Crawford & Co's Jeffrey Bowman tells Elliot Lane that the skills shortage is down to training

Hurricane Katrina and the possibility of yet more devastating storms across the US has exposed the lack of skilled high-end adjusting staff.

Crawford & Co president of international operations Jeffrey Bowman said that this hurricane season was stretching the whole adjusting community due to the dearth of experienced executive general adjusters (EGAs).

"Katrina has posed the question 'where are the people?' We have a shortage of EGAs but then so does the whole industry. There has been a lack of training over the past few years and this needs to be addressed," said Bowman.

Crawford has around 60 EGAs working for clients in Mississippi and Alabama, with 300 general staff on the ground.

Bowman said he would be speaking to Cila this week about "the way it is structured and how it has handled training" to attract a new generation of claims handling experts.

"The American Institute for CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter ) is a good model to follow. It has worked closely with the Insurance Institute of America and they are more joined up.

"However, the work the CII and Cila have been doing on the Faculty of Claims is heading in the right direction," he added.

He admitted that Crawford's UK operation had a "difficult period" during the first quarter 2004 which led to the restructuring of the management team.

"Ian [Muress, UK chief executive] has done an excellent job at turning things around. I wanted to establish a culture based on quality and training.

"Retention of clients in the UK is incredible now. We also went through our management structure which is much flatter than before. Everyone knows their responsibilities and Tom Crawford and myself went on staff roadshows to talk directly with all our 7,000 employees.

"I also introduced an internet-based system where the whole of Crawford's staff globally can log-on and monitor the status of every project we are working on," he added.

He would not be drawn on the recent GAB Robins aborted sale. "The Bank of America had an auction but I cannot comment further. All I will say is that we have a strategy of acquisitions across the globe and look at offers all the time."

He also feels that the two major BPO companies to launch into the high-end adjusting market, Canadian-based CGI and UK-based Capita, will suffer the same problems as Crawford.

"There is a finite number of EGAs and they are going to suffer the same issues as all of us." IT