Canadian Underwriter

How COVID changed claims adjusters

March 12, 2021   by Adam Malik

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Although the claims adjusting profession has undergone a lot of change over the last decade, last year was unlike any other, CRU Group executive vice president Skip McHardy said during a recent web conference.

In particular, COVID-19 highlighted the need to review the process for accommodating additional adjusters when a catastrophe strikes, and it focused the claims industry on how to do remote work successfully.

McHardy said his company has been experimenting with new types of office environments over the past few years. Options included allowing more flexible time for staff and reducing the need for staff to be in the physical office.

But even though that helped CRU Group adjust to the stay-at-home-orders spawned by the global pandemic, “I don’t think that anyone was fully prepared and ready for the impact that COVID created this year,” McHardy said during the recent CatIQ webinar.

The pandemic also caused adjusters to optimize their tools to remain at the top of their game, McHardy said during the session, The Future of Claims Adjusting. “To stay competitive and offer more value to our clients, we’ve all embraced the push to continue automating, integrating processes, digitizing the services in every area — from FNOL [first notice of loss] to the inspection, all the way to the indemnity payouts.”

CRU Group’s Skip McHardy speaks at the CatIQ Connect session “The Future of Claims Adjusting.”

Catastrophe events that occurred during last year’s pandemic encouraged adjusters to think about some of the basic things they need to help customers at a time of crisis. Take, for example, the need to accommodate additional desk support during a Cat event.

It’s not out of the question for 500 additional adjusters to be required to adjust a Cat claim, McHardy said. In the past, this influx of people would be integrated into the office of a carrier. The insurance company would provide the required space, desks, computers, phone systems, and training.

“Now those tasks have been shifted to the [independent adjusting] companies like us, and the service providers,” McHardy explained. “So the carriers have given this monumental task to their vendors. And we now provide either the facilities, or, as is the case for most companies, have shifted to what we call the work-from-home environment — creating those [work]forces to adjust the claims without ever coming to an office.”

While there were some cost savings due to the changes wrought by COVID, new challenges emerged. People were working full-time at home — a place where they weren’t used to working — and other family members were with them, too. “We had challenges like environmental challenges — Kids. Pets. ‘Do you have great internet?’ ‘What are your family distractions?’ Punctuality and scheduling — those kinds of things,” McHardy said.

And, of course, working from home full-time meant the loss of the in-office community. The loss of personal and social connectivity to colleagues was evident, he noted.

Another challenge McHardy highlighted was the ability to make sure staff were equipped with the right technology to work from home — laptops and peripherals.

“Then there was the extraordinarily complex step of imaging computers to ensure that the necessary levels of security and data protection were in place,” he continued. “And every single company can attest to the challenges when you’re trying to ramp up access to a large number of people and get everybody connected into the six or seven or 10 different platforms that they need to use when settling claims.”

Training virtually was another hurdle that needed to be overcome. “If you’re involved in in virtual training, you know how difficult it is to develop engaging presentations and interactive training that resonates,” McHardy said. “Training online is not nearly as easy as people want you to think it is.”


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