GISC monitors fail to inspire

GISC monitors fail to inspire

In your letters column of June 29, Chris Woodburn, GISC chief executive, states that the industry will be expecting "monitors… well versed in the relevant insurance products, distribution channels and supporting systems of the member being visited".

PricewaterhouseCoopers has been monitoring the ABI Code for the past three years and it still uses spotty accountants (on temporary assignment) just out of university to instruct insurance intermediaries how to run their businesses, which may have been operating for 30 years or more.

Apart from financial audit experience, Ernst & Young has no experience of monitoring of this nature, and who has it recruited to monitor insurers, brokers and Lloyd's? GISC will have started by the time this letter is published – nice to be ready to deliver.

From what I hear and see, PWC staff receive little training and are then expected to carry out visits without supervision. The staff being used clearly have no insurance experience or qualifications. Clearly, this large firm of accountants is just interested in collecting substantial fees (how much do ABI members pay per visit, I wonder).

I would add that there are a few qualified individuals who do this work, although there are too few for my liking. It gave me confidence when I was visited by an FCII-qualified individual who had worked in the insurance industry and was able to talk to me on a like-for-like basis.

I do hope that both firms will begin to use qualified and experienced insurance staff for GISC work, who will instil confidence in the member being monitored. What is expected of both firms' staff in terms of qualifications and competence? After all, we will be expected to deliver training to our staff and a benchmark CII qualification is recommended. Surely the monitors should have these as well?

Gary Armstrong ACII
Independent insurance intermediary

Tea and sympathy

I represent a very small, high street insurance intermediary and feel very threatened by the alarming growth of call centres across the country.

I have therefore had a mechanical device fitted to my front door, which seems to work very well and should be on offer to every intermediary in the near future.

It works something like this:

  • Press '1' if you would like to join the quotation queue.
  • Press '2' if you would like to join the claims queue.
  • Press '3' if you would like to speak directly to an operator who can give you advice on which queue to join.
  • Press '4' if you would like to continue waiting outside.
  • Press '5' if you would like to be cut off.
  • Press '6' if you would like to hear the options again.

    Or, if you would like to discuss any insurance matter in a friendly, but professional, atmosphere, perhaps over a cup of tea, push the door open and enter.

    I hope you like the sound of my invention. I am not sure whether it will catch on, though.

    Steve Savage,
    O'Regan Insurance Services,

    Tackling medical fraud

    In your letters column of June 22, Alexander MacLachlan of the Association of Medical Reporting Organisations comments on a recent letter of mine, and extols the virtues of the production of high quality medico-legal reports as an aid to combating personal injury insurance fraud.

    My comments appear to have touched a raw nerve with his organisation. He suggests in his letter that, for reasons of proportionality, there seems to be no need for doctors producing medico-legal reports to obtain the medical records in fast-track claims.

    I would disagree entirely. Overall, the largest losses to insurers are likely to accrue not from one-off large individual claims, but from the often opportunistic, fraudulent and exaggerated claims for whiplash-type and similar injuries which are made by hundreds of thousands of claimants each year.

    Mr MacLachlan makes the point that, where claimants are fully recovered, or there is a very short prognosis, it is unlikely that medical records would be needed. He misses the point in that this is one of the very categories where investigation of the records reveals they are the mere reportage of the claimant, given credulity by being documented by a doctor.

    The days are over when a document can be accepted as being an objective assessment merely because it has a doctor's signature, and it is clearly incumbent on those who produce medico-legal reports to recognise their responsibility not only to the courts but also to the insurers and the general public who pay their premiums.

    Under Woolf, in the majority of cases only one doctor will ever see and report upon an individual claimant.

    Therefore it is only right that such a report, which is unlikely to be scrutinised by another doctor, is based on sound medical evidence and the examination of the relevant and available medical records.

    If medical reports used in personal injury litigation are to be based solely on hearsay and opinions merely plucked from the air, then insurers might just as well ask claimants to write their own medical reports, or simply send a cheque to every person who initiates a claim against them.

    I have yet to meet any respectable plaintiff-orientated solicitor or any sensible insurance claims handler who has any problem in dealing with fully evidence-based medical reports, even in fast-track cases, as the sums involved, multiplied by the total number of claimants each year, are hardly negligible.

    If Mr MacLachlan's organisation finds dealing with hard medical facts so unpalatable, then perhaps it is time for it to start buying and selling some other commodity, and to leave the production of medical evidence where it belongs – in the hands of the doctors.

    Roger Norwich,
    Medical director,
    Medico-Legal Consultancy,

    Green Card confusion

    It is well known that, since we joined the EU, there has been considerable confusion regarding the need or otherwise for drivers to possess a Green Card when motoring on the continent. As a result, some motor insurers have included full continental cover at no charge, but still wish to issue a Green Card, and other insurers still issue a Green Card with various charges applying.

    Unfortunately, there have been many inaccurate comments in the national press about the need for a Green Card, with the result that the average man in the street is of the opinion that he probably can drive on the continent quite happily without one.

    Technically, of course, this is true, but God help him if he has an accident and damages his own vehicle. We now find ourselves with a client in exactly that position, with a written off vehicle worth several thousand pounds, injuries and time spent in hospital, not to mention a ruined holiday.

    We have also discovered that, as he believed he did not need a Green Card, he is going to lose the value of his vehicle, plus any charges that may apply to recover it to this country if he so wishes.

    Would it therefore not be a good idea if those insurers who do not automatically include continental cover in their certificates, quite clearly show on the certificate that there is no cover outside the UK, and that a Green Card must therefore be applied for?

    On the same basis, those companies who offer Green Card cover surely need only to declare it on the certificate and do away with what is a somewhat grey area. The sooner there are free Green Cards for all the better, but in the meantime this mess really does need to be cleared up far more than it is at the moment. Any response from other brokers or insurers would be gratefully received.

    Ian Bevan-Mogg,
    Vaughan Insurance Brokers,

    The acid test of genetics

    Your editorial ('Genetic code calls for a humane response', June 29) suggests that the decoding of the human genome takes insurers into new and different territory. In fact, insurers have been handling and interpreting genetic test results for some time.

    The insurance industry has taken the initiative in developing a comprehensive genetic testing code of practice. Key points of the code are:

  • Insurers will not ask people to take a genetic test.
  • Insurers may only use the results of tests identified by the ABI's Genetic Adviser as relevant and valid for insurance purposes. Of all the available genetic tests, only the results of specific tests from seven conditions may be used by underwriters.
  • We shall apply to the Government-appointed Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC) to continue to use these test results. If the GAIC does not agree that the tests give relevant risk information, insurers will stop taking results into account.
  • Test results do not need to be disclosed when applying for life insurance in connection with a mortgage up to £100,000 (unless they are to the benefit of the individual).

    People often assume that having a genetic test will always result in higher premiums (or even in insurance being refused). This is not so. The effect of a positive genetic test on premiums depends on a number of other factors, including the type and length of the insurance policy.

    Don't forget, too, that negative test results can counteract the effects of a high-risk family history and result in normal premiums (as long as there are no other significant risk factors).

    Alan Woods,
    Head of life and pensions,
    Association of British Insurers

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