Thursday, 10 May 2012
IGREA launches good practice guide to help avoid claims conflict in Spain
IGREA, the Spanish risk management association, has decided to try and smooth out the claims process, or at least help all parties involved speak the same language, through the introduction of a new claims guide.
Daniel San Millán, Chairman of IGREA
The guide, that follows similar efforts in the UK introduced by Airmic, was launched on April 23 during a high profile ceremony at the headquarters of Spain’s insurance supervisor in Madrid.
It was written by members of Iniciativa Gerentes de Riesgos Españoles Asociados after consultation with the insurance market.
Guia de Buenas Prácticas en la Gestión de Sinistros, or Guide to Good Practices in Claims Processes, is not a bulky document with only 14 pages.
But its authors have worked hard to deliver a set of practical ideas that will hopefully help risk managers see losses paid out in a more efficient way.
The working group responsible for the booklet worked for more than one year with the market to find solutions that would be acceptable to all those involved in claims processes.
No fewer than 30 other trade associations were consulted to make sure that everyone’s voice was reflected in the final draft.
“One of the goals of IGREA is to help the market to work better,” said Daniel San Millán, Chairman of the association, during the ceremony at the building of Dirección General de Seguros y Fondos de Pensiones, DGSFP.
The event was attended by over 150 people involved in the risk management and insurance sectors, according to IGREA, which currently has 30 members.
“The guide does not reinvent the wheel,” Mr Millán said, stressing the focus on practical solutions offered by the guide.
But he added that simple practices could nonetheless prevent disagreements between risk managers, brokers and insurers to arise in the first place.
“It is almost always the case that conflicts are produced in the course of the claims process,” Mr San Millán, who is also the risk manager at Ferrovial, pointed out.
Cristina Martínez, a member of IGREA’s board who is one of the authors of the document, said that a major focus of the document is the issue of transparency. The risk managers believe that improved access to information could go some way towards avoiding conflicts.
In this spirit, she said, one of the first steps taken by risk managers involved in the process was to acknowledge that they are sometimes to blame for inefficiencies themselves.
“We started with an exercise of self-criticism, discussing problems within risk management departments and companies themselves,” she pointed out.
One result of the widespread consultation performed by the authors was to identify the need to unify the terminology employed by all parts involved in a claim. “We found out that the definitions we used varied significantly,” said Ms Martínez, who is also the Corporate Risk Manager at Campofrío, the food group.
An annex at the end of the booklet provides a number of definitions related to the most important aspects of the process.
This ranges from the loss itself and when it is produced to the several reports produced at different stages of the claims process.
Lourdes Freiria Barreiro, Director of Risks and Insurance at Grupo Empresarial Sanjosé, which also worked on the guide, highlighted four good practices that, in her view, can have a major impact on the maintenance of harmony among the various parties involved in a claim.
The first is the creation of a well thought-out protocol between buyers and their insurance companies, where roles are clearly defined and channels of communication are established if a claim needs to be processed.
Another is to make sure that the functions of each of the reports to be produced by experts involved in the process are consistent.
IGREA believes it is also important that all parties have access to the information contained in those documents.
The guide also suggests the adoption of rigid deadlines for the presentation by loss adjusters of preliminary, intermediary and final reports that will help the process to reach a conclusion.
For example, preliminary reports should be ready one week after losses are produced, suggests the association.
An agreement between buyers and insurers that would anticipate payments on account that can be made in the case of significant losses is a further good practice recommended by Ms Freiria.
And the fourth is to perform revision exercises where the parties involved will evaluate the whole process and draw lessons for future claims.
Ms Freiria acknowledged that claims processes often suffer delays because risk management departments fail to produce the documentation required by loss adjusters or insurers. Other times they may fail to convince different sectors of their companies to come up with necessary information in an efficient way.
But Ms Freiria also stressed that buyers want loss adjusters and insurers to be more efficient in the management of the timing of the claims processes.
Mr San Millán, for his part, expressed his dismay with what he called a constant inability by loss adjusters to meet reasonable deadlines when a claim is processed.
The ceremony was closed with a Q&A session during which insurers, brokers and loss adjusters expressed their views on the matter.
They said that the need for transparency and readiness to provide information can be found wanting among insurance buyers too.
Others noted that it is crucial that risk managers have a thorough knowledge of their insurance policies, and that is not always the case.
Loss adjusters also remarked that most insurance policies are poorly written, which is why their work has always been in high demand.
But in general the initiative of the guide of good practices was welcomed and this welcome included representatives of the insurance supervisory body present at the ceremony.
DGSFP also told the audience that a bill to change Spain’s insurance contract law, which was withdrawn from parliament by the new Spanish government, is now being re-worked by the body.
It said that the revised proposal should be sent back to the legislative body at some point in the future but did not give a more exact timescale.
IGREA supports changes to the law.
The claims guide, written in Spanish, can be obtained in a PDF version and free of charge from the association’s website, www.igrea.es.
On 1 April the UK ushered in a new regulatory regime with two new bodies, the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), replacing the Financial Services Authority (FSA) that was established in 1997 to replace the numerous regulatory bodies that previously supervised the country’s financial services industry.