With over 35 years of insurance experience to his name and a credit roll that includes senior positions at Guardian Royal Exchange and AXA Insurance, Julian Strutt (pictured), has seen the property market through peaks and troughs, soft and hard market conditions alike.
As director of estate adjusting at Charles Taylor, he has the opportunity to help assess and resolve some of the most complex claims affecting the industry. As a result, he said, this allows him to work with a remarkable variety of clients, from large insurers and individual companies right the way through to global pension funds.
It’s an incredibly vibrant landscape, he said, and one where the most complex claims aren’t always the most expensive. But no matter whether you’re dealing with a business owner who’s just looking to get back on their feet as quickly as possible or an ultra-high-net-worth client whose emphasis is on service, it all comes down to the same ambition – to look after the individuals involved and to get the right result for them and the insurer.
Between claims inflation, wage inflation, supply chain challenges and spiking rebuild costs, insurers and insureds alike are facing a complex risk environment which requires specialist advice for effective navigation. Certainly for Charles Taylor, he said, being able to provide that expertise is a critical element of its unique value proposition.
“The property and real estate market is a little pocket of its own where everybody knows everybody and everybody works in the same space,” he said. “But I do believe it’s different at Charles Taylor. While for our competitors, it’s more about a volume play, for us, it’s got to be the right fit for our culture. We don’t ever want to over-promise so we’re resolute on always having the right offering in place.”
Discussing what it takes to provide “something different” within the long-established property and real estate insurance market, Strutt emphasised having a highly-skilled team. Essentially, he said, it all comes down to your resources, and the most essential resource at Charles Taylor is the people who physically turned up at the doors of clients to handle their losses.
“To be able to look after clients requires experienced, highly skilled individuals who know how to manage clients and who understand their expectations,” he said. “And if you haven’t got that, you can’t compete. You simply can’t deliver without that team. And we’ve been very fortunate to attract and retain the kind of people who I work with [at Charles Taylor] who’ve proven over and over again to be a safe pair of hands.”
The talent crunch is a very real challenge facing the entire loss-adjusting sector and Charles Taylor is no exception to the firms zeroing in on how to find the right people to replace its current cohort of skilled loss-adjusters. As it stands, he said, there are not enough people coming through the talent pipeline to take up that baton and set the tone for the next generation.
Work has already begun within his team to secure that pipeline, Strutt said, but the firm is taking a slightly different tactic to the wider market. Rather than investing heavily in programmes aimed solely at bringing on board new talent through specific graduate or apprenticeship schemes, it’s looking at more of a “nurture your own” approach, earmarking talented individuals from other areas of the business to bring their existing skillsets to the division.
“The worst thing is when you introduce someone to this world and it’s not for them,” he said. “But with this approach we’re bringing on people who have got an understanding of the business, having maybe worked in our third-party administration team and done some of the lower value claims. They’re already partway through the journey, so we know we’re getting people who are a good fit and who are excited about taking that next step.”
When it comes to differentiation, having the right talent is critical but so is having a clear delineation within your offering. For his team, Strutt said, this comes down to being transparent, communicative and client-centric.
“Whether it’s someone in a private house or somebody in a business, they need to know what’s going to happen next in the event of a claim,” he said. “And we’re committed to not storing up problems. So, if there’s an issue our people will flag that early, they won’t let it hang over the whole process. That’s particularly relevant right now with the issue of underinsurance, which is growing all the time.
“For businesses coming under cost pressures, looking at ways to save money is leading, in some cases, to underinsurance. And that needs to be flagged as early as possible. The broker is massively important as a key stakeholder in the whole process and we’re lucky in the real estate and property space that brokers genuinely want to be involved. They want to hear about potential bad news, which is why that stakeholder communication element is so massively important.”
Touching on the client-centricity piece, Strutt noted that the team generally works under a delegated authority. With that in mind, he said, the insurer is trusting them to make decisions on its behalf and to ensure that a client understands the full implications of their policy wording. But while in previous employers he found that the approach was to find a reason not to pay claims, for Charles Taylor, the drive is always on to find a legitimate reason to pay – and to justify that to the insurer.
“We’re of the mindset that the policyholder who buys the policy should have the benefit of the doubt in any area where the wording is a bit grey, rather than us just finding a reason not to pay,” he said. “So, it’s about supporting the policyholder and justifying that to the insurer as to why the policy cover responds.
“And in the long-term, this helps insureds and our insurer partners alike because one of the things we focus on is providing feedback to insurers. We can tell them when they’re getting a lot of claims in an area, or where wordings are causing some degree of confusion and they need to revisit and clarify them.”
Strutt noted that this blend of talent and proposition is resonating well. There’s a real demand in the market for a revitalised approach to loss-adjusting, he said, and the brokers and insurers that he speaks with have vocalised the need for greater choice, particularly amid the consolidation of the loss-adjusting space in recent years.
“It’s great to see them waking up to the Charles Taylor brand and what it stands for, and to see their recognition of how our brand will resonate with their clients and policyholders,” he said. “And for me, it’s great being able to be part of something different in the real estate and property insurance market which is one I love working in and love talking about.”
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