ILC ARTICLE

Subsidence claims – the main blocks and challenges 


ILC’s Specialist Subsidence Conference 2024 considered the key sticking points adding time and complexity to subsidence claims. 

During a session entitled, ‘What are the main blocks and challenges?’, experts from insurers, loss adjusters and contractors shared their insights during two panel debates. 

Taking part in the first of these – featuring representatives from insurers and a loss adjuster – were Steve Winks, Supply Chain Executive, AXA; Kevin Williams, Head of Subsidence, Sedgwick; and Suzanne Reid, Technical Claims Manager, Property and Liability, esure. 

Right path 

They agreed that fundamental to achieving the smoothest subsidence claim possible is ensuring that there is experience and expertise at the start of the process. They said it takes a skilled handler to gather the right information at the outset, to interpret that information correctly to separate simple claims from more complex ones, and then ensure the right decisions are taken at the right time to set the claim off on the right path.  

Steve said, “How much information is gained from FNOL is critically important because the level of information shared with our preferred partners sets them up to succeed. And with the complexity of subsidence cases, you need to start on the right foot. But I’m confident that insurers have the level of knowledge and experience within their teams to get the right information at the outset.” 

Of course, the challenge to triage correctly is exacerbated during spikes in volumes following a surge, yet that is precisely when the benefits of identifying and quickly processing simple claims are greatest. 

Kevin said, “Everyone wants to get those early wins out of the way and the focus on those simple claims is a key thing. It frees up resources for more complex claims.” 

Suzanne added, “The biggest challenge is finding the distinction between simple and complex claims, and that gets harder when there are more claims to digest. But even if we do that, we tend to pursue one route rather than looking at more efficient options. As an industry we need to do things differently. Doing what we’ve always done isn’t working because it’s not allowing us to get through jobs quick enough.” 

Skills 

Another thorny issue – and one that is not restricted to this sector – is skills. Working habits and attitudes have changes dramatically since Covid and insurance is not alone in facing a growing talent gap. 

Kevin said, “There is a skills shortage across all claims, and subsidence is no different. We know that anyone in our team could get a job with a competitor so it can become a salary competition, but you have to offer more than that.” 

He said that support and career development is essential to staff retention, and by cross-training colleagues – enabling them to work in other areas of the business during quiet times but adding subsidence resource when required – can also provide resilience in times of surges. 

Kevin continued, “There aren’t enough people out there, so we need to bring new people into the industry and train them up. And we need to do it now because it can take up to a year to train someone who has the technical skills but not the insurance skills.” 

Customer 

In amongst all this are the policyholders themselves. No two policyholders have the same priorities, and it’s true to say that in some cases they can inadvertently be responsible for delays – either by having no knowledge of subsidence or just enough to be problematic. 

Steve said, “Customers can be a blockage in the early stage if they have a preconceived idea of how the claim should be processed. That’s why communication is so important. But if you’ve not been living and breathing subsidence for years then the language around it can be difficult, so we need to simplify that and make it easy to understand what we’re doing and why.” 

Suzanne agreed. She said, “We need to be better at sharing with the customer what subsidence is and what the options are and why we’ve chosen the one we have. It’s about giving the customer assurance. If we say we’re going to remove a tree and two years down the line we still haven’t done it, it looks like nothing has happened but probably a lot has happened behind the scenes. So communication can be hugely improved to bring the customer along on the journey.” 

ILC’s Specialist Subsidence Conference 2024 took place at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) Coventry on Thursday, 7 March in front of about 230 attendees. 

The event was headline sponsored by Optera Structural Solutions, supported by Gold Sponsors Geobear, Shire Structures Ltd and Restek UK Ltd; and Silver Sponsors Courtesy Kitchens & Bathrooms, Flawless Soil Testing, Innovation Group, Leviat Ltd, Mainmark, Sedgwick and Vivre Stays Ltd. 

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