Risk Management

Don’t Wait For a Loss. Ask Your Insurer These 5 Critical Questions Today

Understanding the claims handling process better prepares your organization to bounce back from a loss.
By: | June 27, 2018 • 4 min read

Insurance may be the only product businesses buy hoping to never use, despite how much work goes into the transaction process. Underwriters and buyers are focused on understanding the risks accurately, tightening up policy wording and pricing appropriately — a process requiring a lot of data-sharing and negotiation.


Looking ahead to a potential claim seems secondary when all parties are absorbed in binding coverage.

But when that unfortunate event does happen, simply having a policy in place may not be enough if companies and their carriers haven’t laid the groundwork to trigger coverage and kickstart their claim response.

“On the day you are purchasing your insurance policy, it pays to remember what you’re really buying. In the world of insurance, claims is the product,” said David Crowe, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Claims, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance. “Optimizing claims handling should be on everyone’s agenda from day one.”

Crowe identified five critical questions you should ask your insurer before a loss – even during the underwriting process — to ensure the best possible claims response that meets the expectations of all parties.

1. Which insurer will lead my claim?

Multiple insurers may be involved in property programs. If you suffer a loss triggering that policy, which carrier(s) will take the lead in administering the claim?

David Crowe, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Claims, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

This dictates who to contact both to report the claim and for regular updates about claim status. Ideally, the insured and market can agree up front on a lead carrier who will coordinate the market response to a claim.

“The lead adjuster will also coordinate coverage with the market participants to ensure a streamlined payment process,” Crowe said. “Choosing your leader ahead of time and having a single point of contact helps to eliminate individual carrier coordination and potential disputes down the road and keeps a claim moving forward smoothly.”

2. Who are the people on my claims team?

Insureds should know their claims team personally from the time they sign a contract.

Right after a loss is not when a risk manager should be rifling through files trying to locate the name of their contact and introducing themselves for the first time.

“Claims handling is about people serving people. When you begin to establish a rapport with your claims handlers during face-to-face underwriting meetings, it will serve you well when you need to team up to tackle a loss,” Crowe said. “Building a relationship from day one establishes trust, which provides peace of mind and makes communication easier during a claim.”

“The sooner you get to know your adjusters, the better.”

3. What specific steps should I take to report a loss?

Policies typically require loss details to be reported within specific timeframes or through specific channels. Failure to follow these guidelines could result in denial of coverage.

During initial meetings to iron out policy details, “insurers can share their specific claim service standards, and the insured can likewise share any specific claims handling instructions — which should be documented and made easily accessible to all at a moment’s notice,” Crowe said.

“Knowing the ‘what, who and when’ of loss reporting is fundamental, but it merits significant focus upfront.”

Solidifying these procedures ahead of time allows companies to move quickly after a loss, which could mitigate other related issues like, for example, business interruption in the case of severe property damage, or reputational damage after a legal incident.

4. I had a bad claims experience in the past. How can I avoid a repeat?

Past disappointing claims outcomes should serve as learning experiences. Perhaps a denied claim revealed coverage gaps or ambiguous policy wordings that were not discovered until it was too late. These issues should be raised with underwriters and claims managers as early as possible to avoid repeating past mistakes.

“For example, we had an insured’s general counsel share the details of a contentious claim they faced with a previous insurer. Our D&O claims leader and underwriter were able to clarify their policy wording to eliminate a grey area that concerned the customer. When a similar loss arose later, it resulted in a much more favorable outcome,” Crowe said.

5. What vendors, contractors and defense counsel will I work with?

Just as risk managers should know who to contact to report a loss, they should also know which preferred vendors will help them deal with its aftermath.


Carriers can often offer names of contractors they have worked with for the insured to conduct its own due diligence. Choosing these vendors and establishing a relationship before a loss occurs may also provide an opportunity to lock in rates or take advantage of discounts.

“Remediation contractors, for example, are in high demand after a natural catastrophe and rates can rise significantly. Having a pre-existing relationship with a local contractor and already-agreed-upon pricing may give your company a leg up over other facilities scrambling for their services,” Crowe said.

Asking the right questions before a loss can go along way to easing and optimizing resolution after a loss.

“Risk managers should not hesitate to ask to meet with a carrier’s claims team during underwriting,” he said. “It’s the opportune time to understand who stands behind the promise being made in your policy and exactly how they will respond when that claim comes in the door.” &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance


Kiss Your Annual Renewal Goodbye; On-Demand Insurance Challenges the Traditional Policy

Gig workers' unique insurance needs drive delivery of on-demand coverage.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 6 min read

The gig economy is growing. Nearly six million Americans, or 3.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, now have “contingent” work arrangements, with a further 10.6 million in categories such as independent contractors, on-call workers or temporary help agency staff and for-contract firms, often with well-known names such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

The number of Americans owning a drone is also increasing — one recent survey suggested as much as one in 12 of the population — sparking vigorous debate on how regulation should apply to where and when the devices operate.

Add to this other 21st century societal changes, such as consumers’ appetite for other electronic gadgets and the advent of autonomous vehicles. It’s clear that the cover offered by the annually renewable traditional insurance policy is often not fit for purpose. Helped by the sophistication of insurance technology, the response has been an expanding range of ‘on-demand’ covers.

The term ‘on-demand’ is open to various interpretations. For Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO of pioneering on-demand insurance platform Trōv, it’s about “giving people agency over the items they own and enabling them to turn on insurance cover whenever they want for whatever they want — often for just a single item.”


