Industry Leader Interview – Stewart McCulloch, Claimspace, handl Group

What is the biggest challenge (Coronavirus related) facing your sector of the industry?

In the current health crisis, many of the courts are closing. Cases are not getting heard and outstanding claims and reserves are piling up. The impact on insurers and claimants is substantial. 

The issue to hand is – how do we break down the inevitable backlog? We have just completed the development of a tech platform with Verisk and a protocol that is designed to simplify the current claims process. We offer an online service that supports the settlement of claims that drop out of the MoJ Portal – and the new portal that is being introduced in 2021. Everything works online with our facilitators, administrators and ADR specialists in remote locations.

As it has unexpectedly turned out, we do seem to be holding the ideal solution in our hands.

How are you and your business dealing with this?

It’s not so bad for us. In fact, we are dealing with increased interest from insurers and law firms who want to use our service. Around half of the courts have closed and so all liability and damages assessment hearings have been postponed until September or October. For the courts that are open, some cases are being heard by video link. We are told that some court officials don’t take too well to this “new-fangled” technology and that there is a lack of bandwidth in local courts’ existing conferencing facilities. Both factors are causing cases to be put off to a later date.

Our process includes an online ADR service for cases that do not settle. We can pick up these cases and move them straight to the arbitrator for a decision within 10 days. The decisions are made by barristers sitting as independent arbitrators who are subject to our claims handling protocol and our code of conduct – having been selected by us. There is a small cost but the whole thing works out cheaper than the cost of taking the case back to the courtroom. Cases that could have fallen into a difficult to manage backlog are concluded and insurers’ reserves are cleared down. The process complies with the Arbitration Act and so awards made by arbitrators are legally binding – protecting claimants and insurers alike.

Having said that, and if the parties want to do this, our system can also be used as a final sense check to see whether the parties can agree settlement without even having to use the ADR process. Our facilitators will work with them to try to find a solution short of having someone else decide for them.

What is the most important piece of leadership advice you can offer?

Listen to the people around you. You don’t know all the answers – especially at a time when innovation is keeping the wheels of the claims industry turning.

What are your top tips for home working productivity?

Invest your time in setting up your home working infrastructure – especially comms otherwise it’s going to get very lonely! Then it’s routine, routine and er… routine.

What would be your overriding message to industry right now?

It’s a tired old cliché – but think outside of the box. Take a careful note of the way in which you have found that you can work. We are all having to work with each other in order to achieve our common goal of making sure that genuine claims are processed efficiently, and that differences are resolved with the minimum of friction and cost. When we get out of lock down, capitalise on what you have achieved.

Then sit back and enjoy the warm glow of your new collaborative claims handling environment.

Listen to the people around you. You don’t know all the answers – especially at a time when innovation is keeping the wheels of the claims industry turning.

Stewart McCulloch


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