May 31, 2015 by Albert Poon, President, Canadian Independent Adjusters' Association|Albert Poon, President, Canadian Independent Adjusters' Association
Wearable technology. Driverless cars. Home systems (heating, air conditioning or locks) remotely controlled by sensors. It’s getting more and more challenging to keep up with the pace of modern technology. Many veteran adjusters may remember such antiquated processes as hand-written notes, faxes and pay phones. Mention these things to a Millennial and you will likely get a quizzical look and maybe even a patronizing smile. The digital generation has grown up with twitter, instagram and apps – this is their new normal.
It’s clear that today’s hi-tech world offers a great deal of opportunities for adjusters and the claims handling process. Now, we have mobile technology, tablets, wireless communications, connected systems between adjusting firms and clients and a whole host of tools that mean the “field” has become the adjuster’s de facto office. We can communicate far more quickly when it comes to first notice of loss, site visits and ongoing correspondence back to insurers.
It is not just adjusters communicating with insurance companies; some customers are now taking photos or videos and sharing them directly with their insurers. The trend towards “self-servicing” of claims through mobile apps or portals is one that independent adjusters have to take notice of and understand.
Much of the technology today is generating enormous amounts of data – a lot of it is so-called “big data.” This is not the traditional kind of information stored in insurance policy administration or claims systems. So it is beyond actuarial, underwriting or even loss data. This could be information collected from third-party sources, video or audio, data from remote sensors (like telematics in vehicles or alarm systems in homes). When it comes to big data, the three “Vs” rule: volume, velocity and variety of information.
Data analytics is quickly becoming the norm for leading insurance companies seeking to improve operational performance, glean better insights from information and manage risks or exposures more effectively. As adjusters, we have to know what these new processes mean to us – will it allow for more timely assignment to losses? Will adjuster expertise be more closely matched by type of claim? Will new technologies, such as drones and micro or nano satellites, allow us to get a better picture of catastrophic loss events – and thus respond more quickly?
With all these trends in technology, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In fact, one might get the impression that automation will make the role of the independent adjuster obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth, from my perspective. The process of adjudication – ensuring that the claim payment is commensurate with the terms of the policy – is and will always be necessary in the insurance industry. And the independent adjuster is the standard-bearer for this primary function.
Technology will not be able to replace sound judgement, analysis and investigative skills of the trained, well-qualified independent adjuster. Moreover, technology cannot replace the patience and understanding shown by empathic adjusters to customers who have experienced a major, unsettling loss. There is no “app” for that. I don’t think there ever will be.
What I think we should be striving for is enhancement of the adjuster profession with the tools of technology. What forms of automation will allow us to gather information quicker, expedite decision-making and and respond to clients more effectively? How can we marry our skills as a profession with hi-tech tools that allow us to do our jobs better? That is a tech talk well worth having.