What technical claims skills do brokers need?

Tips from new claims head

What technical claims skills do brokers need?


By Daniel Wood

This month, Bellrock, a Sydney-headquartered firm offering risk advice and insurance brokering services, appointed a new head of claims. Joe Hershewe (pictured above) specialises in financial lines, healthcare and casualty. He’s worked at Catlin and Berkshire Hathaway and before moving to Australia in 2014 was a licenced United States Attorney.

What does “technical claims ability” mean?

Insurance Business asked the new claims leader, what does “technical claims ability” mean exactly?

“First and foremost, it’s understanding and knowing the [insurance] products that exist in the market - that’s key,” he said. “Technical understanding is about how does the product work? How does the coverage flow from the product?”

Then, said Hershewe, it’s about the legal and statutory framework that underpins how a policy will respond in an exposure.

“Then you really overlay the Insurance Contracts Act over the top,” he said. “Understanding that is critical.”

Advocating for the client

Next, a broker who wants to excel in the claims area, needs to consider the claims advocacy perspective, he said.

“That means knowing all of those things that allow you to engage meaningfully with the insurers, work through any hurdles around cover and really advocate as to how and why the product responds to a given scenario,” said Hershewe.

The broker’s task, he said, is to “marry” all the technical pieces “to really enable you to advocate appropriately for the customer.”

Hershewe said understanding the insurance coverages offered by different insurers can be complex.

“Frankly, some of the terms are homogenous across different insurers but there are idiosyncrasies in every policy, like bespoke endorsements and nuanced underwritings, to where, frankly, each has to be taken on its own merits and nothing’s a given,” he said.

Hershewe gave a recent example.

“I looked at a policy the other day and there were 18 endorsements to the standard form and so each one of those endorsements is there for specific reason and could have an impact on any given claims outcome,” he said.

What makes a good insurance broker?

Apart from technical skills in the claims area, a broker needs other abilities. IB asked the claims head what really makes a good insurance broker?

Hershewe said a broker’s transactional work needs to go beyond insurance placement and the deal with the customer.

“It’s understanding the customer and the commercial realities that they face to really identify what will help them around risk mitigation and things they can do to really better themselves as a business,” he said.

He said a trusting relationship with the customer is very important.

“You need to break down those barriers that sometimes exist where people like to be insular and only share so much, because, ultimately, I think, if a risk advisor is well informed, it’s going to put them in the best possible position to really effectuate the best outcome for the customer,” said Hershewe.

He said this applies to the transactional side and “so much” that should be happening before and after that.

For example, he said, being able to make recommendations around improving cyber risk management so they land a better coverage deal.

“So things they can do to really better their business and make them a more attractive risk from an insurance perspective,” said Hershewe.

After the transaction, “is really the advocacy.” This includes making sure the claims experience meets expectations and advocating on the customer’s behalf with the insurer.

“Insurance, at its core, is really an agreement to pay in certain conditions. That part is really fundamental right?” he said. “If a customer can’t get a payment when they need it the most and there’s an expectation of it, that’s obviously going to change their whole view around that process.”

Hershewe said this is why the claims part of insurance broking is so important.

“It does make a huge impact for customers, particularly for SMEs,” he said. “I’ve dealt with claims at the top end of the market where it can move like a big iceberg just floating around, but they can withstand that, that length of time from when a claim occurs to ultimate payment.”

He said for small and medium sized businesses a claim can be of “existential” significance.

“They don’t have the luxury of just being able to sit on their hands and wait around for a while for the process to just unfold,” said Hershewe. “They just don’t have the money, so they need that outcome turned around fairly quickly.”

What do you think? What are some of skills an insurance broker needs? Please tell us below

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