Industry Interview: Alex Finch, Commercial Director, Optera Structural Solutions

Ahead of the ILC Home & Property Claims Subsidence Surge specialist conference, taking place at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Coventry, on 23 March, we speak to headline sponsor Optera about how it handles complex claims to improve customer service and reduce costs.

Can you give us a brief overview of Optera?

Optera is a specialist engineering contractor providing bespoke solutions for UK insurers and loss adjusters, covering subsidence as well as general perils and major loss. Our sister company, William Hunt Consulting, provides expert engineering design, consultancy, and investigations. Where needed, this enables us to provide a one-stop-shop to address structural problems for our clients.

Who are you customers and what services do you offer them?

Our main customers are both insurers and loss adjusters, as well as industry consultants and private clients. We offer a variety of services, from bespoke investigations and satellite monitoring, to complex structural repair solutions and specialist root barriers.

Do you focus on subsidence claims; what other areas do you cover?

Yes, we have a wealth of expertise in subsidence claims, but also cover general perils and major loss. If there’s a structural problem, we’ll be there to help.

Can you explain the recent surge in subsidence claims?

Well, we’ve had two recently, one in 2018 and again in summer 2022. When the UK enjoys a long, hot, dry spell, we also suffer a big surge of subsidence claims unfortunately. Minimal rainfall, plus shrinkable clay soil, plus tree roots taking water, can cause subsidence to many properties, particularly those with shallower foundations. We can then experience a major increase in the volume of subsidence claims presented, 500% or more, through summer and autumn.

How do you help insurers manage spikes in volume?

Our help usually comes a little down the line, after loss adjusters have completed their initial work. We can assist with early intervention, confirming the cause of the problem, and also providing mitigating solutions to prevent any further damage. This is crucial to avoid the more complex claims dragging on for years.

How do you help insurers handle complex subsidence claims?

Our expertise is all around complex claims. The parameters of a complex claim are usually known, or foreseeable, very early on. We can carry out the correct expert site investigations, and retrospective satellite monitoring, to confirm the cause and what action is needed. Our green root barriers can eliminate the common cause of tree root action, or if needed, we provide all forms of sub-structure stabilisation schemes.

How can complex subsidence claims be accelerated, therefore reducing cost?

This is achieved by early intervention. With the correct expertise early on the claim, the cause can be confirmed without a lengthy monitoring period, and a long-term mitigation solution can be completed. We have achieved this on hundreds of complex claims, massively reducing both claim duration, and cost.

What new innovations are impacting subsidence claims at the moment?

Actually, we have recently introduced two new innovations to the subsidence market, following years of research and development. Our satellite monitoring provides up to three years of retrospective level monitoring, negating the need for future monitoring to assess movement in the property. Our specialist root barriers have been redesigned to provide the most environmentally-friendly stabilisation solution available.

Can you give us an insight into Optera’s carbon-reduction strategy?

We have been working with an environmental consultant to explore and redesign our processes and solutions to minimise carbon omissions. Although work is ongoing, the aforementioned root barriers and satellite monitoring are great examples of what we have already achieved.

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

The combination of a high volume of complex surge event claims, and the ongoing inflationary pressures for both materials and resource. Controlling overall costs, whilst providing a fair service to policyholders, in line with the new Consumer Duty, is the biggest challenge.

What does success look like for Optera in the world of subsidence claims?

Optera has a passion for transforming complex claim solutions, reducing both cost and duration. This is a major benefit to insurers, adjusters, and of course their customers. Our success can be measured on the frequency we can provide these solutions, and ultimately, the satisfaction of the customers.


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