physicians, nurses, social workers, engineers and just about every other profession
that has the right to call itself a profession.
High turnover is a symptom
When any entity starts showing a high degree of personnel turnover, there is generally an underlying cause. Being “overworked
and underpaid” can be one, but there are
many dedicated adjusters who love their
job and wouldn’t think of leaving just because they’re overworked and underpaid.
Many hope for promotion, to become the
Edward G. Robinson guy, while others are
content doing what they do. One role of insurance is giving “peace of mind” by being
there, helping people who’ve suffered loss.
Tom Peters, in The Peter Principle, suggested that people are often promoted to
a position for which they are ill-equipped.
They reach their level of inefficiency and
there they stay until they burn out or become a burden to the employer and themselves. He cites the case of a gardener who
refused to be promoted; he had found his
level of satisfaction and wanted to keep it.
Adjusting is a career, a professional vocation, in which many skills are needed.
One is altruism, the desire to be helpful,
to do what insurance is intended to do, to
be there when the policyholder is in trouble and has suffered loss. It is part of the
“I’s” of adjuster ethics: integrity, ingenuity,
impartiality, imagination, initiative and
most importantly indemnification, the
“making whole” of loss. When those factors become stale, quality work declines
and the adjuster is terminated, or dissatisfaction sets in and the adjuster quits. The
role of a good insurance company is to instill into their employees the excitement
and joy of making people whole again,
bringing them peace of mind.
Ken Brownlee, CPCU, is a former adjuster and
risk manager based in Atlanta, Ga. He now
authors and edits claims-adjusting textbooks.
for Adjusters — Part 6
Attitude is everything
Every year or two, Turner Classic Movies shows the old Billy Wild- er 1944 Paramount film, Double Indemnity, in which Fred Mac-Murray — Walter — is the claims adjuster
and Edward G. Robinson his supervisor.
The movie pre-dates women as adjusters,
but the message is the same for either sex.
Robinson’s character explains the difference between a job and a profession —
our profession: claims adjusting.
As noted in this column last August, each
month the number of adjusters, according
to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, de-
creases. Conversely, the number of “admin-
istrators” (whatever that means — clerk
processors, perhaps?) increases. Insurance
companies are losing, and apparently do-
ing little to replace, hundreds of dedicated
adjusters. Who will handle the complicated
cases when we’re gone? Will fraud continue
to increase because nobody is playing the
role of “bloodhound, cop, judge and jury?”
Will insurance litigation continue to cost
billions because those in the claims de-
partment are no longer capable of correct
coverage evaluation? Will that job be taken
over by some computer software program?
No, what will probably happen is that
as law schools increasingly pour out hun-
dreds of newly polished attorneys each year
(while the old ones never retire), liability
adjusters will be replaced by lawyers. Engi-
neers will replace property adjusters. Nurs-
es trained in medical cost containment will
handle injury claims. Chances are they
won’t stand for any nonsense from claim-
ants, physicians or repairers. There is hope.
A poor work attitude is a hazard that
leads to malpractice. That is true in any
profession, and in my fifty-plus years in
the insurance industry (I worked for a title
insurance company at age 18 while in college) I’ve known “burned-out” attorneys,
A desk job! Is that all you can see in it? Just a hard chair to park your pants on from
nine to five? Just a pile of papers to shuffle around and sharp pencils and a scratch pad
to make figures on, with maybe a little doodling on the side? That’s not the way I see it,
Walter. To me, a claims man is a surgeon, and that desk is an operating table, and those
pencils are scalpels and bone chisels. And those papers are not just forms and statistics
and claims for compensation. They’re alive! They’re packed with drama, with twisted
hopes and crooked dreams. A claims man, Walter, is a doctor and a bloodhound and a
cop and a judge and a jury and a father confessor all in one!