The loss adjusting industry will struggle to attract quality staff, but do graduates really understand what the job entails? Jonathan Clark explains

Attracting and retaining staff is one of the biggest challenges for many firms. It is a particular problem in professional services, such as loss adjusting, where the war for talent can be very fierce.

There is a perceived dearth of younger adjusters, which has led to much talk of a demographic time-bomb in the industry. The number of young people taking professional loss adjusting qualifications is falling compared with two decades ago. Part of the explanation is that these days people tend to take their qualifications later in their careers.

But the number of newly-qualified adjusters is less than those either retiring or allowing their professional accreditation to lapse. While there are currently enough adjusters to meet market demand, young adjusters are a relatively rare breed, which is why adjusting companies need to plan for the future. Not everyone has faced up to the issue.

Winning the war for talent has become increasingly important over the past few years. In October 2006 the CII embarked on a talent initiative to attract more people into insurance. This followed research it conducted with Cass Business School and published as a report, Attracting weapons grade talent. The report found that the profession was not even on the radar for many young graduates. A massive 90% of graduates said they would not consider insurance as a career.

Visits to undergraduate career fairs, a new website for potential employees in the sector and a series of brochures about the industry and what it offers school leavers and undergraduates are just some of the measures the CII launched.

Training is key to both the retention and development of talent. Crawford recognises the importance of solid training towards the company's continuing efficiency and quality of service. We offer in-house training across many disciplines.

Crawford College, established in 2002, is the corporate learning and development centre for our Europe, Middle East & Africa region.

But what are the attractions in choosing loss adjusting as a career in the first place? Talk to executive general adjusters and they will rapidly fire off a whole host of benefits. Among them are: job satisfaction; mobility; independence; intellectual stimulation; the chance to meet interesting people; engaging in many different types of work; being out of the office; and having a defined career path into management.

Many people enjoy being at the front line in a dramatic situation. Buncefield, Katrina and the London bombings in July 2005 were all tragic events, but ones that offered professionals a challenging work situation where problems needed to be solved as quickly as possible. It is perhaps this opportunity to genuinely help people to get their lives back to together or return to business, which offers the highest degree of job satisfaction.

Disproportionate influence
While loss adjusters account for only a small part of the total numbers employed in the insurance sector, they have a disproportionate influence on the industry in terms of profile and authority. Loss adjusting is no longer perceived as a back office function.

The Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters (Cila) and other bodies have done much to promote the profession, enhance its credibility and explain the evolving role of adjusters in an ever-changing environment.

In the past, many loss adjusters came from other areas of insurance. Some people still move into traditional loss adjusting from within the sector via the Faculty of Claims and then through associate or licentiate status of Cila.

Today, there is a great deal more job mobility. Many people join loss adjusting from completely different industries because they can offer the specialised skills required for a particular role.

At Crawford, for example, we employ surveyors and engineers in our national building services division, while former nurses join healthcare and rehabilitation. Policemen join our counter fraud solutions service, and a whole variety of chartered engineers, decontamination specialists and accountants can be found in Crawford's global technical services division.

Although traditional loss adjusting still lies at the core of our operations, changing client requirements mean that this type of work is now complemented by desktop claims solutions and related claims services. These require a new sort of claims professional with a completely different skill set. In order to compete in today's market, firms like Crawford need to be more than just loss adjusters.

The skills required in loss adjusting is in many ways no different from other professional business roles. The ability to manage multiple projects, meet deadlines and engage with others is all important. Good adjusters also tend to be very pragmatic and able to empathise with others. Technical skills are important too, but these can be taught.

Each individual claim has its own requirements for particular skills. Personal lines and commercial lines, for example, require a totally separate approach.

Personal lines claims are about homes and personal assets and policyholders should expect to meet someone who understands that their well-being is at stake. A clear process is needed and this sort of claim will require a lot of personal assistance and sensitivity.

Commercial lines claims also require personal involvement. Here, a business adviser approach is needed in addition to the personal touch, as business operations are at stake and there is a different type of stakeholder. Similarly, smaller businesses claims need a business-led approach, but can also be a highly personal and an emotive matter.

The focus of the industry is on creating a multi-disciplinary team to meet the challenges of the modern insurance industry, but there will always be a place for traditional adjusting skills.

And those with natural management skills can join the industry even if they don't have a loss adjusting background. By the same token, engineers or surveyors are selected for their specific technical skills rather than their loss adjusting ones.

People certainly don't need to be executive general adjusters to have a successful career in the loss adjusting industry. IT

Jonathan Clark is senior vice president of quality & compliance at Crawford & Co