the course, see Sidebar: New topics in P&C insurance, on page 17).

At Crawford & Company, where manager of professional development Catherine McKinnon and two trainers are responsible for ensuring the organization’s approximately 1,000 staff are kept up to date on the latest industry developments and skills, identifying training needs is a multifaceted process. It’s often as simple as gaps being identified by managers when doing performance reviews, McKinnon says.

Other gaps are identified by an audit committee or senior managers who see a need either in day-to-day operations, or as a result of new developments across the industry.

At Curo Claims Services committing to change and staying relevant to the profession is part of the DNA, according to Monica Kuryk, the company’s VP claims. “The information is always coming in,” she says. “The ability to disseminate what’s critically important this week, or this month, and making it relevant to staff is a requirement of management.”

Formal education

As noted above, there are many ways a claims professional can keep up to date. The P&C industry has numerous designations and certification programs. Some are required for licensing under different provincial regimes, while others are options that can provide a leg up on career development.

The CIAA provides the Fellow Chartered Loss Adjuster (FCLA), and Chartered Loss Adjuster (CLA) programs along with the Fellow of the Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association (FCIAA). According to CIAA executive director, Pat Battle, “the designations reflect competency, knowledge, skills and experience in the very complex and technical field of loss adjusting, distinct from the already demanding requirements mandatory in attaining a full independent adjuster’s license.”

These are the only designations that exclusively distinguish independent loss adjusters in Canada.

The CIAA’s online education program is designed to meet continuing education requirements for provincial licensing and professional development needs. The curriculum includes technical property courses, adjusters’ skills and knowledge courses as well as basic courses in legal concepts for contract and tort law.

In addition to the CIP and FCIP designations, and core courses for adjuster licensing, the IIC offers a raft of continuing education programs through its central office and chapters across the country. A suite of technical courses-the Understanding Series-aimed at the claims adjuster, covers topics such as case law and serious injuries.

It also offers frequent webinars and seminars on emerging topics. Recent and upcoming subjects include the solar industry, new case law, and forensic engineering.

Academic institutions across the country offer insurance education that often dovetails with the designation system. Conestoga College in Ontario is one example that delivers the two-year “Insurance – Property and Casualty” program. The program includes studies of all areas of property and casualty coverage considering agency claims, underwriting, marketing, and management. Students in the program can earn nine of the ten credits required for the CIP designation.

Supporting the academic institutions through volunteering is another important part of the development work done by Curo’s senior staff, says Kuryk.

“Insurance is a fundamental component of the economy, and we have to continually look for new talent and develop that talent,” she notes. Reaching out to the universities and colleges is key to helping develop a strong pool of potential new hires.

In-house training

When new issues arise there is going to be opportunity, and how a company reacts can make all the difference if you are looking for advancement or new challenges. When it comes to brand new technical subjects, getting the knowledge can be a challenge.

“We respond to areas of improvement or knowledge gaps by developing online courses, delivering webinars or holding formal in-class sessions,” McKinnon says of Crawford’s approach.

The company is committed to developing at least 15 hours of new continuing education curriculum each year. That’s partly designed to meet the continuing education requirements for licensing in Alberta, which is the province with the greatest continuing-education requirements, but it also serves all staff who want to further develop their skills.

“We strongly support developing self and developing others as a fundamental competency within our organization,” says Kuryk about Curo’s approach. “It’s one we leverage consistently with our staff, whether it’s through one-on-one meetings, team meetings, or whether it’s about identifying job-shadowing opportunities, project work, or committee work; we are continually developing staff to achieve their full potential.”

Operating in an environment in which insurers are developing policies where the nature of the loss is not even known makes it a challenge to train adjusters, says Denis Houle, executive general adjuster – SRD (Special Risk Division) at ClaimsPro.

“At the end of the road, these are going to be very complex claims,” he says, specifically noting the rise of cyber. As an employer, “you have to hire somebody who has some form of IT knowledge, then train them to be an adjuster. When I started, you started from scratch; it didn’t matter what your field of expertise was, you were just learning to be an adjuster. ”

Mentoring

When you don’t have access to formalized training options in your workplace, it can be up to you to find the help you need in a more casual way. Selecting a mentor can be a very successful means to advance your career.

Although mentoring may not be formal, it’s long been an important part of the education process. Mentors are typically senior members of their profession who have a lot of experience and want to share it. These wise practitioners can play a role in guiding people at any stage in their career.

Houle has 33 years experience mentoring others in the business. He started when he was just three years into his adjusting career, underlining a point he makes about the process: It’s very give-and-take. The mentor and mentee both give-and gain-in the process.

“I wish I could tell you that mentoring in 2016 is strictly benevolent…if you’re dealing with guys that are in the prime of their career they will not have time to drop everything and help you. So you find a way that it’s give and take.”

