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Claims a valuable learning tool

Helping clients through the claims process has made Katrina Church a better insurance adviser, she says.

Wednesday, March 6th 2024, 8:00AM 1 Comment

“What we as advisers learn through the claims process is really important… the value you bring makes you stronger.”

Church, who is head of client engagement at Insurance People, said it would usually have about five significant claims every month, as well as countless medical and fire and general claims every day.

Each time she was involved in a claim, she would pick up more knowledge about what clients faced, how individual each person’s journey was, how everyone coped differently and needed something different from an adviser, the value of a passionate and caring advocate, and the importance of having the right cover in the first place.

“Claims have formed the way we give advice now and the way our standards are created.”

Church says creating a claims experience where, as the adviser, she is seen as being “human, approachable and, above all, kind” has been her passion for years.

But she thinks the industry could do better in how it promotes the value of advice, particularly for people making a claim.

“Do people understand the value of having an adviser when things go wrong, or having someone who can act as a go-between so you don’t have to handle all the emotional baggage?’

She said any adviser who sent clients straight to the insurer for their claims was missing out by not being the advocates they needed to be for clients.

Church said she could think of a number of claims where the presence of an adviser had made a big difference to the outcome for the client.

She experienced her first life insurance claim after 10 years in the business, when a 33-year-old client died in a motor bike accident.

“That particular claim was so crucial, it showed me the importance of having wills. He didn’t have one – he died intestate owning a few properties and it was a nightmare for his fiancée to cope with. The life  cover he had was well appreciated but it should have been a lot more. But at 33 he didn’t think he would need it.”

In another case, a young woman who was pregnant with her second child found out she was terminally ill.

Church was able to work with the insurer to reinstate policies that had been cancelled.

“People don’t think we can do that, but we reinstated policies that had just gone into cancellation. We stopped it and got that paid out. Then we delved into issues with non-disclosure to help the insurer. We all, globally, work together  - they had declined it, we knew they would – thinking there were signs and symptoms and there had been built the client though they were hemorrhoids and had told them about that.

“It brought home how we work as a team and the strong relationship we have with insurers – we’ll work with the client and guide them and not let go until it’s paid. The last part was paid on Christmas Eve and she was a woman of faith so that was very special.”

Another client was told three years ago she was terminally ill.

“She’s still here, she’s not given up – part of that is the conversation we had about ‘get a second opinion, ask for treatment that the public system, wasn’t offering’. She was able to get hold of that and is still here.”

A woman with melanoma was having her specialist reports sent to Church’s team because she did not want to look at them.

“She said ‘I’m feeling like I’m not contributing to life any more, I want to go back to work’. But I knew what was coming so I had to reframe the conversation into ‘what were you going to do when you retired? It’s time now to consider you’re retired’…. She started planning a big cruise, it took four operations to get her there but she went on her trip with $180,000 in her bank account she was not expecting because of TPD on her income protection. She had the best time, came home and three months later she passed away.”

Church said the outcomes in those cases could have been very different without an adviser’s help. “When you’re unwell, dealing with that trauma, you don’t want to be dealing with that on top of everything else, it’s so stressful.”

Church said a key part of her work was also to ensure future insurability.

She said hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra cover had been paid out due to the standard of always including this in plans.

She said the industry needed to look at why people did not fully appreciate what advisers could do during a claim. “The industry needs to ask why people aren’t seeing the value of advisers in the claim, guiding the client through the process, maximising their position, making sure they know every little bit they could have involved in those policies, down to wigs being covered, wills updated. It’s so much easier if you’ve got someone walking that journey with you.

“People only talk about the stuff that doesn’t get paid but many people who don’t get a claim paid often could still have been paid if an adviser was with them – or they may not have taken the advice over the years to have the right things in place, or have lost touch with their adviser.”

During the Aukland floods, the business had 550 claims in six weeks. “We know the difference we made. The first four weeks when you couldn’t get hold of an insurer we could at least tell them what they were eligible for, get the temporary accommodation sorted out and get things flowing. It made a real difference. We’ve got to share that more.”

Tags: Insurance People

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Comments from our readers

On 8 March 2024 at 6:17 pm JPHale said:
100% absolutely! Echo this with my experience both inside insurers and as an adviser.

The outcome of any claim is heavily influenced by the quality of the adviser. Both with claims and having claims inform good advice so that right benefits implemented well are there to claim.

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