An interview with… Ben Robertson, Managing Director, Robertsons 


ILC has been delighted to welcome Robertsons onboard as its Claims Essentials – Fraud Specialist Partner recently. 

Here, we speak to Managing Director, Ben Robertson about the company’s proud history, ongoing diversification strategy and future plans. 

Firstly, welcome to ILC. Robertsons has a long and proud history. So why is now the right time for this partnership?  

Robertsons was formed in 1997 as a father and son partnership and are still family owned and managed. We have grown and diversified consistently and successfully over the years, declining many offers of outside investment and/or acquisition. Having specialised in the investigation and surveillance of suspicious claims and intelligence profiling for over a quarter of a century, we believe that the time is now right for further diversification into the wider claims arena, offering the skills and techniques we have acquired over 26 years to our customers as a value add. We believe that we will be the only third party administrator (TPA) in the UK that is also a market leader in counter fraud.  

The choice of ILC is a no-brainer. It is a very highly regarded organisation, respected by the industry’s decision makers; most of whose companies are fellow members. We feel privileged to be counted among them and enjoy the events immensely. 

Our rationale for joining is simple. We have a great reputation in the industry and beyond as an investigation and surveillance company. Many in the industry think that is all we do, but it isn’t. We offer far more and feel that the platform that corporate membership of ILC affords us will enable us to reach straight into the heart of the industry and let it know that we are far more than just an investigation and surveillance company.  

What is driving your current strategy to place a greater focus on motor and casualty?  

Whilst we have always been involved in motor and casualty on the investigation and surveillance side, we recognised back in 2016 that the growth trend in motor fraud had begun to flatline.  

We realised that unless we diversified, growth would stagnate. There is only so much fraud in insurance and although the number of our competitors has reduced considerably over the years, these have to a certain extent been replaced in larger insurers by in-house teams. The recent drop in personal injury claims because of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) reforms have further vindicated that decision to diversify.  

This motivated us to take the next, logical step beyond outsourced claims management, which was to launch an end-to-end Motor TPA.  

We now plan to launch a bespoke Casualty TPA, aimed initially at the UK SME market and focussed on two things. 

The first is risk mitigation or accident prevention because the secret to reducing claims cost is obvious but true: no accidents means no claims. We will do this through client liaison, data capture, correlation, and analysis. 

The second is correct management of the injured party; securing good evidence based on the unique needs of each individual business, for claims management at the very outset. We have developed something simple and unique to our business, yet very effective to help with this, which will provide learning and lead to the prevention of future accidents and avoiding making mistakes that mean that claims that could be declined become difficult to defend.  

The TPA will be launched in the next few months once the development of our claims management system has been finished. We have identified and approached the Head of Insurance and Risk of a global brand to lead on this. We are delighted to say that our offer has been accepted.  

Recruitment is not a problem for us. Not only are we supported by our own insurance recruitment business, but we are now over a year into our own Claims Academy where school leavers join us as apprentices and transition through the various stages of the claims process. We have found this to be both rewarding and a great success.  

In addition to our certifications, such as ISO and BS, we are now authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in order to provide additional reassurance for our clients.  

Can you talk us through the company’s recent diversification of services, specifically outsourced claims handling?  

This came at a time when a business offering short and long-term outsourced claims handling services went out of business and we identified this as a gap in the market. We spent some time recruiting the right person and then began to offer long and short-term outsourced motor claims handling.  

I am delighted to say that this new venture has grown far faster than we expected over the past four years and now accounts for 20-25% of our revenue. We put this down to our skill in recruiting and retaining the very best people and the fact that as we have no investors or other stakeholders to satisfy, we can offer greater value to our customers.  

Covid and technology helped us. Historically, claims handlers were sent to a client’s office to help, which involved the client also having to pay travel and accommodation costs. New ways of working and technology mean that these extra costs are a thing of the past.  

In what way are your bespoke services tailored to suit each individual organisation’s needs?  

My father, with whom I started the business, brought my brother and I up on adages such as ‘the customer is always right’; ‘you get what you pay for’; ‘never put off until tomorrow, what you can do today’; and ‘if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well’. 

I’ve added Laura Ashley’s mantra to that: ‘We don’t want to push our ideas on to customers, we simply want to make what they want’. 

As a result, at the beginning of a relationship or launch of a new line we always take the time to ask our customers what they see as optimum in terms of outcomes and process, and then set about adjusting what we do to ensure that we deliver on that for each one.  

A good example is the way we are designing our Casualty TPA, which will be built to suit the exact yet differing requirements of each individual customer.  

Well known for your expertise in fraud, how do work with the insurance industry to mitigate the rising risk of fraud?  

Having operated on the front line of counter fraud for approaching 27 years, we have a fair idea of what is going on and are ideally placed to identify trends, hotspots and re-occurring entities through our Synergy counter fraud system.  

