Getting to know our adjusters: Interview with Head of Major & Complex Loss Operations in the UK, Graeme Bell

7th October 2021

Tell us about your role and how you got to where you are today.

My role is Head of Operations for the Major and Complex Loss (MCL) Division and there are currently 45 employees in my team. The role involves day-to-day operational management, liaising with clients, strategic development, recruitment and service delivery. In my role, I’m interacting with customers and stakeholders of all levels, both internal and external. I sit on the claims board, the operations board and liaise regularly with the senior team and divisional heads.

I work closely with my own management team and have most of the client contact in my division. I have regular meetings with our clients with a focus of discussing feedback and business development, improving client perception, and to generally grow the Major and Complex loss team.

My career started in the mid-80s as an adjuster, going on to become a branch manager after 5 years. By the mid-90s, I was on the main board of a leading loss adjusting firm and since then, I’ve had senior roles across several companies. I’ve been involved in virtually every type of claim except motor, and so I’ve had a wide exposure to a whole series of claims across multiple sectors.

In November 2020, I joined the team at Davies, attracted by the opportunity to develop the MCL team into a market leading player.

What types of losses do you evaluate & deal with day-to-day?

I evaluate and deal primarily with property claims but because of COVID, I have been extensively involved with business interruption claims over the last 18 months. I’ve been heavily involved in setting up the process, liaising with clients and reviewing and checking claims. The property claims consist of commercial (business or retail) and domestic (household and mid /high net worth).

What do you find most interesting about your role?

What I find most interesting about my role is the diversity, every day is different. I enjoy meeting a variety of people, every day I speak to someone new, whether it’s policyholders, brokers or colleagues. I also find the challenging claims we deal with interesting. As we deal with major and complex loss claims, there is considerable variety, and the more complex claims can be particularly challenging but equally as rewarding when they are resolved.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for loss adjusters across the UK/Ireland in the next year?

I think the biggest challenge is being able to recruit quality employees because a lot of the well-known adjusters in the industry are more senior and nearing retirement. More than half of the qualified adjusters in the UK are over 57, so it is a challenge when we lose adjusters through retirement to try and find someone to replace them at that level. Traditionally, as an adjuster you had to deal with every type of claim, whereas now people tend to specialise more in one type of field (e.g. property or business interruption or casualty) so it’s difficult to get people who can do the full spectrum of claims.

We are trying to recruit young talent to coach and develop to help solve this issue. However, it takes years of experience to be able to deal with the complexity of claims that we’re dealing with and some clients expect to deal with a senior/experienced person. It’s a major challenge getting the quality of loss adjusters required to continue to support the industry.

Can you tell us about an interesting/challenging loss you have dealt with? What did you do and learn from it? 

I dealt with a claim for an explosion in a village, which started off as a fire but due to various gas cylinders stored on the site, became a severe explosion. This hit the national news at the time, and it involved pretty much every type of claim – property damage (buildings, contents, stock), motor vehicles, employers’ liability, public liability and business interruption. The escaping smoke and gas meant all the properties in the vicinity had to be evacuated. As a lot of people also suffered smoke damage to their properties, there was also numerous public liability claims. As part of project managing this claim, I reported to the insurer while dealing with personal injury claims, investigations into the cause of the incident, plus managing claims from third parties for damage to their properties. In addition, I looked after the financial losses arising to the business following the claim. What I learnt from this was that if I can deal with that sort of claim and the numerous issues that went with it, I can deal with any claim!

What are three key things you’ve learned in your career, and what is your best piece of advice to someone starting out as a loss adjuster?

  1. One of the most important things is to communicate clearly in all your daily activities and be proactive. It’s also important that you listen to your colleagues and customers/clients and to empathise with them.
  2. It’s vital to value employees equally – the most junior person in a business is just as important as the CEO. Everybody plays their part in helping our clients and customers, and everybody contributes to the team effort. As a senior employee I’m unable to achieve everything without the support of my team.
  3. I believe you should always tackle the most difficult issues first – it is very easy to put the difficult claims or complaints to the bottom of the pile, but they won’t go away and problems will only escalate.

My advice to new adjusters is to be proactive and don’t wait for things to happen. If you’re dealing with a claim, don’t wait for the policyholder to chase, make sure to update them regularly. Also be honest in your dealings and don’t be afraid to ask and seek assistance. There is always someone you can ask for help and advice and nobody has all the answers.

For more information on Major and Complex Loss claims, please contact Graeme Bell, Head of Operations for the Major and Complex Loss on graeme.bell@davies-group.com

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