An Open Letter for the Insurance Industry about Transparency and Better Serving Insureds.
As a response to the insurance industry’s slow movement to standardize data, the Restoration Industry Association began a journey to solve this issue utilizing definitions, data standards, and various other protocols to allow insurance officials to exchange vital information thus enabling claim data to be shared more easily. The thought behind this valiant task being that if everyone involved in a claim would use the same format, information could be securely “shared” so that claims would not end up in a data warehouse in the middle of a theoretical desert. As a veteran of 30 plus years in the property claims world, Simsol is very much behind this effort. It has long been our belief that it is time we allowed transparency to reign. At the risk of dating myself, I always think of Brad Pitt’s anguished use of the plea “What’s in the BOX?!?!” in the movie ‘Se7en’ as a pretty accurate representation of the Insured’s state of mind while frantically tapping out random letters and numbers at the very worst times of their lives.
This effort is not new. Originally founded as an off-shoot of CIECA (Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association), the PIRC (Property Insurance & Restoration Committee) was formed to…and I quote ‘…define business information passing between parties as it relates to the property restoration and related industries. We are asking for responses and feedback from the industry at large relative to the work the committee has done so far, and to emphasize the importance of continued work in this area. It is critical for the success of the work is an expanded participation (e.g. insurance carriers) can be recruited.’ Many years ago, Francis Postava, our CEO was involved in the first steps. There were weekly phone calls so that the committee could begin forming a standardized way of communication between both carriers and adjusting firms so that no matter which system was utilized, the data was able to flow freely and cut down the length of a claim settlement. There was an important meeting set for one of the largest insurer’s campuses and hopes were high.
The reports I have heard depict an extremely well-meaning group of people just trying to help the insured return more quickly to an as-before status. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached at that time. The main group urged for the hold-outs to see the bigger picture, but sadly it fell on deaf ears. Clearly, this effort would not be successful without the cooperation of the whole industry.
Tragically, the whole industry depended primarily on one estimating company. But that was then, this is now! I was so proud to represent Simsol at the weekly meetings! This was going to work, everyone is on board with helping the insured, right? Well, I sat and watched 4 people struggle to make some progressive movements with few carriers insight. There are three main estimating systems. I was there nearly every meeting. The next largest estimating system showed up occasionally and was generous enough to sporadically sponsor an event. The largest estimating system was conspicuous in its absence. I found this shocking as this company had publicly changed to embrace the rights of the insured. It was curious in that the point of pain was always centered in one area. In response, the PIRC attempted to gain support and understanding by launching a virtual meeting where folks would be encouraged to tell their stories. I was happy to help out by advertising on our socials and began writing a small speech to explain the problems. That meeting was abruptly canceled.
The next ray of hope was that our committees would team up at the upcoming RIA convention. Since it is held in my little corner of the world, I was certainly ready to speak to the group of people that were the most affected by having one company essentially in control, especially when that company seemed to operate through the kind of a favored nation of a system which made it very difficult for the smaller companies to compete. I was anxious to learn of upcoming plans of more favorable legislation and if there was any way we could help them, at least in one of the categories that we cover. Our company is in the midst of splitting our services so that we are able to better serve the various categories of the industry, however unbelievably, this was also canceled. In a déjà vu kind of situation, shortly thereafter the entire PIRC was shut down. No conferences would be held, be they virtual or traditional.
This was so sad to me because everyone had such good intentions. Naturally, the pandemic did not help this endeavor. When taking stock of what could have gone better, one word comes to mind: participation. In fact, don’t take my word for it. Here is the reason the committee meetings shut down, straight from the source, ‘Due to lack of industry participation, and complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to cancel the PIRC and committee meetings for the foreseeable future.’ In my view, the pandemic was the ideal time to take stock of what we can do better to serve the policyholders. As an example, Simsol Suite (formerly Simsol Software) a claims management and estimating system provider certainly made sure that virtual adjusting could be attained and worked to better our own system.
As an older company, we began the adjusting business by chance. One brother happened to be a flood adjuster, hungry for the most claims and one was a computer programmer who worked two jobs. I enabled the company to run while holding my infant. My free time consisted of hand assembling handbooks, driving to beat the Fed Ex truck in the pouring rain, and insisting that ‘we must have crossed wires’ on the phone when my daughter was fussy while I was on the phone with a customer. As Simsol’s “team mom” I made sure everyone had clean laundry and hot meals. When we were hit directly by Hurricane Charley, it became very clear that better communication needed to be established for significant changes to be made. When I came back to Simsol after raising my child, I was frankly shocked to see the magnitude of problems that had yet to be solved in the insurance industry. I wish I was in a position to bring about positive change in the legislature and keep the insured at the forefront of the claims evolution.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. We, as the insurance industry, sell trust. To speak of the “insured” as if it doesn’t include all of us makes no sense to me. I remain hopeful that there can be change here, but it is a slow process. I had hoped that the PIRC would be a vehicle for that change and maybe someday it will. For now, the veil of obscurity is allowed to remain in place.
At Simsol, we aim to lift the veil and let transparency reign. But at the moment, hunger for change leaves me imploring again and again, “What’s in the box?!?”
Karen Palmer, COO
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