Having been a member of the CILA for many years, I never contemplated that I would be elected as its President. It was a surreal moment on two fronts; not just because I have been given this honour, but also because I was presented with the chain of office in front of real people!
To be honest, I started my adjusting career not quite believing my luck that, at nineteen, I had been given the opportunity to become an adjuster - especially as I was a woman in what was then a male-dominated profession. Adjusters were the font of all knowledge, and held in such high regard within the insurance industry that I could not imagine ever reaching that esteemed level. So, for me, it was a proud moment when I finally qualified and was able to use the letters after my name that I had been in awe of during those early days of reading adjusters’ reports.
Today, I am still a practising adjuster, juggling senior management and client relationships with a modest caseload of VIP and major loss claims. My overriding passion is still to deal with claims: I realise that what motivates me is fixing problems, working with and helping people, and understanding what makes them tick.
The enduring qualities of loss adjusters
During my career, adjusters have had to learn about and adapt to many changes in the profession. These include the arrival of email, electronic files, different types of properties - such as the ‘smart home’ - and alterations to the dominant risks and types of claims presented, the most recent being Covid-related. Technology is now a large part of the adjuster’s world, with paperless files, laptops, virtual visits and customer apps all speeding up the claims process. But there are two constants that never change, which to me are the most important qualities in an adjuster: technical expertise, and people skills.
In fact, the pandemic has highlighted, more than ever, that whilst we are continuing to embrace technology and progress, nothing replaces the benefit of face-to-face interaction with people and the human touch.
Prior to the pandemic, many adjusting companies had already started to use video calls. Once lockdown started, adjusters (and indeed the whole world) had to adapt to virtual technology overnight. This period has enabled clients to try a virtual service that they may have been apprehensive about, and to see its benefits. But it has also magnified the need for qualified, experienced adjusters to be out on site for some losses - such as complex or VIP claims - dealing with vulnerable customers and highlighting potential fraud. Testament to this is the fact that clients started requesting site visits as soon as they were possible after restrictions lifted.
Continuing to build a vibrant and diverse profession for the future
During my presidential year, I would like to capitalise on this and to focus on continuing to raise awareness of the benefits of an adjuster. I would like to promote our progressive qualifications to members and to encourage a more diverse range of individuals into the profession, reaching out to the younger generation in particular. This should enable us to maintain our pool of qualified adjusters, and to continue with the ‘succession plan’.
There has already been a significant increase in exam uptake since the institute started offering a range of qualifications: a move that has made the ‘qualification route’ accessible to and achievable for a more diverse group, and enabled a qualification status for each career stage. The institute’s computer-based exams have also been an inclusive change, encouraging exam progression without the restriction of twice-yearly attendance at exam centres.
There are currently about 1,000 members progressing towards chartered status, so it is important to continue to encourage these members to do what they need to get over the line. This will help replenish the pool of qualified adjusters as senior individuals retire.
My year as Deputy President
The secretariat, and indeed our whole profession, have had an extremely challenging year; continuing to deal with the effects of Covid, Brexit and various surge events from the Covid BI claims and London floods. In true adjuster style they have shown resilience, adapted, and carried on with ‘business as usual’ - and for that we should all be proud. I would like to thank Shaun in particular for his time and dedication to the institute this year as president. Shaun always says in jest that he doesn’t have a ‘real job’, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. His knowledge and experience have been invaluable - not least in the modernisation of our Guide to Professional Standards, which is now a simplified, succinct and easy- to-follow document. It has been a pleasure being Shaun’s deputy.
Whilst this has been an unprecedented time with the world of virtual meetings, I do feel I have got to know the Executive Committee on a different level. At what other time would we have been invited into the President’s loft!
I am, and have always been, so proud to be a Chartered Loss Adjuster, and it is an absolute honour to be your President this year. I follow some truly inspirational leaders, and have some big boots to fill, but I hope my story will inspire others to follow the advice to ‘believe in yourself and you will achieve’ - however much you don’t believe at the time.
This year CILA turns 60, so I am particularly proud to be elected as its second female, I am also proud to celebrate how far we have come as an Institute and look forward to exploring how we can progress further in this ever-changing world.
Helena Evans, President, Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters