Back in the mid 1990s as the major loss adjusters rushed towards the merger merry-go-round, a new loss adjusting venture dedicated to traditional service principles, quietly entered the market.

Liability specialists The Quest Partnership and Gates Adjusting Partnership saw a golden opportunity to take advantage of the turmoil caused by the mass merger of their larger rivals.

With insurers and brokers complaining of a downturn in the standard of adjusting services, the two companies passionately believed there was a demand for the traditional approach of a professional, efficient and personal service.

In July 1995, they launched The Quest Gates Partnership from a small office in Harrogate to break into the northern market.

From a standing start, partner Martin Mathieson achieved a £100,000 turnover in the first year. Business virtually trebled over the next 12 months and within four years turnover reached £500,000.

Now Quest Gates operates from a large Harrogate office and has further offices in Glasgow and Birmingham employing a total of 25 staff with further recruitment on-going. These offices are supported by Quest in Maidstone and Gates in Oxted and Swansea.

Turnover continues to increase and the company forecasts that it will be close to breaking the £1m barrier during the current financial year.

“It seemed pretty obvious to myself and my founding partners Peter Mann and David Miles that insurers were becoming disillusioned with the major companies who were so wrapped up in their own internal affairs that they simply lost the plot,” says Martin Mathieson.

“The message we were getting from insurers and brokers was that they wanted a reliable professional service which provided value for money.

“Our philosophy was simple, to provide that service by using only highly experienced, skilled adjusters, who unlike many of their counterparts were well motivated and pro-active in their methods.”

From this standpoint the loss adjuster set up strong and dedicated teams at all its offices to provide a tailor-made service to insurers and brokers at highly competitive fee levels. Mathieson says Quest Gates has placed a high value on the ability to handle claims effectively but with diplomacy to ensure a just settlement is achieved with a minimum of leakage.

However, he feels that some adjusters at the bigger firms have been turned into mere claims processors, and have lost their motivation as complacency has crept in.

Mathieson says: “We want our clients to feel satisfied that the right settlement has been achieved, but also delighted with the claims service that we have provided.”

He stresses the response from insurers has been positive with the company expanding rapidly to meet demand for its services, particularly in Scotland and the Midlands.

Customer care

At the same time, the company has continued to invest in new technology to maintain the high levels of efficiency expected by clients.

Quest Gates' approach to customer care has played a major part in its success by helping insurers to retain policyholders.

Mathieson says: “Policyholders get tired of seeing different adjusters all the time. They want a dedicated adjuster who understands their business and relates to their needs.

“We regard ourselves as ambassadors for our clients and we set out to win the respect and trust of policyholders so that they understand the claims process, and are satisfied with the outcome.”

He feels it is vitally important to keep a good relationship with brokers and he strongly believes in working as a team with them.

The liability sector has continued to grow over recent years and Quest Gates has taken full advantage of its specialist skills.

“Liability is a wide and complex field but the experience of our partners and staff enable us to provide a 100% liability service covering everything from employers' liability, public liability, sports, motor and medical negligence,” says Mathieson.

He says that what has set Quest Gates apart is using its knowledge and experience in a pro-active and sensible way.

“As strange as it might seem, there are some adjusters who are frightened of picking up the phone and getting the claim started or settled.

“The result is claims being dealt with through correspondence and taking years to be settled often with the consequence of the costs being far higher than the actual settlement.”

Equitable settlements

In contrast, Quest Gates' adjusters are trained to take a realistic approach to negotiating which enables them to obtain equitable settlements without escalating costs.

This is clearly demonstrated in the area of medical negligence claims.

As Mathieson explains: “Those insurers who allow us to carry out thorough investigations at the very start of the claim are reaping rewards. It is essential to collect evidence as quickly as possible while it is fresh in people's memory and not to be deterred if there are obstacles. By going that one step further and ensuring the investigation is as thorough as possible creates a strong negotiating position.”

That he says is the key to successful claims handling – to be quick, efficient and prepared to go that little bit extra.