As the first in our new series of video Q&A’s exploring the future of loss adjusting; we recently sat down with one of our experienced loss adjusters, James Fairbairn, who shared his thoughts on key challenges the industry is facing, diversity in loss adjusting and his advice for the loss adjusters of tomorrow.
Watch the full video interview below.
What attracted you to loss adjusting?
JF: When I was 18 I left college, the idea of going off to university didn’t really appeal to me, and I didn’t have a specific career path in mind. My Mum offered to get me a job in an insurance company, at the time I was living in a busy town and it seemed like a good way to start work, earn money and then decide what I wanted to do a little further down the line. She managed to get me an interview within a household claims department at the insurance company and I was able to secure myself the role. My plan was to stay there for a year or two to earn some money, but I actually ended up staying for four and a half years. I found it a really enjoyable experience and one that brought me into the world of insurance. I met great people with whom I’m still friends with today and it started me on a journey of customer service, in which I learnt quickly how nice it was to help people solve problems and to assist them. I think it was at this point that I thought – this is something that I could really get involved with, particularly loss adjusting.
Back at the time, loss adjusters seemed to be held in very high regard and I thought, I would like to get involved with that – the idea of going out and observing damage and helping people just attracted me. It took a few years to get there, I spent time with claims management companies and brokers, and then around 10 years ago the opportunity arose to take my first step into loss adjusting. Safe to say I jumped at the chance and have never looked back since.
What additional skills do you bring to the team?
JF: I’ve been in the industry about 20 years now, customer service has been at the forefront of everything I do. I’m often called upon to assist with maybe some challenging or complex circumstances in relation to claims which require a certain approach, particularly with regards to the customer’s needs, they might have certain vulnerabilities or complications surrounding the claim which mean it needs to be dealt with in a more empathic approach. For me the customer’s journey is very important, if they have a bad experience the claim will not go well. I’ve learnt it’s all about individual circumstances, rather than our perspective as the loss adjuster, what might be a relatively small claim in our eyes can be catastrophic to an individual and cause them a huge amount of stress or inconvenience. That’s why you have an approach which benefits the customer.
I also have a background in High Net Worth and Domestic Major Loss claims and have used those skills to obtain and keep business. I’m also assisting on the account management side of things these days, which is often entails advising colleagues and assisting with reports and keeping everyone happy.
What is the most memorable claim you’ve worked on?
JF: I’ve been fortunate to be able to work on a wide spectrum of household, commercial, church and heritage claims over the years. The one that sticks in my mind involved spontaneous combustion of the customer’s car parked up against the front of their house. We got the call early in the morning informing us that there had been a large fire at the property, we went straight out to investigate. During the journey there are number of thoughts running through your mind like, what’s the extent, are people hurt? Upon arrival at the large detached house, it was immediately clear that the fire was substantial. The car had combusted around 1am in the morning, several hours after it was last used. There was a lot of fire and smoke damage to the front of the house and the interior also. Immediately we made sure that everyone in the family was ok, it was a family of 5 with 3 small children who were understandably shaken up after the event.
During our investigation it was interesting to learn about how cars operate and we engaged forensics specialists to assist with how the vehicle caught fire. We learned that even when a car is not in use, all the electrics are still running to power the alarm and other systems. Where caught fire, it had burned everything and left deposits of fuel and other materials which had seeped into the gravel driveway. We immediately identified that there was a potential environmental concern as there was a stream close by and our worry was that the contaminants within the gravel would find their way into this. We made arrangements to remove the gravel, dispose the contaminants and test to make sure this had been done. Then our attention turned to the house itself, there was large scale fire damage to the front and smoke damage throughout. We made arrangements to have the family placed into alternative accommodation while repair work took place. Accommodation is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at the moment – there isn’t a magic pool of properties that insurers can dip into. We had liaise with the customer and letting agents to find something suitable, taking into account that the children had to live close enough to their school and the parents had work commitments. The claim itself totalled nearly half a million pounds, there were a lot of parties involved and it was up to me to coordinate with all of those whilst keeping the customer informed and updated about what needed to be done, whilst helping them get their lives back to normal afterwards.
What does diversity in loss adjusting mean to you?
JF: Quadra is a large enough company to not just cover the UK geographically but to win work from a variety of insurers who specialise in varying types of work, ranging from high-net-worth individuals, to blocks of flats, policies for asylum seekers and even church and heritage buildings. The diversity within our customer base is truly reflective of the diversity that makes up the unique culture of the UK. As I’ve talked before about how important the customer journey is, it’s vitally important that our adjusting teams reflect that diversity within our customer base – to help us better understand, empathise and assist our customers in the best way possible. At Quadra we are diversifying our staff portfolio, with younger staff coming in and we’re taking on more female loss adjusters in what has historically been perceived as a male orientated profession. As of 2021, 30% of our loss adjusting team are now female. Personally I’ve become increasingly conscious that the insurance industry as a whole doesn’t seem to reflect the diversity within the UK, while the reasons why are probably a discussion for another day – I think as a whole the industry needs to do more to attract people at a younger age at job fairs, schools and universities.
What advice do you have for the loss adjusters of tomorrow?
JF: A willingness to learn is vital, I’ve been in the industry for a long time now and there are still situations that appear that are new to me. In these instances, I seek the advice of other members of staff and insurers to discover the best way to approach the issue. In terms of education, obtaining qualified status within the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters is vital and demonstrates to insurers and customers that you are serious about the job. I’m working my way towards it at the moment, and determined to get it done as soon as I can. Within the role itself you have to flexible, it’s not a traditional 9 – 5 and there will be times you’re working in the evening, on weekends or your day will start early to accommodate your customer’s needs. Being proactive is key and can reduce the volume of work that keeps coming in, if you’re keeping insurers customers and relevant stakeholders updated it can have a dramatic effect on your workload.
What do you see as the future of loss adjusting?
JF: The industry is undoubtedly changing, and several companies have come in to try and shake things up. That being said, there will always be a need for experienced, qualified insurance claims professionals. That’s where Quadra comes in, we have experience within the commercial and domestic market, places of faith and heritage buildings and the High Net Worth sector which sets us apart from others. There will undoubtedly be changes in the future, as we’ve seen during the pandemic. For example we have enabled cycle technology which enables us to see the damage through our screens, rather than being inside the customers home, keeping everyone safe as a result. We will always be needed for a variety of skills, knowledge, and customer service and perhaps more importantly the human side of things, meeting customers sitting down with a cup of tea and talking about the best way to help them.
For those interested, you can learn more about our loss adjusting services here. Be sure to also keep an eye out for future interviews in our ongoing series exploring the future of loss adjusting.