He emphasizes that compatibility between the partners is very important: “It is a transmission of knowledge, and the fit is the conductor. If the fit isn’t excellent then I think both might be wasting their time.”

Mentoring has changed over the years, Houle says, largely thanks to technology and the ready availability of information. The junior adjuster can conduct background research on his or her own, while feedback from the mentor is instant, via email or even web-based apps.

He also advocates developing multiple mentor relationships; for example, with one who is a coverage “bookworm”, and with another who has strong people skills who you would shadow in the field.

At the moment, Crawford & Company uses informal matching to help new adjusters and those who seek to move into new areas of practice. The company’s Global Technical Services (GTS) division houses expert adjusters in specialties like marine, business interruption and transportation.

“If someone had the desire to progress into GTS we’d set them up with a mentor in GTS, or have them job shadow, or maybe have them do a bit of different claims or more complex claims as they go along. So it’s a build up; it’s time and it’s exposure to the different areas that going to get them into GTS,” McKinnon says.

And because the company is large and has so many areas of specialty, “it’s difficult to have a very detailed mentoring program for every single role that could be conceived of,” she adds. “It will be a very overarching approach.”

Cunningham Lindsey, on the other hand, has formalized the mentoring process. It runs a two- to three-year program, focusing on specialized areas like cyber or large commercial exposures.

Mentors and mentees go through a formal evaluation process before being accepted, and must commit to the program, says Poon. The company’s service line leaders are key in identifying unique opportunities where there is enough business to support training the mentee.

It’s working well, he says. Progress is evaluated by both parties and also measured against corporate objectives-financial and from a development standpoint-to make sure the company is getting what it needs out of the process.

At the moment there are about six mentor pairs, and the 500-employee company is continuing to look for opportunities to expand the roster. “Ideally, if we could get 10 a year, we’d be highly successful,” Poon says.

He recognizes that Cunningham Lindsey won’t keep all of the people it trains this way, but “as they grow into a role we’re hoping that we will develop a larger and stronger corps of senior loss adjusters.”

At Conestoga College the insurance program advisory committee is exploring a mentoring type of program in which students will be able to access subject matter experts via an online forum, such as a LinkedIn group. Part of the impetus for establishing this program is the recognition that academic learning often needs a grounding in reality to make it really sink in.

“We recognize the importance of providing a mentorship program while they are going through the program…and through their learning curve. The significance of providing subject-matter experience while they are learning is sometimes more important than simply learning the textbook material,” says McKinnon, who sits on the committee.

Networking

The P&C insurance industry is a very face-to-face business, and it’s easy to meet others in the field. Numerous industry events across the country provide opportunities to make and develop contacts.

At Curo Claims Services, Kuzyk says that face-to-face meetings continue to be a useful tool for both the company and potential job seekers. “We participate in job fairs and information nights where the students can come and sit with you and learn more about what you do. They’re connecting with us and asking questions about the roles we have and the future of insurance, which I think is really important as we go forward.”

However, networking through social media outlets such as LinkedIn is still in its infancy in the claims business. This is an area that requires initiative. Creating a LinkedIn profile is the key first step, then work on developing a network of others in the business. You can establish topic groups on LinkedIn that often develop into vibrant sources of advice, information and contacts.

Rewards

Keeping up with industry changes by educating yourself-no matter how you choose to do it-offers huge rewards. You can learn new skills, gain promotions and round out your knowledge of the world.

“The actual FCIP program is a ton of work,” says Greg Crawford, a recent FCIP graduate and unit manager, casualty, at Intact Insurance in the Halifax area. “But I recognized it as a stepping stone to further my knowledge and career. I didn’t come out of university thinking I was going to be an insurance adjuster. I fell into it.”

Crawford points out that his lack of business experience-coming from a Kinesiology background-made the analytical and strategic parts of the FCIP program all the more pertinent.

He adds that the emerging issues course was really good at underlining that “change is the new norm. The industry is ever-changing and stability is long gone. An organization that is not changing won’t last. They can’t just stay stagnant for too long without making changes to processes and protocols. ”

The key take-away for Crawford is the ability to identify coming shifts and to assess whether there are the resources to deal with it in the company you work for.

You have to know how to choose who can help, but you also have to know when to come to your own conclusions, he says. “At times there aren’t procedures or protocols in place to deal with new situations, and they need to be identified.”

The knowledge and perspective he gained definitely helped him get promoted from adjuster to claims manager, he adds.

As Lisa Boniface at the IIC says: “It is just not an option not to be continuing your education on a regular basis whether it is formal or informal.”

That means continuing education, networking and mentoring should be high on your list of career priorities.

So if concerns about staying current are keeping you up at night, don’t waste the time counting sheep-spend it studying!

 

 

 

 

 


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