We regularly disseminate fraud intelligence alerts to our clients and others in the industry as well as holding or attending counter fraud briefings where fraud intelligence is shared. We also offer career development opportunities for our client’s staff whereby we host attachments to our fraud and surveillance departments and teams.  

How has insurance/commercial fraud evolved in 2023 and what do you foresee as the greatest risks in 2024?  

Recent Official Injury Claims (OIC) data show us that personal injury claims are at their lowest level for a long time. This has caused the ever-entrepreneurial and innovative claims management companies, professional enablers and organised crime groups to come up with fresh ideas to maintain their revenue streams.  

Our fraud trend intelligence system has identified a new approach to fraud, which is of the greatest concern and one which, if not dealt with effectively, could have serious consequences not just for victim businesses and their insurers but for the economy of the country as well: employment practices liability/personal injury fraud.   

Claimants involved in discrimination, harassment or bullying disputes in the workplace are being encouraged by the dishonest enablers to submit additional claims based on injury to their mental health. The claims are always tactically pitched at more than £25,000 so they are not picked up on the MoJ portal. As a result, the wider insurance industry remains unaware. As there is no cap on damages for discrimination claims, with the added personal injury element and costs, these claims are costing businesses or their insurers sums close to seven figures.  

Employment practices liability cover has always been quite a hard sell for brokers and insurers. The reality is, though, that if businesses do not take up this cover many are at risk of going out of business if they are unlucky enough to be the victim of this new type of fraud.  

We have developed a product to address this new type of fraud. It comes in five modules: Prevention; Investigation; Mitigation; Litigation; and Reputation.  

How do external factors such as the cost-of-living crisis or regulation changes such a Consumer Duty impact your service provisions in claims?  

Although we have seen an uptick in the volume of opportunistic fraud – principally in personal lines claims like household and motor – as a result of the cost-of-living crisis and premium inflation, this is not as much as we had been expecting.  

Financial intelligence profiling is now essential for commercial claims as so many businesses are still suffering the after-effects of the pandemic and cost inflation – the temptation to pursue fraudulent claims is higher than it has ever been.  

The protection of our clients from reputational and regulatory risk has always been our primary focus in everything that we do. As a result, we have felt little or no impact from changes. Consumer Duty is all about supporting our principals in delivering its required outcomes in our dealings with their customers. Being honest, responsive, helpful, communicating clearly and charging reasonable and fair fees is not difficult and is what we have always done. 

Identifying vulnerable customers, however, can be quite challenging as although all our staff are trained in the principles of Consumer Duty, identifying vulnerable customers rests on the subjective decisions of our 140 individual members of staff.  

How do you leverage technology across the business to continually drive positive outcomes?  

We are very firm believers that positive outcomes are delivered by people first and technology second. That is why we spend so much time and effort to recruit the best. The trouble with technology is that it advances far more quickly than businesses can keep up with. Artifical intelligence (AI) was virtually unheard of a decade ago but now it is everywhere, with today’s latest step forward being obsolete tomorrow.  

We have found that up to date, accurate management information (MI) is what every client is now demanding and we have worked very hard on systems to deliver that.  

We have started 2024 as we mean to go on and have invested in two major tech products: a new, proprietary, multi-class claims handling system; and commissioning a top to bottom review of our business processes and systems, with a view to automating them wherever possible.  

With 27 years’ history and a workforce of more than 130 experts, what is next for Robertsons?  

Our strategy is to continue to continue to build slowly, strongly and sustainably. We are the only fraud investigation business that provides claims handling solutions. Our growth clearly suggests that that is something the market really likes. This has led to several enquiries recently about our handling property claims and providing complementary loss adjusting services, so we are researching that.  

If we decide to go ahead, then this will be by identifying and recruiting the very best people in those fields and building a bespoke service around them in partnership with each client based on our family culture and values. We are not fans of growth through acquisition as with bolt-ons; those values and effective controls are so often diluted or even lost.  

Quick fire question round:  

What one thing might not many people know about you?  

I’ll eat anything. Amongst many other things I’ve tried jellyfish, snake, alligator, crickets, mealworms and scorpions – I’d be fine in the jungle.  

What would your alter-ego be doing as a career right now?  

Having only had one job it is hard to imagine doing anything else. Both my Dad and his Dad were in the police so I suspect I’d have followed in their footsteps  

Best bit of business advice ever heard/seen/received?  

Do something you enjoy. It’s much easier to talk to existing and potential clients about something that is a genuine passion and the last 26 years would have been pretty dull if I found my job boring. 

In my spare time you can find me…  

In the gym or on the Peloton. Exercise has the ability to overcome any stress or pressure encountered during the working day.  

  

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