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Expert major loss team puts Zurich on top

At a glance

  • Major losses can be catastrophic events, involving the loss of a vital asset without warning
  • Zurich’s Major Loss team has decades of experience, with the capability to respond at a local level. It works closely with clients and their advisers throughout the lifecycle of a claim
  • We look at how Zurich helps its customers and share our top tips for dealing with major incidents

Zurich leads the way in major loss claims, an often-challenging area. Zurich Insider caught up with Paul Redington from Zurich’s Major Loss team to find out more.

Q: How does major loss compare to other types of claims?

A: Major losses can be catastrophic events, involving the loss of a vital asset or facility without warning. While this can be daunting for even the most experienced business, it is our job to help guide the customer through the claim process, working alongside them and their broker to map out a strategy to minimise the impact of the event.

Many of us may have made an insurance claim in the past, but few of us for anything as serious as our house burning down. The same applies to businesses, with these types of losses coming as an immense shock to commercial property owners.

Top tips around managing a major incident

Prior to incident

  • Assign clear roles and responsibilities
  • Keep emergency numbers safe and accessible
  • Identify where you might house your control centre in the event of an incident
  • Test your continuity plan across a variety of scenarios and keep the plan in more than one place
  • Ensure the plan is updated when your organisation changes
  • Share and discuss the plan with your insurer

Immediately after an incident

  • Meet quickly to set your plan into action for the immediate way ahead
  • Assess the situation, prioritise next steps and keep a decision log
  • Maintain lines of communication with key stakeholders
  • Engage and work with your insurer as early as possible

Clean-up and disaster recovery phase

  • Review costs regularly and communicate changes to the team
  • Open and maintain lines of proactive communication with local management and also the local community (if needed) throughout the recovery. Don’t underestimate the local impact – ensure a clear and positive message is delivered in all forms of communications
  • Consider not just the loss of physical assets but the environmental and third party liabilities you may also have incurred
  • Engage with public bodies such as the Environment Agency and Health & Safety Executive proactively (where they are involved) as it will save time in the long run

Getting back to business as usual

  • Continue to manage communications positively to maintain momentum
  • Involve all parties in decisions that affect the overall size of the claim
  • Consider whether reinstatement is the best solution for your organisation or if you could use this as an opportunity to review your longer term requirements and strategy
  • Don’t make significant reinstatement decisions until you have liaised with an insurer
  • Review the causes of the incident to see if lessons can be taken from the experience

Q: What procedures should a customer have in place before a loss even occurs?

A: Being prepared is the key, with roles and responsibilities clearly defined. It is vital that a customer has some form of up-to-date business continuity plan in place, and to assess in advance what the key risks and threats are to a particular business or property.

It is also wise to test any continuity plan over a range of scenarios, as well as sharing this plan with your insurer.

Q: What has Zurich put in place to deal with the challenges of major incidents?

A: Zurich was the first insurer in the UK to set up a Major Loss Property Claims team – something we did in 2001. The concept was to give customers access to our most experienced technicians at their time of greatest need. Since then, the proposition has further developed with a full regional offering of six experienced major loss experts. It means the team has the right capacity and can respond quickly at a local level.

All of the claims managers on the team have a wealth of experience – some of us spanning a couple of decades. We deal with the claim from ‘day one’, taking complete ownership of it – so that there is a single point of contact throughout the lifecycle of the claim. This makes life much simpler and easier for our customers.

Q: Could you elaborate on the Major Loss Property Claims team’s negotiating skills, outlining where this adds value?

A: Our priority is, as always, to get a business back up and running or a building rebuilt. But in tandem with that, we will also look for recovery targets and pursue potentially negligent third parties.

We oversee any recovery ourselves, working with handpicked solicitors where required. Our experience and negotiating skills are vital in recovery cases and sometimes this means we will be negotiating directly with a third party. This can greatly enhance loss recovery for our customers.

I recently dealt with a serious fire involving one of our real estate clients. I was looking to pursue a number of third parties for the part they played in the loss. Liability was, however, denied by all of them. We were faced with four defendants – including the hot work contractor who started the blaze. It culminated in a formal mediation, which I attended in person.

The offending contractor was also there in person, as were his insurers who had declined his liability cover for breach of a warranty, which further complicated matters. In all, 24 people attended the opening mediation session – including four barristers (three of which were QC’s). After mediating for some 11 hours I was able to conclude the matter, obtaining over half a million pounds in compensation. This went straight to the bottom line of our customer’s claims experience.

Q: How would you say Zurich’s major incident claims offering stands out from other insurers?

A: Zurich will not only attend a major incident early on, but we will continue to attend the important meetings throughout the lifecycle of a claim. It means our customers are unlikely to ever feel as though they’ve been left to deal with matters on their own.

What we will do is assemble the right team for that particular job. This will be a team that is very much tailored to the challenge at hand; it will include a specialist loss adjuster and where needed a disaster remediation expert, a forensic engineer, or even a relocation specialist if residential tenants are displaced.

We work closely with the client and their advisers; the insured forms a vital part of that team and we all work together to achieve the right outcomes.

For more information on how to deal with major incidents, please see our top tips in the right hand column, or speak with your local Zurich contact.

Find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our new Fire and Flood Risk Resources.

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