Ahead of the Modern Claims Awards 2024, Andy Whatmough – Managing Director of headline sponsor, S&G Response – sat down with David Williams to discuss his current projects, the qualities that make up a strong nomination, and some present-day trends across the Claims sector.
Q. David, tell us about the projects you’ve been involved with and the roles you’ve taken on since you retired from AXA back in 2022!
A. I never wanted to stop work completely. I just needed some more variety, so I’ve kept busy!
I still work five days a month for AXA but on a consultancy basis; mainly dealing with claims & underwriting stuff, but also keeping my hand in on the ‘Driverless Cars’ future focussing piece as well.
I’m a Non-Exec Director at Qlaims (a Loss Recovery Insurance MGA and property claims service provider), a Non-Exec at Freedom Services (a broker with an MGA and claims handling arm called Action 365 Ltd), and I am Chair of the Fire Protection Association (a joint venture between insurers and the Fire Services, setting standards and conducting training, testing & lobbying for safer buildings).
I’ve also been helping a very large broker in their review of their claims organisation, have worked with another broker on some mentoring, been out to Paris for a ‘Connected & Autonomous Vehicle’ Conference, and spoke at IBIS, a Motor Claims Bodyshop Conference in Milan. I also spent a few days in Finland looking at what satellites could do for the insurance industry, particularly in terms of claims scenarios!
Q. If you did not pursue a career in insurance, what career do you think you might have chosen instead?
A. When I was leaving school, my other options included a sponsored degree in Chemical Engineering with British Gas, or a degree in Horticulture looking at Plant Breeding & Development. I don’t really think I had a clue what I wanted to do! I was offered a job as Trainee Manager at Sainsburys that paid £1,000p/a more than my Trainee Underwriter role (a big increase over £3,000), but I declined that role and I’m very happy I did!
If I had to do something different now, I think I’d quite fancy owning or working on a vineyard!
Q. The Claims sector is in a state of flux right now. With this in mind, what top three things do you expect to see from this area of the industry in 2024?
A. Customer Service. I don’t want to start with a negative, but brokers tell me that insurance company claims services have been very poor in the last couple of years. I don’t think COVID-19 has helped; I think we did really well in terms of continuing to operate during lockdown, and some of the solutions for remote working were transformational! I do expect customer expectations to continue to grow, and therefore insurers need to up their game quickly. If they can’t do it internally, there are a lot of third-party providers who would love to show what they can do, some using great technology.
AI. Quite rightly, everyone is talking about Artificial Intelligence right now. I think it’s going to have a huge impact, but we need to move out of the hype phase and see some clear applications that make a difference to what we do. It’s not new; IBM launched ‘Watson’ over 10 years ago and I’ve seen some great uses of that, some in complicated claims scenarios like D&O & Employment Practices covers. However, what we have now (with the generative AI of ChatGPT and others) is much more powerful and flexible, although most people using AI are probably still working with earlier incarnations. So, I expect to see the wheat being separated from the chaff, the best of which will emerge to provide real solutions and hopefully deliver better results for end customers, rather than just the obvious potential expense savings.
Sustainability. Another subject that has been kicking around for a while now, but an area where I think clarity of potential solutions is growing. A combination of public pressure, price pressures (in a continuing cost of living crisis) and regulation will see this form a much bigger part of how we handle claims going forward. From Flood Re’s ‘Build Back Better’ initiative and recycled or ‘green’ parts on motor vehicles, through to insurers and many others looking to score ESG points to improve their Green Credentials, I think the industry will have an increased focus and utilisation on this area in 2024 and beyond.
Q. In your opinion, when there are so many strong entries at the Modern Claims Awards, what qualities would make a nomination really stand out from the crowd?
A. I should begin by pointing out that whilst I am Chair, we also have many great judges. These are my views and in no way guarantee a top prize if you hit these points!
I like a great story, but I also love to see some numbers! I think data showing what a difference you are making is always convincing. An entry is more than a sales pitch! I love innovations that improve customer service; whether this involves delivering great outcomes for our end customers or helping others to deliver them, it absolutely has to be something that we all aspire to.
Finally, you need to demonstrate something that is unique, innovative, and representative of a solution that addresses a long-standing issue or emerging problem. All of these qualities reflect the gold standard in my eyes!
Q. You also attended the Modern Claims Awards back in 2023 as Vice Chair Judge. Knowing what you know about the unique tone of Modern Insurance events, what are you most hoping to see on the night?
A. It really does have a unique feel. Certainly the location being centred around Liverpool has a huge impact; people get used to going to London, but the venue is amazing and the awards manage to execute a fantastic balance between being professional and organised where appropriate, but with a great party after the presentations have finished. There were some amazing acts and things to do last year, so I am very much looking forward to a repeat of the same in 2024. I’m also looking forward to seeing a load of familiar faces again – those who are proud to be delivering terrific results in the insurance claims space, and quite rightly letting their hair down to celebrate that success.
The Modern Claims Awards 2024 will be held at The Rum Warehouse, Liverpool, on Thursday 18th April 2024.
To find out more about S&G Response, visit their website.