Markel International’s claims director believes that positive people power is crucial to the success of claims handling, which is increasingly becoming an area of industry focus

Q. What have been the biggest developments in claims over the past five years?

A. There has certainly been greater recognition of their importance. Within London, one of the biggest developments has been the Electronic Claims File. It has clearly delivered greater speed and transparency, which are two of the key elements that our clients and the brokers have highlighted as being one of the most important parts of the claims delivery process.

Another positive development is greater communication skills on the claims side. The claims people have become more involved with clients and brokers than they have been historically.

Q. How will the large number of catastrophe events so far in 2011 affect claims departments?

A. It presents an opportunity to differentiate. It is where the investment in people, working in collaboration with our clients and brokers, really adds material value. Clearly what you want is a solution-oriented, can-do attitude.

As an industry, we sell a promise. The real test is where the rubber hits the road: when you have to handle the claims. That’s where the people element becomes so important.

Q. What are the key lessons learned from handing previous large events?

A. Communication is critical to success because there tends to be a lot of complicated matters with a variety of different people engaged.Also, do not be surprised by the unexpected. In nearly every event, you will always encounter something that you have not dealt with before. Be prepared to be flexible.

Q. What do you think of the efforts in Lloyd’s to improve claims management?

A. I would definitely commend the efforts of Tom Bolt and David Lang [current director of performance and head of claims at Lloyd’s, respectively] and I think there also should be some recognition of the achievements made by Rolf Tolle and Kent Chaplin before them, because this is obviously a journey we are continuing on.

Areas I would encourage them to focus on would be electronic initiatives and raising the standards, which ultimately translates into improved services for our clients.

I would also underscore the importance of the future process work under the auspices of the London Market Group in regard to making sure we have got the technology to support us for the future. We need to keep our foot on the pedal in taking that forward.