Evans discusses HNW loss adjusting insurance trends and her journey up the sector’s ranks

As underinsurance spikes in the high net worth (HNW) sector from cost of living pressures, the volume of professional valuations being requested by brokers when determining sums insured limit cover is showing an “increase in demand”.

That was according to Criterion Adjusters’ managing director Helena Evans, who – in addition to discussing the trends the loss adjusting business has recently spotted – spoke exclusively to Insurance Times about her strategic ambitions for 2023, as well as her experience progressing up the ranks having started out in the sector at age 19.

In June 2023, specialist insurer Ecclesiastical reported that 77% of 119 brokers interviewed between March and April this year felt there was an issue of underinsurance in the HNW sector, with 68% saying it was more prevalent than ever before.

Four months later, Evans says underinsurance remains a “big” issue for HNW policyholders. Setting her sights on curbing this issue following the Consumer Duty deadline, she explains that professional valuations can be “really worth it” for brokers to ensure customers have got “adequate cover”.

Brokers advising customers to invest in professional evaluations can also help clarify customer expectations. Evans notes that sometimes “people may consider it’s just their house that they have to give the value of – forgetting they’ve got stables, tennis courts and swimming pools”.

“You’ll get lots of hidden costs in HNW properties”, Evans adds, such as building management systems that operate electrics and heating.

“They are all hidden behind the walls and if things like that are damaged and need replacing, it can be throughout the whole house and it can add a big cost onto the claims costs”, she says.

“You [also] have to take into consideration the high end fittings in a HNW property. So those things can make underinsurance a bigger issue these days.”

Introducing Evans

Following an 11-year tenure, former Criterion Adjusters managing director James Long handed over the c-suite reins to Evans in May 2023 – making her the first ever female to head up the loss adjustor’s helm.

Her promotion, having previously served as head of specialist services, also saw the business’ management team become equal in female and male representation. Evans is joined by regional manager for the north Alistair Spence, operations manager Louise Skilton and regional manager for the south Mark Watts.

As managing director, Evans shares that her ambitions are to “maintain” the business’ brand of “personal service” and, in partnership with parent company Charles Taylor, utilise more digital tools to make the claims process “easier”.

In terms of loss adjusters working with insurance partners firms more effectively, Evans explains that “communication is key with insurers and brokers” and “inviting a broker on the first visit is a really good thing” – doing that and spending more time on site helps build “trust” with customers, she says.

Although what initially sparked her interest was marketing and design, Evans stepped into the world of insurance as a household claims handler at RSA in June 1989 after visiting an insurance stand at a school careers evening.

She then went on to hold a variety of loss adjusting roles at firms such as Brocklehursts and Thomas Howell Selfe – which later merged to become Crawfords in the 90s – GHG and Merlin Claims.

Prior to Criterion Adjusters, Evans served as head of major loss and private clients at Davies Group.

In addition to her breaking through the glass ceiling at Criterion Adjusters, Evans was the second woman to have become president for the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjustors (CILA) – established in 1961.

Although the diversity and inclusion landscape has changed, Evans says she was involved in a “male-dominated world” at the start of her career and, in one instance, experienced a policyholder who stated they would “like a man to take over” after she repudiated a claim.

She also experienced policyholders that assume she was ringing simply to book an appointment with them on behalf of a male loss adjustor.

“You don’t get that so much these days,” however, she says.

One move that did make a difference for her career was volunteering and sitting the likes of ACILA exams, which Evans later employed at CILA by leading the team in doing “a lot of work in encouraging women into loss adjusting and progressing with their qualifications”.

Her advice to other women in the industry is to “believe in yourself and you will achieve”, she says.

And “if you don’t push yourself [or] put yourself forward for things, you don’t get the opportunities that you wouldn’t have even known had existed before”.