IN the next few months, the Society of Claims Technicians (SCT) will register its 1,000th member. Already more than 500 people have sat the exams. In two years, the SCT has become part of the claims scene.

Although sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters, the SCT is at pains to point out that its qualifications stand in their own right. Of course, there are those who gain the associateship who see it as a recognised stepping stone towards CILA qualifications. But the fact that the SCT not only has exams in general insurance principles but also in motor and travel claims (next year there will be a liability exam) shows that it is a professional body hoping to cater for the widest community in the world of insurance claims.

A vital part of the qualification is taking part in a recognised inter-personal skills course, as the SCT is only too aware that the insurance industry stands and falls not only by the way it manages claims but by the way it handles claimants.

Insurance Times talked to some of those who were among the first to sit the SCT exams and asked them why they sought the qualification.

Theory behind the practice
Kirk Bradley, Royal & Sunalliance, says:

“I manage a customer relations unit. We're responsible for the handling and resolution of those complaints which fall out of the run-of-the-mill business and end up being taken to our executive, the courts or arbitration. We also log and control complaints across the company and feed information into the continuous improvement programme.

“The SCT and its exams interested me, as they are geared towards the claims environment. Helpfully, they covered the law and the theory behind the decision-making process, as well as the practical side of claims handling. As long as the SCT continues to be promoted, membership will give improved standing, demonstrate higher levels of competence and, as a result, enhance employability.”

Exciting opportunities
Eddy Treloar of Direct Line, national home claims specialist, says: “My responsibilities include large losses, reinsurance, setting up best practice for home claims and contributing to the anti-fraud strategy. I also handle technical referrals and deal with all cases referred to the Ombudsman. Plus I'm involved with training.

“There's always a need to improve the technical ability of claims technicians, but those who handle the more complex claims would benefit most from working towards the SCT qualification. Although there are fears about the direction the insurance industry is heading, in reality there are many exciting opportunities for claims technicians – those prepared to accept fresh challenges will have plenty of chances. For those involved with claims handling, I recommend the SCT. In its infancy, we have the opportunity to influence how it grows to best meet the needs of claims technicians.”

For 20 years, Trevor Cottington has been running Cigas Construction and Power Generation Department. He's been in claims nearly as long as most SCT members have been alive.

He says: “For some time, we've been worried about the length of time involved and the relevance of other qualifications, so I thought I would be a guinea pig to see if the SCT qualifications fitted the bill. Of course there are some subjects, such as domestic insurance, that are not relevant to our business but I liked the whole balance. When the more pertinent subjects, like liability, come on stream in 2002, then my company will become fully committed.

“The problem insurance companies have is that, over the last ten years, there has been a serious dumbing down in claims departments – many claims departments have become little more than postal departments shuffling paper backwards and forwards. This tendency is exaggerated as the efficiency of call centres increases. There is a temptation to staff insurance offices with personnel who have never seen a claim first-hand. To some extent, the SCT redresses the balance.”

Anne Marie Westwood works as an internal case handler at Crawfords service centre in Birmingham. Two years ago, she returned to claims after starting a family. She had previously worked as an external adjuster with Prudential.

She says: “I don't agree with the argument that the claims process is being dumbed down. Here, at any rate, claims are dealt with on an individual basis and a high level of expertise is brought to bear – we are not just a processing centre. Becoming an associate has speeded up the process of becoming a chartered loss adjuster. The qualification is good for my own personal standing and good for my company, as it shows that we are professionally qualified and know what we are talking about when we deal with the public and their claims.”

Building up a career
Emma Murdoch, incident manager with Cunningham Lindsey's Zurich/Eagle Star team in Farnham, says: “My SCT qualification is a first step on the qualifications ladder and therefore good for my career. It gives my colleagues confidence and, most of all, it helps reassure policyholders who demand the assurance of a professional qualification – as they do with a doctor or lawyer. It's all part of building up a career in claims.”