Canada’s property and casualty insurance industry needs to cross-train more claims adjusters if it wants to have enough property adjusters to be available in the event of a catastrophe, industry experts said last week.
“Cross-training is important because it is what allows us to bring together those internal resources that we need when there is a Cat, so [that] we do have auto adjusters who are knowledgeable in property and vice versa,” said Fred VanDine, section manager of property field claims for the Ontario, Atlantic and Western Regions at Desjardins Insurance. He noted that Desjardins typically uses its own in-house adjusters, including auto and property adjusters, to handle large catastrophe claims.
VanDine was one of three speakers on Canadian Underwriter‘s Aug. 27 webinar, Standing on Guard for Thee: Adjusting Canadian NatCats.
Co-panelist Glenn McGillivary, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, illustrated the benefit of cross-training adjusters with a personal anecdote from the July 8, 2013 rain storm in Toronto that ultimately cost the industry about $1 billion in insured losses.
McGillivray said he has relatives whose Toronto basements were flooded in July 2013 and had their claims assessed by auto adjusters. “This was a company that has cross-trained their claims people so that auto professionals could deal with personal property and vice versa,” he said. “More of this is going to be needed. It’s one way of ensuring that you can keep the work internal [during a catastrophe] and not get tapped out.”
The company, which McGillivray did not name, sent an auto adjuster to his relatives’ place because 2013 was such a busy year. Two other major disasters were keeping adjusters busy at the time of the July 8 Greater Toronto area rain storm. On July 6, an unattended Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) Railway freight train hauling 72 crude oil tanker cars derailed in Lac-Mégantic ,Que., killing 47. In June of that year, flooding in southern Alberta led to Canada’s third most-expensive natural disaster.
“Cross-training works very very well for a lot of companies,” webinar panelist Skip McHardy, chief operational officer of catastrophe response at CRU Group, said. “It works for us in the sense that most of our adjusters that assist can do auto claims, residential claims, or commercial claims”
McHardy went on to suggest that a shortage exists in Canada of professionals with their own equipment who are not only licenced claims adjusters, but who can provide accurate property repair estimates and deploy elsewhere in the country on short notice.
“People don’ t like to hear it, but 90% of the independent adjusters in Canada still require a contractor to go out with them because they don’t have that skill set to create the estimate on the spot by themselves,” McHardy said. “If there are no contractors, how is that going to work? Plus, you have the cost of two people and you are trying to schedule two different people to go from house to house to house. It’s not the easiest thing to do.”
When CRU is called to provide adjusters in a catastrophe, it looks for professionals with equipment such as ladders, rope and harness gear, and personal protective equipment, McHardy said. “We are hired to put a value on to a loss, so we serve the same role as a contractor and a licenced adjuster together.”
By contrast, he said, the typical model is to have a contractor estimate and describe the damage while the adjuster applies the policy language. “Our people have to be able to come in and do both,” he said.