Industry interview: Patrick Clark, Head of Surveying and Field Services, Davies

Subsidence is becoming an ever-increasing consideration for insurers as winters get drier and summers hotter.

Here, we speak to Patrick Clark, Head of Surveying and Field Services, Davies, about the recent surge in subsidence claims, and how Davies is supporting the industry manage capacity.

Can you give us an insight into what your role as Head of Surveying and Field Services entails?

My role as Head of Surveying and Field Services is to provide a service to clients which is quick and efficient and reduces the impact on the customers following a major incident, which has generally affected the customer’s main asset. This involves investing in colleagues who meet the Davies values and want to make a difference, and people who want to learn and progress.

How does Davies support clients in managing subsidence claims?

Our aim is to provide a service where colleagues have the required capabilities and understanding around the technicalities of subsidence. Having the right capability allows us to provide an efficient service to clients.

We need to understand at an early stage if there is a more efficient way to progress a claim, than the traditional route. Although we have processes in place, there is always space for reviewing alternative methods, which are cost-effective, and reduce the impact on customers and the environment.

How is technology enabling more effective subsidence claims management?

Use of the right technology in place is key, this enables us to provide efficiencies to the claims role, for example, having all the claim information uploaded to the claim management system prior to leaving site means that the data can be handled from the office without delay.

Speed in providing information to clients and customers is key. Allowing customers and clients to self-serve to see the updates on claims and obtain MI saves many hours of colleagues putting this detail together. Information changes from day to day, and sometimes hour to hour, so it is key the information provided is relevant.

Can you explain the recent surge in subsidence claims?

We have seen the influence of drier winters and warmer summers; this is shown in the increase in subsidence claims since the 2018 surge. The drier winter and lack of rainfall does not allow for the soils to fully replenish, which was seen as the end of 2021 leading into 2022.

This results in reduced moisture in the soil, which the vegetation requires to survive and grow. Through the hotter periods of the summer the roots of the vegetation will be looking for additional uptake of moisture leading to further shrinkage of the clay soils.

Not necessarily associated with increase in surge numbers, but other impacts would be associated with the lack of vegetation management either privately owned or by commercial entities. We have seen reduced budgets and finance from local authorities to maintain trees in a sufficient manner. This results in larger canopies and additional moisture extraction from the soil, and in turn shrinkage of the clay soils.

What are the fundamentals to good customer services when it comes to subsidence claims?

Good customer service starts with regular communication, meaningful information, and early decision-making to progress the claim in the most efficient manner. By having all the right pieces of the puzzle in place we can ensure we’re delivering for customers.

What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the industry now?

One of the challenges for the industry a present is making sure we have systems in place to bring new talent into the industry, and to provide the correct training and guidance for dealing withs claims.

The industry saw a lot of talent leave or retire prior to the 2018 surge, and over the last five years we have seen an increase in claims, and the changes in climate has exacerbated the issue. So we need to be ready and have the correct expertise in place going forward.

We also have the impact of climate change and the function that trees have in assisting with the environmental factors; there is more of a reluctance to remove substantial trees as they provide other positive affects to people and the environment.


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