Earlier this month, bushfires tore across several regions of Australia and brokers jumped into action to support their clients in at-risk areas.
Among them was Gallagher’s Adam Squire – as head of claims, Squire sits on the committee which oversees the firm’s claims catastrophe plan.
Launched only in the wake – or midst – of a serious incident, the catastrophe plan is put into action whenever a significant surge in claims activity is expected.
“Usually, these events never occur at convenient times, so we’ll typically get an urgent call at 8 or 9 at night, or 7 in the morning,” said Squire. “Then we’ll set ourselves up and agree on the appropriate level of response, depending on the circumstances.”
The approach involves splitting events into one of two levels – the first is typically a regional area which has been affected, with primarily local media attention.
“Those are the ones that we can usually manage with our existing claims resources,” said Squire. “There is still a surge in activity, but we can cope with that.”
The second level is more significant and tends to hit a large regional or metro location, with claims volumes a lot higher and media attention coming from both state and national sources.
“On those occasions, we often have to enlist additional resources and may send someone to the location so they can assist with the coordination on the ground,” said Squire.
Determining which level an event falls into is a team effort, and relies on Gallagher pulling resources from several industry sources.
“We monitor things like Twitter and social media, we monitor what the Insurance Council puts out in terms of declaring catastrophes, and we connect with all the major insurers and adjusting houses,” said Squire.
The committee itself has several permanent members but, depending on the nature of the event, others may be brought in – including HR, marketing or even the CEO.
“There are about half a dozen of us who are standing members of the committee, and everyone knows their role, but we do have the freedom to bring others in when we need their support,” said Squire.
Committee members understanding their role, Squire said, is crucial to ensuring Gallagher’s response is up to its high standards.
“We’re lucky here in that we’ve got a pretty experienced team of people who know their responsibilities and know what role they have to play,” he said.
Squire also noted that, because of Australia’s unique climate, Gallagher gets multiple opportunities to test and refine the plan every year.
“We generally activate it a couple of times a year, at least, so it’s a constant working document that we’re always looking at and challenging ourselves to update and improve,” he said.
A key pillar of the plan, he added, is communication – both internally within the business as well as what Gallagher pushes out to clients.
“The more we can manage the communication and set expectations, the smoother the event tends to run,” said Squire. “We tend to find that, if there’s a communication vacuum, people start going off and doing their own thing which can create issues rather than solving them.”
Importantly, Squire says the Claims Catastrophe Plan means those impacted by a major event are given expedited information and assistance.
“In these events, there’s a fair degree of stress and pressure, often people are looking for an urgency in the advice we can give them or the support we can provide,” he said.
“Sometimes they just want reassurance, but the most important thing is that we pool our resources so that clients have access to the information they need, and they have somebody they can speak to if they want, and that we can advise them on some basic things.”
The plan also enables Gallagher’s everyday business to operate as usual, rather than sacrificing its standards in order to meet the needs of customers experiencing a catastrophe.
“Generally, we’ll ring fence this work and manage these claims events away from our business’s usual operations because those everyday claims keep coming in and need to be dealt with too,” he said.
“Everyone gets really excited about the big event but that doesn’t stop the normal 200 or 300 claims we get a day from rolling in – you’ve still got to keep managing those just as well and that’s where the pressure comes.”