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Running the numbers: succeeding as an independent insurance adjuster means keeping up with technology and training.

Growing an independent insurance-adjusting business is a matter of persevering, upgrading, training and learning, a panel of insurance-adjusting experts told participants in A.M. Best's recent webcast, "Succeeding in the Insurance Adjusting Business."

The one-hour webcast, conducted in July, was produced by the editors of Best's Directory of Recommended Insurance Adjusters and moderated by Lee McDonald, A.M. Best's group vice president of communications.

The size and number of claims that are being assigned to independent adjusters are changing, panelists said, and the magnitude of the claims is increasing. Meanwhile, more insurers are using staff and agency forces to handle routine, lower-level claims.

"We don't see nearly as many small claims as we once did," said Alan Mayfield of T.M. Mayfield & Co., an independent adjusting firm serving the Carolinas. "That's how we all learned this business, by handling lightning claims and theft claims and small ones. That's just not there now."

E. Richard (Gene) Simon, property claim manager at Merrill, Wis.-based Church Mutual Insurance Co., estimates that his company handles about 80% of claims on the inside, and outsources the remainder.

Simon, a former adjuster, said adjusters must be more resourceful than ever. "In the '60s and '70s, obviously the adjuster could bet on getting five or six of the same type of assignments every day," Simon said. "Now it's remembering what you did a month ago on a particular type of claim investigation."

Insurers research and screen adjusters before offering assignments, according to Elise Farnham of Illumine Consulting, an insurance and risk management consultancy based near Atlanta.

"There are multiple ways of getting on a carrier's approved fist, but all of it involves some sort of networking and certainly getting your name out there to where they know who you are and what you can do," she said.

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Simon said Church Mutual tracks assignments and feedback on the performance of those assignments, which influences which adjusters get future assignments.

Meanwhile, adjusters are looking to new areas of business and types of expertise in which to grow. "As the standard pool of assignments to independents has shrunk, other areas such as serf-insured, risk-retention groups and captives have emerged," Mayfield said. "It's an area of opportunity that we're trying to pursue."

Farnham advised adjusters to become better versed in environmental-related claims investigations, especially in light of construction that may be spurred by new federal stimulus spending.

"About a year ago there were only slightly more than 300 insurance products to provide coverage for the exposures associated with 'green' building," she said. "Now that number is closer to 700 products and yet there's no standardization."

Other panelists pointed to business opportunities in servicing third-party administrators and other organizations that handle insurance-related business.

At a minimum, adjusters should be online and have wireless communications capabilities, panelists agreed. Remote computing tools are a plus, they said.

"Growing an independent insurance adjusting business ultimately comes down to demonstrating that your firm can do the work, then striving to maintain good working relationships with clients and prospects," said Marty Brown of Brown Adjustment Service and immediate past president of the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters.

"There's a real interest and concern in what the company's looking for," said Brown, whose firm is located in Fayetteville, Ark. "What do you need? How can we help? What can we learn about your business that will improve our service to you?"

Listen to an audio-only version of this webcast at www.ambest. com/bestday/podcast/20090724.mp3.
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Title Annotation:Property/Casualty: Adjusters Webcast
Comment:Running the numbers: succeeding as an independent insurance adjuster means keeping up with technology and training.(Property/Casualty: Adjusters Webcast)
Publication:Best's Review
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2009
Words:589
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