“On-demand represents a whole new behavior and attitude towards insurance, which for years has very much been a case of ‘get it and forget it,’ ” said Walchek.

Trōv’s mobile app enables users to insure just a single item, such as a laptop, whenever they wish and to also select the period of cover required. When ready to buy insurance, they then snap a picture of the sales receipt or product code of the item they want covered.

Welcoming Trōv: A New On-Demand Arrival

While Walchek, who set up Trōv in 2012, stressed it’s a technology company and not an insurance company, it has attracted industry giants such as AXA and Munich Re as partners. Trōv began the U.S. roll-out of its on-demand personal property products this summer by launching in Arizona, having already established itself in Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Australia and the UK were great testing grounds, thanks to their single regulatory authorities,” said Walchek. “Trōv is already approved in 45 states, and we expect to complete the process in all by November.

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group.” – Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group,” he added.

“But a mass of tectonic societal shifts is also impacting older generations — on-demand cover fits the new ways in which they work, particularly the ‘untethered’ who aren’t always in the same workplace or using the same device. So we see on-demand going into societal lifestyle changes.”

Wooing Baby Boomers

In addition to its backing for Trōv, across the Atlantic, AXA has partnered with Insurtech start-up By Miles, launching a pay-as-you-go car insurance policy in the UK. The product is promoted as low-cost car insurance for drivers who travel no more than 140 miles per week, or 7,000 miles annually.

“Due to the growing need for these products, companies such as Marmalade — cover for learner drivers — and Cuvva — cover for part-time drivers — have also increased in popularity, and we expect to see more enter the market in the near future,” said AXA UK’s head of telematics, Katy Simpson.

Simpson confirmed that the new products’ initial appeal is to younger motorists, who are more regular users of new technology, while older drivers are warier about sharing too much personal information. However, she expects this to change as on-demand products become more prevalent.

“Looking at mileage-based insurance, such as By Miles specifically, it’s actually older generations who are most likely to save money, as the use of their vehicles tends to decline. Our job is therefore to not only create more customer-centric products but also highlight their benefits to everyone.”

Another Insurtech ready to partner with long-established names is New York-based Slice Labs, which in the UK is working with Legal & General to enter the homeshare insurance market, recently announcing that XL Catlin will use its insurance cloud services platform to create the world’s first on-demand cyber insurance solution.

“For our cyber product, we were looking for a partner on the fintech side, which dovetailed perfectly with what Slice was trying to do,” said John Coletti, head of XL Catlin’s cyber insurance team.

“The premise of selling cyber insurance to small businesses needs a platform such as that provided by Slice — we can get to customers in a discrete, seamless manner, and the partnership offers potential to open up other products.”

Slice Labs’ CEO Tim Attia added: “You can roll up on-demand cover in many different areas, ranging from contract workers to vacation rentals.

“The next leap forward will be provided by the new economy, which will create a range of new risks for on-demand insurance to respond to. McKinsey forecasts that by 2025, ecosystems will account for 30 percent of global premium revenue.


“When you’re a start-up, you can innovate and question long-held assumptions, but you don’t have the scale that an insurer can provide,” said Attia. “Our platform works well in getting new products out to the market and is scalable.”

Slice Labs is now reviewing the emerging markets, which aren’t hampered by “old, outdated infrastructures,” and plans to test the water via a hackathon in southeast Asia.

Collaboration Vs Competition

Insurtech-insurer collaborations suggest that the industry noted the banking sector’s experience, which names the tech disruptors before deciding partnerships, made greater sense commercially.

“It’s an interesting correlation,” said Slice’s managing director for marketing, Emily Kosick.

“I believe the trend worth calling out is that the window for insurers to innovate is much shorter, thanks to the banking sector’s efforts to offer omni-channel banking, incorporating mobile devices and, more recently, intelligent assistants like Alexa for personal banking.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.”

As with fintechs in banking, Insurtechs initially focused on the retail segment, with 75 percent of business in personal lines and the remainder in the commercial segment.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.” — Emily Kosick, managing director, marketing, Slice

Those proportions may be set to change, with innovations such as digital commercial insurance brokerage Embroker’s recent launch of the first digital D&O liability insurance policy, designed for venture capital-backed tech start-ups and reinsured by Munich Re.

Embroker said coverage that formerly took weeks to obtain is now available instantly.

“We focus on three main issues in developing new digital business — what is the customer’s pain point, what is the expense ratio and does it lend itself to algorithmic underwriting?” said CEO Matt Miller. “Workers’ compensation is another obvious class of insurance that can benefit from this approach.”

Jason Griswold, co-founder and chief operating officer of Insurtech REIN, highlighted further opportunities: “I’d add a third category to personal and business lines and that’s business-to-business-to-consumer. It’s there we see the biggest opportunities for partnering with major ecosystems generating large numbers of insureds and also big volumes of data.”

For now, insurers are accommodating Insurtech disruption. Will that change?


“Insurtechs have focused on products that regulators can understand easily and for which there is clear existing legislation, with consumer protection and insurer solvency the two issues of paramount importance,” noted Shawn Hanson, litigation partner at law firm Akin Gump.

“In time, we could see the disruptors partner with reinsurers rather than primary carriers. Another possibility is the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Apple, with their massive balance sheets, deciding to link up with a reinsurer,” he said.

“You can imagine one of them finding a good Insurtech and buying it, much as Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods gave it entry into the retail sector.” &

Graham Buck is a UK-based writer and has contributed to Risk & Insurance® since 1998. He can be reached at riskletters.com.