46 years on: a lot has changed, some good, some not so good.

46 years ago, today, I started as a claims officer at the General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Corporation in Brisbane straight from high school.

In that first year I assisted in handing claims from Cyclone Ada which hit the Whitsundays in 1970 and later in 1971, it was Cyclone Althea that hit Townsville.

Fast forward 46 years and we are back handling claims not only in the Whitsundays but throughout Queensland, New South Wales and in New Zealand.

Thinking back to those cyclones from the early 1970’s the thing that I recall most was the really high level of under insurance. We were getting quotes in for the replacement of roofs which exceeded the sum insured on the entire house or commercial building, claim after claim after claim. It was heartbreaking to me as a teenager to think of the financial burden this placed on home and business owners.

Free “under insurance penalty calculator” App from LMI Group

While under and non insurance are not quite that bad it is still a major issue facing the insurance industry and our communities. I think products like the BIcalculator program and the Under Insurance Calculator app that I thought up at different times while in the shower have been of assistance to reduce it but we still have a long way to go.

It was great to see the response to the RiskCoach On The Go app this week that Steve Manning who like me is concerned on the over emphasis on price in insurance, developed and launched last Thursday which highlights the exposures for 7,000 industries across 12 classes of insurance.

As an industry we generally provide much broader cover today than in 1971 with flood insurance being much more widely available today.

A couple of things I think have changed perhaps not for the better. One is the willingness in some adjusting houses and claims departments to make immediate progress payments to assist with emergency repairs. This causes clients great distress and distrust of our industry. One client was in tears when they received the infamous document request list when they did not even have power to turn on their computer. The lack of funds and the requirement by the insured to comply with this will only blow out the business interruption claim but I suppose it got the claim off the adjuster’s desk.

I know something, that as a claims officer if any loss adjuster left my company’s insured in tears they would not work for us again.

As I type this I just received advice that the Broker, Insurer and LMI worked together to obtain a $100,000 progress payment for the client who is now over the moon and is already getting on and mitigating their loss and disruption.

The second thing is that most insurers always tried to use local builders and contractors as we knew they would do the right thing as they lived in the community. Now we have to deal with panel builders and I am personally convinced that in most cases the perceived savings are illusionary at the expense of the premium paying customer experience. Sometimes there was a demand surge but we would remind them not to cook the goose that laid the golden egg and be reasonable. Most followed this advice and if they did not we soon worked them out and black balled them.

The third thing is that I do not recall the industry criticism in the media that we have now often even before we get a chance to make a mistake.

While we are certainly doing some things better and have better technology to help us such as drones, digital photography, geopolitical technology and satellite phones (even mobile phones for that matter) customer empathy, the time to do the job properly and common sense are still very much required.

This is not lost on everyone in the insurance industry and many insurers, insurance brokers, claims personnel, loss adjusters, claims repairers, builders and suppliers are working tirelessly and doing a first rate job. It would be nice to get a few of those stories out there.

The things I love the most about the profession are that we are providing genuine assistance to people when they are in need. That is enormously satisfying and gives you a great sense of purpose. Secondly you never stop learning. I am still a student of insurance and always will be.

Already I have updated LMI’s Emergency Response plan so that we can deliver better and faster service on future claims we are entrusted with on this catastrophe event and for the next ones.

In the last 46 years we have moved from community rating to risk rating. If you are in a high hazard area, a flood zone, a cyclone or bush fire zone insurance premiums will reflect this. What the damage and disruption following Cyclone Debbie has clearly shown as is, if you think insurance is expensive, look at what it costs if you do not have the right full cover.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment to me is the lack of flood mitigation work that has been done to safeguard our communities. A relatively small investment here will pay dividends for generations and yet our governments pay the issue lip service.

Finally, and most importantly is that besides being introduced to the profession I am so proud to be a part of, today also marks the anniversary of the day I first met my wonderful and loving wife of nearly 43 years who I met on my first day at General Accident. No wonder, 5th April is such a red letter day for me.

2 responses to “46 years on: a lot has changed, some good, some not so good.”

  1. Jude Cross says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and career highlights, Prof Manning. And hearty congratulations and well wishes to you and Mrs Manning as well. I speak for myself now, for sometimes in our line of work we are so focused in serving our clients well that we take the ones closest to us and their loving support for granted.

  2. Allan says:

    Hi Jude, thank you very much for your kind words. It was very kind of you to take the time to write, it is much appreciated.

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