Over the past few years, Charles Taylor Adjusting (CTA) has grown to be one of the largest loss-adjusters in the region. Asia Insurance Review spoke to CTA’s Mr Mark Thompson on how it has managed to achieve this growth, and how to sustain it.
This past year has been a good one for Charles Taylor Adjusting (CTA) in Asia Pacific. Due to existing market conditions – rise in inflation and interest rates, low capacity in the market and an increase in frequency and severity of weather events – the company has managed to take advantage and used this momentum to grow at a rapid rate.
“The way you grow loss adjusting is by securing the right people, people with expertise, experience and skills in managing large and complex claims,” said CTA Australia and New Zealand managing director Mark Thompson.
“Loss adjusters with many years of experience in dealing with those types of losses are those who have the trust and faith of our insurance company clients to look after significant sums of money on their behalf,” he said.
In Australia over the past two years, the company has managed to grow their staff from 20 people to 120 people, and now enjoys a strong brand reputation with its clients, he said.
Recruitment and retention
During the lockdown periods caused by COVID, the loss adjusting business saw the flow of talent and skills from other countries cease. According to Mr Thompson, the industry has been a big importer of talent from the UK, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand, and with travel restrictions, loss adjusters saw a big drop in their talent pool.
This was made problematic as claims numbers continued to increase during the COVID years, contrary to expectations. “The demand for loss adjusters went up during that period, and claim numbers stayed at high levels,” he said. “So, our biggest challenge was retaining talent and that remains absolutely our number one priority and challenge.”
The best way to recruit and retain the best adjusters is to have competitive remuneration, but he also added that it is about the brand, the platform and creating an environment where loss adjusters can operate successfully. “They need to be able to get the interesting work from clients and to be challenged in their careers and with the type of work that they’re doing,” he said.
He also noted that the market for loss adjusters was ‘absolutely ruthless’ and that each and every single member of his staff could expect to be approached by competitors at least once a quarter.
“We are absolutely not going to be complacent in this regard. It is my number one worry when I wake up every morning, to make sure that I can serve my team and enable them to do their jobs as best they can,” he said.
A new way of working
Loss adjusting is a job that frequently sees them on the road – as such, the current trend towards remote offices is common in the industry. “COVID wasn’t really a difficult transition for loss adjusters because we traditionally have not been in an office-based profession,” he said. “They are on the road a lot and they were previously enabled to work from home in any event. So, there was this culture of being remote, being flexible, working from home. The way we measure productivity is through the quality of the output that they deliver on their claims as well as their utilisation (the number of hours that they record).”
Unlike other businesses, CTA also enables its people to work in locations suitable for their home life, given the rising cost of living in metropolitan cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. “People can choose to move and work remotely to locations that suit them and work well with their families. It’s enabled us here in Australia to be able to open up a really broad location map across the country and we can usually get somebody out to a site, no matter where our clients’ claims are,” he said.
What COVID did change is the increase in the use of technology; using video technology and drones to view claims sites without having to be physically present. “We pride ourselves on our face-to-face technical expertise and communication skills and we see great value in a loss adjuster going to a meeting with an insured, inspecting the damage themselves and that’s the type of work we ask our clients to give us.”
“That said, if a remote location and it’s not cost effective for us to go to, we absolutely fall back onto the technology that we used during COVID. We are well schooled in being able to engage with an insured remotely, knowing what questions to ask and what to get them to show on video,” he said.
He noted that 95% of the work that the company does is once again face-to-face, although each loss adjuster has the discretion to make follow-up meetings remote.
Mentorship and connections
This emphasis on face-to-face meetings also extends to the office. Across Australia, CTA’s staff are encouraged to come back to their office once a week. “Coffee machine conversations and interacting with others is still very important, particularly for our younger loss adjusters having exposure to the senior guys sitting in front of them. Having their reports reviewed in person is far more effective and efficient than doing it remotely.”
He said that while the team is now very used to using remote communication tools and reviewing reports through teams etc, it is still preferable to have it done in-person whenever possible.
This is an important part of the company’s retention strategy – enabling its loss adjusters to be successful through training and development. “We help them manage relationships with clients, ensure that they’ve got a flexible work environment, ensure that they’re productive, ensure that they’ve got the support their need around the office,” he said.
“In our team we have a number of really well known, well established and highly regarded older professional adjusters. We recognise that succession to the next generation of adjusting leaders in our business is important,” he said. “Training and upskilling and sharing the knowledge from those older established members of the team to the younger members is a really important strategy for us, and we’re doing a lot of work internally to make sure that the transition of knowledge and skills is very strong within our culture.”
This communication goes two ways. “We have also tried to create a culture where people feel safe enough to speak up and contribute their ideas to the system. Obviously, we have formal and informal forums where there is opportunity for people to express ideas. We encourage anyone who has ideas, suggestions or questions to put them forward,” he said. “Especially when it comes to more effective use of technology, we absolutely embrace that and try to take it onboard and apply it wherever possible.”
He added that with 120 people in the team across Australia, CTA is still a small organisation with a relatively flat structure, which leads to informal, but effective, channels of communication. “People are talking to each other all the time, and these ideas are coming up and my senior leaders have an open mind and are listening and bringing them up as appropriate.” A