Des Swan, Director – Major & Complex Loss reflects on his career and the past 18 months as a loss adjuster in Ireland

12th October 2021

My career & the losses I deal with

I started by career in Irish life assurance and I held many diverse positions in investments, property, claims, facilities & procurement for more than 18 years before I decided to take up accountancy in my early thirties. Once qualified, I wanted a new challenge.  I joined The Thornton Group who were later acquired by Davies as a Business Interruption Adjuster. The rest as they say is history, and I’ve now worked for Thornton & Davies for more than 21 years.

I specialise in financial type losses and mainly deal with business interruption claims. I also deal with: Fidelity Guarantee claims (employee fraud), losses suffered by financial institutions due to fraud, product liability claims, professional indemnity, large stock losses and high value money losses (mainly theft) claims.

Being a numbers person, I enjoy getting stuck into a complex loss – it’s the accountant in me, I can’t help it! However, the most interesting part of my role is meeting people – whether they be policyholders, brokers, public loss assessors or clients. With brokers and public loss assessors, it’s important to build relationships as collaboration over time often is key. With policyholders, it is generally a one-off encounter when we meet them during the claim process.  I have been lucky to meet some very interesting people over the years and as loss adjusters we get an insight into how various businesses operate and learn about different industries.

There are many challenges for loss adjusters in Ireland over the next year or so, but some key challenges to highlight includes the COVID-19 business interruption surge, the challenge of recruiting skilled people and creating clear development pathways for them, in addition to the market consolidation creating increased competitive pressures.

Business interruption & COVID-19

Whilst I have been involved in some very large and complex losses over the years, I believe that the biggest challenge of my career has come over the past 20 months, dealing with business interruption claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from the huge volume of claims, the interpretation of the various policy wordings and application of cover has proved to be very challenging. This has led to many disputes and legal challenges by policyholders and several high-profile court cases, some which have received a lot of publicity and are still ongoing. I have been heavily involved in these and have produced two expert statements for the Commercial Court. The Irish Market in general has also been influenced by the FCA case in the UK and this has meant that I have had to familiarise myself with the various judgments.

Whilst we have managed to finalise a large volume of claims, there are still hundreds of claims to be finalised and this is likely to run for another 12 months minimum. One thing I have learned is that even after 20 years doing this job, when I thought I had seen it all, I hadn’t! I have probably learnt more in the past year or so than at any time in my career as a loss adjuster. Many different problems and issues have arisen with these COVID-19 claims and many queries from insurers. I have found myself researching case law and considering the application of cover in so many scenarios, some of which I wasn’t aware of previously.

Are you starting out as a loss adjuster?  Here’s some of my top tips:
  1. Treat people well. When you treat people well, whether they be colleagues, policyholders, brokers, I believe it benefits you in the end. It helps to foster positive relationships which ultimately make it easier to resolve issues which arise in the claim process.
  2. Trust your instincts. When investigating a claim, it’s important to go with your gut instinct. I’ve found that when something doesn’t feel right, it normally isn’t. Having said that, you must guard against becoming blinkered about something and be prepared to re-evaluate when necessary.
  3. Tough it out. Given the type of work, loss adjusting can become adversarial and particularly in my early career, I wondered if I had made the right career choice. But over time you realise that all claims, even the most difficult, always settle and with experience you develop strategies which may help to avoid disputes. Ultimately, as with most things in life you must experience the ups and downs before you can get to your “happy space”.

Loss Adjusting is no different to any job, some people are better suited to it than others. But my advice to anyone starting off would be to commit fully to it, be organised and work hard.

If you have any questions or would like to chat through loss adjusting in more detail, feel free to get in touch via Des.Swan@davies-group.com.

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