Let’s get one thing straight, says the chief executive of Lorega. We are not loss assessors; think instead of loss recovery. It’s an industry that he ’s determined to get into the mainstream and is one that he tells Ellen Bennett could be worth up to £250m a year.
It’s early Friday at the annual Biba conference, and the exhibition hall is looking predictably empty. The few delegates who have made it in are wandering from coffee stand to coffee stand, clutching bottles of water. But John Sims, the chief executive of Lorega, is up and at ’em, keen to talk about the business and his passionate stance on customer service and claims in the insurance industry.
Sims joined Lorega 18 months ago after more than ten years as head of high net worth at Chubb. He was planning to go to a broker, but was tempted to Lorega by Malcolm Harvey, its chairman. “The moment I sat down and started to talk to Malcolm about what Lorega was all about, the fact that everything was geared towards the customer experience, really just fitted with everything I tried to do at the team at Chubb.”
But he had a challenge on his hands, because not only was Lorega little known, but it was a new type of business that many people struggled to understand. Sims is a friendly, affable character, with a smile for everyone and a ready store of anecdotes – but the one thing that gets his goat is when Lorega is described as a loss assessor. Traditionally, loss assessors are unqualified individuals, who work for clients and have a pretty dismal reputation among insurers.
Lorega, he is keen to emphasise, employs only qualified loss adjustors – it’s just that they happen to work for the clients rather than the insurers. So the question of what to call the company is a tricky one. Sims prefers loss recovery, although client-side claims consultants does pretty well too.
It’s quite a contrast to his time at Chubb, where he was backed by one of the biggest names in the business. “I meet people every day who haven’t heard of Lorega,” he muses. “I see that as a great opportunity, because it means there’s still a long way to go.”
Indeed, a large part of Sims’ job seems to be to provide a public face for Lorega and raise its profile. It’s something that naturally suits his character, and he is already well known in the industry. He is using his relationships with brokers and insurers alike to try to bring loss recovery into the mainstream, and hopes that, within a few years, it will be as common as legal expenses cover. Lorega recently signed a deal with high net worth provider Sterling in which their services will be offered to the client as standard. It has a similar deal with Aon Private Clients, and is looking to develop more of these relationships.
“The big trick for us is winning over insurers, getting the right balance between being respectful to insurance companies and working for clients. But a lot of insurers have to open their eyes to the fact that the service they are providing is not of the quality that we as an industry need to see. The brutal truth is if the industry dealt with claims in the way that the likes of Chubb and Hiscox do, Lorega would not be in business. There would be no need for us.”
It’s an uncompromising message, but one that his industry peers seem relatively receptive to. He had 268 emails and letters when he left Chubb, and has found that everyone is willing to speak to him about Lorega, even if they’re not all itching to sign up.
“One of the biggest things I’ve been working on is getting the insurance companies more comfortable that we are a valuable link in the chain; that we’re not just another mouth to feed, and that we’re not going to approach them in combative way. We need them to understand that if they work with us, it can benefit their reputation and standing with the client as well.”
Sims believes that shifts in the nature of the claims community, and loss adjustors in particular, have created the need for loss recovery. He says that since his time as a broker, ten to 15 years ago, the role of the adjustor has moved from an independent consultant, paid for by the insurer but acting on behalf of the client too, to being closer to the insurers. Coupled with this has been a move from the larger insurers to drive down the fees paid to adjustors, and a consequent skills shortage in the sector.
So what does the future hold for Sims, and Lorega? He estimates that the loss recovery market in the UK is worth up to £250m a year, with Lorega on target to write £11m this year – so there’s plenty of room for growth.
As well as establishing the company – and indeed the concept of loss recovery – firmly in the UK market, there are ambitions to go global. The company’s website is already available in five languages, and chairman Harvey is spearheading a search for overseas partners.
“They don’t do this in Germany, they don’t do it in Spain, they don’t do it in Italy or Russia, and we’re in the process of researching three of those territories. We’re looking for partnerships with larger brokers in those areas – it’s a very simple model, and we hope to have business flowing in one of those territories probably by September,” says Sims.
As the interview ends, Mark Cliff, managing director of Fortis UK, wanders by. “Long night was it,” he grins, before patting Sims on the back and saying what a great guy he is. Sims is laughing: it’s this kind of friendly, easy banter that he does so well – and will be a driving force in propelling Lorega into the big leagues. Meanwhile, it’s time for another coffee. IT