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Five Critical Factors for Claims Success That Are Often Overlooked

These overlooked factors are significant in determining if your company can survive a loss.
By: | May 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Nothing is more important than getting claims resolved successfully. After all, at the heart of the insurance contract is the promise to cover losses.

That’s why the financial strength and claims reputation of carriers is so critical. These characteristics demonstrate a company’s ability and willingness to pay.

But when a business suffers a significant loss that severely limits its operations, there are several additional factors that will determine if the company will survive. In these circumstances, repairing the damage and getting back to work as fast as possible is critical.

Therefore, it’s vital to work with carriers who demonstrate these five traits:

  1. Responsiveness

Dean Owens, Head of Property and Special Risk Claims, U.S. and Canada

Recovery is a race against time, and the clock starts ticking as soon as a loss occurs. Even with Business Interruption coverage, competitors will not be sitting idle waiting for your business to get back to work.

This is why speed is critical.

Waiting weeks or even months to receive a claim payment can seriously hinder a business’s ability to become fully operational again.

“Whether a loss is large or small, companies need some working capital in the early stages of recovery to put the business back together,” said Dean Owens, Head of Property and Special Risk Claims, U.S. and Canada, AIG.

AIG recognizes that need with its ‘AIG Property Claims Promise,’ which assures that policyholders will receive a payment of up to 50 percent of the agreed total loss estimate within seven working days, which accounts for cleanup costs, property repairs, and extra expenses incurred during the rebuilding process.

The willingness and ability to pay quickly also shows clients that their insurer has the resources to support them for the long haul, even in the event of large losses.

In 2016, for example, a large resort complex suffered a major fire that destroyed several hundred of its units and 70-90 of its buildings. Claims handlers were on the scene within two days, while the fire was still smoldering. Seeing that it was a total loss, the AIG claims team expedited a $10 million advance within a week on what ultimately amounted to a multimillion dollar property claim. This working capital allowed the resort to kick off the rebuilding process immediately.

  1. Domain Expertise

Your business and industry are unique. There are complexities and peculiarities that require experience and expertise to understand. Working with claims handlers that have deep knowledge about your industry means they understand your top concerns, and how to minimize them.

Property damage will impact a casino differently than it impacts a real estate developer, for example.

“A claims handler with casino loss experience knows that a property claim is as much about the business interruption as it is the physical damage. A casino could suffer a very significant business interruption loss in a single day,” Owens said. “You need to understand your clients’ revenue streams, and how to best mitigate losses in the event of a property claim.”

Pairing the right claims handler with the right client is part of AIG’s credo of operational excellence.

“We always want to bring someone to the table who has specialized knowledge of client’s industry segment, and who has the right skills to handle the types of claims that clients are likely to have. It’s about matching the right skills and resources to the right customer,” Owens said.

  1. Access And Availability

Relationships matter. To respond quickly and effectively, a claims team that is familiar with the decision-makers in your business needs to be in place before the loss. No risk manager or executive should be meeting their claims person for the first time when they’ve just suffered a loss.

Whether an insurer has an in-house claims staff or contracts with external adjusters – or a combination of both – a claims representative should ideally be meeting with clients face-to-face as often as possible.

“We strive to get in front of the clients as often as we can,” Owens said. “We want to get claims handler at the table with clients, brokers and underwriters so everyone is on the same page. And we want our clients to know that their claims handler is their single point of contact if they have a loss. No back-and-forth or roundabout communication.”

AIG’s internal Property Claims Field Group, which is involved in about 40 percent of cases that tend to involve smaller claims, further streamlines the process. External adjusters remain critical for large claims, though, especially when multiple insurers are involved.

“We partner with some excellent outside firms, but wherever we can do something ourselves, we do it ourselves,” Owens said. “It puts us in front of the clients, and a stronger relationship leads to an expedited claims process.”

