"There's definitely still delays and angst and anxiety out there"

CEO talks about the current challenges faced by fire & general insurance brokers

"There's definitely still delays and angst and anxiety out there"


By Terry Gangcuangco

Amid the current claims environment in New Zealand following this year’s major weather events, fire and general insurance brokers are looking at different ways of trying to get things expedited, all while finding themselves in a position where they’re having to apologise to clients, according to Insurance Brokers Association of New Zealand chief executive Melanie Gorham (pictured).

“There’s definitely still delays and angst and anxiety out there,” Gorham told Insurance Business. “The volume of delays and work is causing so much stress for the clients. And while the brokers are working hard to resolve things and move things forward, in a lot of instances the first thing that they’re ever doing is apologising.

“You have to acknowledge what’s happening because [brokers] can see it. Some of them, in rare cases, are actually experiencing it themselves with their own claims. But clients don’t want to hear apologies for the delays. It’s the volume that’s causing these problems. Clients, five to six months in, are just really wanting to get things resolved so that they can move on with their lives.”

Claims hurdles

Gorham noted that one of the challenges in the aftermath of the floods is the time it’s taking for property risk categories to be confirmed.

“We’ve got some big issues with people in Auckland who the Council hasn’t decided if they can live in their house still or not,” the CEO told Insurance Business. “And we’re now closing in on six months after Anniversary Day floods; they’ve run out of their allowances under their policies for rental and those sorts of things. Quite often you might have $30,000 worth of cover to help you. They’re running out of that, and they’re still waiting for the Council to decide, ‘Can you rebuild’.

“Another wrinkle in that is, a number of them have had settlements and started reinstating their properties. And they may be told, ‘You can’t live here anymore’. So, they’ve spent the money, or committed to spend the money, and we’re still waiting on the Council and government to basically tell them, ‘You are a [Risk Category] 3 and you can’t live there anymore’.

“Or is there some more work that needs to be done, and they may have decided, ‘Well, I’ll use some of the settlement money not to reinstate or rebuild, but to actually fund some of that’, whether it be drainage or whatever else they had to put in place to safeguard their property for the future. So, there’s quite a few concerns. And I think, still, insurers are struggling just to keep up with the volume of claims – not just those in that Level 3 / Level 2 question mark, but just claims in general.”

Also citing the general lack of available assessors, Gorham described this year as having been “utterly awful” for the fire and general insurance space.

‘Huge payback’

Despite the challenges, however, the chief executive believes it’s all worth it at the end of the day.

“Fundamentally, brokers are brokers because they want to give advice and they want to see that people are well represented,” she said. “For a lot of them, it comes from them wanting to help people and work with people, and there will always be that calling aspect to it.

“Yes, there are frustrations to it, but when you get that result or that resolution, or you might see that someone hasn’t got the cover that they really need and you’ve talked to them about their needs and then you match them with the covers, there’s a huge amount of payback there with knowing that you are supporting people to ensure that they’re properly insured and will be looked after in the event of something bad that happens.

“It’s tough, and it’s tougher than it was, but ultimately this is actually about good advice to people and trying to make sure that they are better equipped for the future.”

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