Key industry figures took centre stage to set out their vision for flood defences

The need to tackle the flood threat in the UK should not be underestimated, according to the ABI’s Nick Starling. He said the floods of 2007 had cost the insurance sector £3bn. “Flooding devastates lives, disrupts business activity and blights communities,” he said.

He added that the UK is one of the few countries where flood insurance is central to property insurance. “Millions of customers rely on insurance to provide financial protection should a flood occur. We are determined not to let them down. This is why the industry, the government and consumers all need to work together to ensure that our flood risk communities get the best possible flood protection.”

He said the Statement of Principles had distorted competition in the marketplace and sometimes encouraged daft building development decisions. He added that its existence had prevented the development of a specialised marketplace. Starling emphasised that the government and insurers were working together to develop better risk models and measures to help communities become more resilient to flood risk.

Nick Starling, the ABI’s director of general insurance and health

Stakeholders need to come together to fight the growing threat of flood risk, argued Aidan Kerr. “The insurance industry, government and organisations such as the Environment Agency all have key roles in managing the risk of flooding, and it is essential that we all work together on the issue,” he said. Kerr explained that the three working groups set up after the Flood Summit in September underlined the commitment of the government and insurers to work collaboratively towards 2013 and beyond.

He added that parties needed to develop better strategies for collecting data through using a joined-up approach. “The Environment Agency shares flood risk data on a regular basis with insurers. As that data improves, so does our collective understanding of flood risk,” he said. He added that water firms, councils and insurers had access to excellent data. Devising strategies to help bodies share this data would enhance the quality of information available about flood risk.

He said that progress was being made, however. “The work that local flood authorities are currently undertaking to develop their preliminary flood risk assessments will provide another vital piece of the jigsaw.”

Aidan Kerr, head of investment and funding for flood risk management, the Environment Agency

The role of loss adjusters in the aftermath of a flood is more important than ever, argued GAB Robins’ Peter Farrelly. “I see one of the main functions of the loss adjuster as being a co-ordinator: a conduit linking all stakeholders and a channel of communication.”

He said that this approach would save time and money. “Early measures will drive the lifecycle of the claim and greatly influence the ultimate outcome. Get the proper measures in place at an early stage and matters should flow forward largely unhindered.” It is vital that loss adjusters take advantage of new technologies, he added. “The loss adjuster should ensure there is a constant flow of information. SMS text messaging, websites, skype calling and live video streaming are available.”

He said that the expertise of the disaster recovery firms and building contractors should also be engaged from the outset instead of being viewed as secondary parties.

The industry should be proud of its performance in the aftermath of the Cockermouth floods in 2009, Farrelly pointed out. “When disaster strikes, it’s not the government that people look to for help – it’s the insurance industry.”

Peter Farrelly, operations director, major and complex loss, GAB Robins


Education needed for all

“Education goes right across the board. Even before we pick up the pieces, we need to be talking about our changing climate and educating policyholders. Claims handlers needs to be educated more – from what I see they had very little education. We need to get the warnings out early.” Jim Dale, British Weather Services senior meteorologist

More good news than expected

“It is very interesting. There seems to be more good news than I expected. The end of the Statement of Principles agreement is worrying and the outcome is very hard to predict. That is where the main challenge for the industry lies. These events are good because, while you might not like everybody’s opinion, you get to hear different perspective from different stakeholders. You can’t be isolated because what we do affects people’s lives and the environment so it is really important that these things happen.” Ian Guest, Allianz senior claims manager

Adjusters at the cutting edge

“There needs to be more awareness about flood risk – not just within the insurance sector but throughout the wider community. There is a misunderstanding about insurance cover. Loss adjusters are really at the cutting edge when things go wrong. As an adjuster, I haven’t bought houses in flood risk areas but I don’t think I would have that knowledge if I was not an adjuster.” Ian Woodhead, GAB Robins UK property director.