  1. Innovative Technology And Analytics

Claims data holds incredible value if properly utilized. Important insights can be gleaned from loss history about specific exposures, and a better understanding of exposures can be leveraged to improve the coverage and pricing of your risk portfolio.

But to achieve these benefits, the data needs to be tracked consistently, at a granular level and across your global portfolio.

Underwriters who have an integrated view of global claims data can see how much of a claim is for business interruption losses versus property damage. Maybe one or two locations out of a portfolio of 12 are sitting in a hail zone and are responsible for the bulk of large claims. This insight allows them to adjust their underwriting to better match the risk profile of that particular client.

“It’s about making sure you understand what you’re insuring,” Owens said. “Having this data enables the underwriter, the client and the broker to make more informed decisions.”

AIG’s IntelliRisk® system allows clients to directly access that data through an online portal. Along with detailed claims data, it provides tools to run ad hoc loss runs in real time and monitor open claim activity.

  1. Investment Training

Across the insurance industry, talent development and continuity is a pressing challenge that many acknowledge, but few have taken initiative to solve.

AIG continually feeds its talent pipeline by hiring a few interns every year and investing in their development. All of AIG’s handlers go through regular training to keep their knowledge fresh. That could include a course on hail damage or the roof rebuilding process, or some other technical aspect of property risk.

“It keeps their expertise on the leading edge of a skill set,” Owens said.

Staying sharp and continually building talent is also key to maintaining clients’ trust and confidence.

“You’re only as good as your last claim,” Owens said. “We aim to make each claim an excellent experience for our insureds every time.”

To learn more, visit: http://www.aig.com/globalproperty.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with AIG. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




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AIG is a leading international insurance organization serving customers in more than 100 countries.

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Property

Insurers Take to the Skies

This year’s hurricane season sees the use of drones and other aerial intelligence gathering systems as insurers seek to estimate claims costs.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 6 min read

For Southern communities, current recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey will recall the painful devastation of 2005, when Katrina and Wilma struck. But those who look skyward will notice one conspicuous difference this time around: drones.

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Much has changed since Katrina and Wilma, both economically and technologically. The insurance industry evolved as well. Drones and other visual intelligence systems (VIS) are set to play an increasing role in loss assessment, claims handling and underwriting.

Farmers Insurance, which announced in August it launched a fleet of drones to enhance weather-related property damage claim assessment, confirmed it deployed its fleet in the aftermath of Harvey.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now,” said George Mathew, CEO of Kespry, Farmers’ drone and aerial intelligence platform provider partner.

“The current wind and hail damage season that we are entering is when many of the insurance carriers are switching from proof of concept work to full production rollout.”

 According to Mathew, Farmers’ fleet focused on wind damage in and around Corpus Christi, Texas, at the time of this writing. “Additional work is already underway in the greater Houston area and will expand in the coming weeks and months,” he added.

No doubt other carriers have fleets in the air. AIG, for example, occupied the forefront of VIS since winning its drone operation license in 2015. It deployed drones to inspections sites in the U.S. and abroad, including stadiums, hotels, office buildings, private homes, construction sites and energy plants.

Claims Response

At present, insurers are primarily using VIS for CAT loss assessment. After a catastrophe, access is often prohibited or impossible. Drones allow access for assessing damage over potentially vast areas in a more cost-effective and time-sensitive manner than sending human inspectors with clipboards and cameras.

“Drones improve risk analysis by providing a more efficient alternative to capturing aerial photos from a sky-view. They allow insurers to rapidly assess the scope of damages and provide access that may not otherwise be available,” explained Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy at JLT Specialty USA.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now.” — George Mathew, CEO, Kespry

“In our experience, competitive advantage is gained mostly by claims departments and third-party administrators. Having the capability to provide exact measurements and details from photos taken by drones allows insurers to expedite the claim processing time,” he added.

Indeed, as tech becomes more disruptive, insurers will increasingly seek to take advantage of VIS technologies to help them provide faster, more accurate and more efficient insurance solutions.

