Loss adjusters are facing increasing challenges dealing with subsidence claims. Most adjusters who specialise in this field will be only too aware of increasing demands from insurers for reduced life cycles, reduced costs, better reserving, and greater customer satisfaction. Complaints about delays from frustrated policyholders were commonplace.

Fortunately, that has changed. Most firms of loss adjusters have a specialist team who deal with subsidence claims.

Speed is vital to today's insurer as it is recognised that the longer a claim remains outstanding the greater the potential for cost escalation.

Reducing time
The process of site investigation, removal of cause, monitoring and permanent repair is having to be driven down to a much tighter time-period, and policyholders are even being invited to comment on the overall claim programme!

In recent years, subsidence specialist adjusters have had to come to terms with and fully understand a variety of complex legislative changes.

Meanwhile, the public is much more aware of subsidence and expectations are higher.

More and more research into subsidence has and is continuing to take place – the recently set-up Hortlink Project being a good example, to provide us all eventually with data on the extent that tree reductions are capable of reducing soil moisture uptake. Persuading Government and industry to fund more research into subsidence will be a continual challenge in the future.

Insurers themselves have recognised they have a part to play in improving the process, paying for tree reductions being a good example, although not as yet followed by all the market.

Customer satisfaction
These days "Customer Satisfaction" is the buzz-word with the bigger composite insurers. Balancing policy entitlement with keeping the policyholder happy is stretching the loss adjusters' skills ever further. Reduced timescales for carrying out site investigations, monitoring, effecting repairs and completing the claim is bringing about a much slicker operations in our industry. Those who do not participate find they cannot compete.

We think there is a direct correlation between the service we as loss adjusters deliver and the quality of the staff employed. One badly handled claim will let a whole organisation down.

Proper pay and conditions, with adequate training, will pay dividends, backed up by regular audits used constructively. Build a culture of career enhancement to bring on younger staff. There are a limited number of qualified engineers and surveyors out there prepared to work in claims, and younger people are being deterred by the current state of the profession.

This is where the challenge really exists and where the chartered institute can play an active part – most professional engineers and surveyors employed by firms of loss adjusters are put off from taking the Institute's exams by a lack of structured teaching. Look at how few qualified as chartered loss adjusters in recent years.

If we do not tackle the problem, insurers are going to point out our lack of added value to claims – why not go straight to firms of consulting engineers instead? We have to be able to demonstrate as a profession that it is simply not the technical aspects of managing investigations and repairing subsidence that we can deal with, but all other aspects traditionally a loss adjuster expects to deal with – policy interpretation and management, policyholder management, and recoveries/contribution.

Subsidence is here to stay
Subsidence claims will always exist – if we as a profession are going to succeed in persuading insurers and others that we are the best people to employ, then we need to start addressing these problems – otherwise there will be an increasingly older demographic shift in the age group of people able to deal with subsidence, and relatively few experienced or qualified people coming through the system to replace us. Other professions will quickly step in to the void.