We talk in-depth to the winners of our broker and insurer individual awards
Barry Jones - Outstanding Broker Individual
Barry Jones is obsessed with customer service. And he’s on a mission to revolutionise it – not only at his own firm, Marsh, but at yours too. That’s why he was one of two Outstanding Claims Individual prize winners at the first Insurance Times Claims Excellence Awards in May – and a contributor to Marsh winning the Outstanding Broker Claims Team of the Year gong.
Jones, who is UK head of claims, says: “Claims management has often come in at the bottom of customer service surveys and I want to change that by starting at Marsh and, I hope, creating a ripple effect across the industry.”
At Marsh, the revolution has begun. Since joining in July 2008, Jones has restructured the claims business into three areas: claims management, claims consulting and forensic accounting claims services. High-value and complex claims are handled by claims consulting – a team of 180 – while the rest go to claims management.
Jones says the idea was to understand the skills in the business, match them with customer needs and create a structure that would “put best in front”.
Recognising customer demand for technical competence, he created complementary liability practice groups with expertise in various areas – marine, aviation, energy and so on – which work across the three silos. “Whereas previously it might have taken weeks to identify the person with the knowledge to solve a technical problem for a client, now a silo leader can ask a liability practice group leader and have an answer in a couple of hours,” says Jones. The aim is to focus on what clients value most. “We want to be at the forefront of claims thinking and the value chain,” he says.
Achieving this reorganisation has been challenging because it came amid Marsh’s acquisition of HSBC Insurance, announced in December 2009. But Jones says: “The focus we have could have been affected by the HSBC deal, but we have managed this integration successfully.” Indeed, he says, Marsh is already seeing positive feedback from customers.
Feedback is a key plank of Jones’s drive to improve customer service. He is poised to launch an “insurer performance index”, as reported in Insurance Times in March, which will measure the time and quality of insurers’ responses. He says: “I have demonstrated it to 30 insurers and they were all keen.”
Meanwhile, Jones has created a two-way feedback programme for underwriters, aimed at improving customer service. “We now have conversations with underwriters at least every six months about what would make a difference to the service customers are experiencing in various areas.” He believes the programme is unique in the industry, but hopes it will inspire others to take a similar route.
In addition, Jones is working on a project to identify “behaviours and attitudes that create a high-service environment”. This nine-month study, which is expected to be complete in October, involves him meeting each of his 180 claims consulting team members around the UK and discussing their views on customer service.
He plans to emerge with a document that sets out service standards agreed by all team members. Jones says the project “puts me in listening mode, which is healthy”.
All this listening fuels Jones’s drive to change the wider industry. He says: “Claims have moved up the agenda as there have been so many horror stories in recent months. So service-led companies are going to thrive.”
Jones believes loss adjusters and insurers have work to do too. “I am concerned about the lack of quality coming through on the loss adjusting side,” he says. “They are going to come under increasing scrutiny and find that they have to invest more to ensure the quality of their staff – and insurers will have to pay for that.”
He suggests the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters has a role to play in making this happen.
Jones owes this attention to detail to his first job in claims, with Leslie & Godwin, where he started handling main cargo claims in 1981. He says his boss at the time, Joe Balls, taught him that “you cannot bullshit an underwriter. You only get things done in this market if you know what you are talking about – there are no short cuts”. From here, he went on to Nelson Hurst as co-international claims leader and then became head of UK claims at Lockton.
The high point of his career, he says, was working on the World Trade Centre for Citigroup. “I was fortunate to be working with such a fantastically professional client and to help them get their claim paid on their policy,” he says.
No doubt further highlights are to come for Jones. He says: “I hope the work we are doing at Marsh will make a difference throughout the industry.”