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader, Marsh

One way Farmers is differentiating its drone program is by employing its own FAA-licensed drone operators, who are also Farmers-trained claim representatives.

Keith Daly, E.V.P. and chief claims officer for Farmers Insurance, said when launching the program that this sets Farmers apart from most carriers, who typically engage third-party drone pilots to conduct evaluations.

“In the end, it’s all about the experience for the policyholder who has their claim adjudicated in the most expeditious manner possible,” said Mathew.

“The technology should simply work and just melt away into the background. That’s why we don’t just focus on building an industrial-grade drone, but a complete aerial intelligence platform for — in this case — claims management.”

Insurance Applications

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader at Marsh, believes that, while currently employed primarily to assess catastrophic damage, VIS will increasingly be employed to inspect standard property damage claims.

However, he admitted that at this stage they are better at identifying binary factors such as the area affected by a peril rather than complex assessments, since VIS cannot look inside structures nor assess their structural integrity.

“If a chemical plant suffers an explosion, it might be difficult to say whether the plant is fully or partially out of operation, for example, which would affect a business interruption claim dramatically.

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“But for simpler assessments, such as identifying how many houses or industrial units have been destroyed by a tornado, or how many rental cars in a lot have suffered hail damage from a storm, a VIS drone could do this easily, and the insurer can calculate its estimated losses from there,” he said.

In addition,VIS possess powerful applications for pre-loss risk assessment and underwriting. The high-end drones used by insurers can capture not just visual images, but mapping heat, moisture or 3D topography, among other variables.

This has clear applications in the assessment and completion of claims, but also in potentially mitigating risk before an event happens, and pricing insurance accordingly.

“VIS and drones will play an increasing underwriting support role as they can help underwriters get a better idea of the risk — a picture tells a thousand words and is so much better than a report,” said Ellis.

VIS images allow underwriters to see risks in real time, and to visually spot risk factors that could get overlooked using traditional checks or even mature visual technologies like satellites. For example, VIS could map thermal hotspots that could signal danger or poor maintenance at a chemical plant.

Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy, JLT Specialty USA

“Risk and underwriting are very natural adjacencies, especially when high risk/high value policies are being underwritten,” said Mathew.

“We are in a transformational moment in insurance where claims processing, risk management and underwriting can be reimagined with entirely new sources of data. The drone just happens to be one of most compelling of those sources.”

Ellis added that drones also could be employed to monitor supplies in the marine, agriculture or oil sectors, for example, to ensure shipments, inventories and supply chains are running uninterrupted.

“However, we’re still mainly seeing insurers using VIS drones for loss assessment and estimates, and it’s not even clear how extensively they are using drones for that purpose at this point,” he noted.

“Insurers are experimenting with this technology, but given that some of the laws around drone use are still developing and restrictions are often placed on using drones [after] a CAT event, the extent to which VIS is being used is not made overly public.”

Drone inspections could raise liability risks of their own, particularly if undertaken in busy spaces in which they could cause human injury.

Privacy issues also are a potential stumbling block, so insurers are dipping their toes into the water carefully.

Risk Improvement

There is no doubt, however, that VIS use will increase among insurers.

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“Although our clients do not have tremendous experience utilizing drones, this technology is beneficial in many ways, from providing security monitoring of their perimeter to loss control inspections of areas that would otherwise require more costly inspections using heavy equipment or climbers,” said Luck.

In other words, drones could help insurance buyers spot weaknesses, mitigate risk and ultimately win more favorable coverage from their insurers.

“Some risks will see pricing and coverage improvements because the information and data provided by drones will put underwriters at ease and reduce uncertainty,” said Ellis.

The flip-side, he noted, is that there will be fewer places to hide for companies with poor risk management that may have been benefiting from underwriters not being able to access the full picture.

Either way, drones will increasingly help insurers differentiate good risks from bad. In time, they may also help insurance buyers differentiate between carriers, too. &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]