Snapshot: Barry Jones
Born: Mill Hill
First employer: Cargo claims broker Leslie & Godwin
Family: Married 25 years, with three children
Interests: Painting, golf, reading, fishing, driving fast cars, socialising
In his own words: ‘Claims management often comes in bottom of customer service surveys – I want to change that’
Robin Stagg - Outstanding Claims Individual
Imagine someone in their twenties joining your business and saving you more than £500,000 almost straight away. This is among the achievements of Robin Stagg, the second person to be named Outstanding Claims Individual at Insurance Times’ first UK Claims Excellence Awards. Despite being only 29, Stagg’s entrepreneurial spirit is already making waves at Allianz. As its customer claims team leader, he has secured clients such as Allianz Musical Insurance and First Direct bank. He says: “You could say that I like to get my hands dirty.”
After studying law, Stagg, who oversees £16m a year across 130,000 claims, went into claims when Allianz recruited him four years ago for a two-year graduate scheme. Spotting his potential, the firm gave him the chance to jump off the scheme 10 months early to help restructure the retail division.
Stagg was given the job of moving the Tunbridge Wells claims management operation in with the retail claims division of the Bristol office. This involved recruiting, managing and training a new team in Bristol to replicate previous processes in Tunbridge Wells, as well as managing redundancies.
It was during this move that Stagg had a light-bulb moment. He says: “I started noticing there were lots of processes across different types of claims that were not in line with what we did elsewhere, which meant there were opportunities for change.”
Stagg began applying best practice in processes such as fraud handling and reporting from one claims area to another. Applying household settlement procedures to extended warranty, for example, saved more than £300,000 in 2010.
“These types of claim are fundamentally the same – they are both reasonably simple property claims – so it seemed obvious they could be treated with the same approach,” he says.
Another idea was to improve the audit procedures for replacement product cover (low-value warranty) products, which saved £350,000 in the second half of 2010.
By improving operational efficiency, lifecycle reduction, customer improvement and claims spend reduction, Stagg has enabled the team to operate with 20% fewer resources, while delivering a faster service.
However, he has had to work hard to get the management support necessary for such improvements. “You are always in competition for the company’s resources for these kinds of things,” he says. “I had to do a lot of stakeholder management to influence the right people.” This involved plenty of internal networking, raising his profile and providing a convincing business case for his ideas.
Stagg even ran a pilot scheme. As he says: “Mainstream areas such as motor tend to be higher up the agenda, but getting the resources for niche areas is a challenge, so you have to be a bit more enterprising.”
As full as his hands have been at Allianz, Stagg has also been fitting in some innovative work for the Chartered Insurance Institute’s claims faculty. He chairs the New Generation Claims Group, a team of eight young insurance professionals formed in August 2010, who are developing ways to improve industry processes. The members, who were nominated by the senior management of a variety of insurers, are writing a briefing on how social media can improve customer communications during a claims surge.
Stagg explains: “We found that people think claims is about call centres, but that’s not true. I can’t say too much more about the project at this stage, but we will be publishing the findings soon.”
He sees technology as the most exciting driver of change for the industry in the years to come. “There are huge opportunities for keeping customers informed at all times,” he says.
This passion for technology and his perseverance can be put down to the three years Stagg spent teaching English in Japan for Hitachi between university and joining Allianz. “I’ve not seen that kind of teamwork or work ethic anywhere else,” he says. “Over there, the team is everything – I’ve seen people working weekends for nine months without a break.
“I prefer more of a work-life balance, of course, but I still learned a lot about working hard.”
When he returned to the UK, Stagg says he knew what he wanted to do. “Unlike most people, perhaps, I actively sought out insurance. I wanted to use the law I had studied, but I did not want to be a lawyer,” he says.
“I was also keen to get involved with people and be making real decisions as soon as possible, so claims seemed the most attractive route.”
His choice seems to have worked out so far. Winning the Insurance Times Outstanding Claims Individual award was, he says, “an extremely pleasant surprise” – though we suspect this is just the beginning for Stagg.
Snapshot: Robin Stagg
Born: Maidstone, Kent
First employer: English teacher in Japan (first job in insurance was with the Allianz Claims graduate scheme in 2007)
Family: Married, one daughter
Interests: Playing guitar, learning to speak Japanese
In his own words: ‘Unlike most people perhaps, I actively sought out insurance … I did not want to be a lawyer’