2/5/09 Updates on the State Farm Announcement in FL

February 5, 2009

January 09 has certainly had interesting moves in the ongoing  “Who Moved my Claims Cheese” we’d blogged about here.

 Flexibility for independent adjusting firms and independents is even more important today with the State Farm announcement as well as with the December 08 announcement by Citizens on independent adjusting firms selected to handle their claims (supplementing their own staff adjusters).

In the early part of January 2009, Attorney Chip Merlin who is the Consumer Advocate member of the newest Citizens Task Force Mission posted articles about upcoming meetings where recommendations were being made to return Citizens FL back to the insurer of last resort it was initially intended to be. Approximately 3 weeks later, BOOM, the big announcement that State Farm would be leaving the FL homeowners market over a dispute on their request for a 47% rate increase after their request was denied.

We’ve been following the news updates and the struggles policyholders are having locating new coverage. There is also alot of news from other points of view to include more from Chip Merlin’s blog and news from the carrier themselves, news from the Polk County Board where the FL HQ for the carrier is, and much more. The most surprising was the request this week from Alex Sink with the FL Department of Financial services that the carrier let their captive agents place these 1.2 million policies with other private insurers. The carrier rejected the request according to some of the following linked news sources.

To read about all of these new developments post State Farm release here are a few samples of these articles and blogs discussing these hot topics:
http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_columnist_mikethomas/2009/02/how-charlie-crist-shot-himself-in-the-foot-on-state-farm.html

This one discusses the unprofessional  comments Gov Crist made about the company departure and the higher rates folks are finding trying to find other coverage:

Here’s another blog with even more entries from policyholders trying to find new coverage:

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_columnist_mikethomas/2009/02/state-farm-exoduswhere-to-go.html

Wall St Journal article carrying the quote Crist made about them leaving and also comments that he is trying to prevent them from cancelling more than 2% of their policies in a single year:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123371173559046209.html

Will the carrier’s move cost them loss of many autos as well?

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_columnist_mikethomas/2009/02/state-farms-huge-gamble-dump-my-house-lose-my-car.html

Polk County Board to write Crist since SF Regional office is in their county. Article quotes possible impact on 300 employees there (my guess underwriting and claims in the HO area):

http://www.newschief.com/article/20090205/NEWS/902050323/1022/LIVING?Title=Polk_board_writes_to_Crist_about_State_Farm

This next article contains great marketing info for adjusting firms about what other FL carriers are saying about how many policies that they can assume of  State Farm’s.
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/orl-statefarm0509feb05,0,4365661.story

In this next article they discuss the impact this may have forcing insureds into Citizens as well as asking a question if this is a chicken game between the carrier and Crist:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/orl-miket0509feb05,0,5259638.column

This article says Alex Sink- Dept of Ins is trying to talk SF into letting it’s captive agents write for private insurers and contains another list and more info on carriers wanting to take over the policies as well as quoting Citizens of FL saying they do have capacity to take all 1.2 million policies if need be (my insert here…..what happened to the new Citizens task force that is studying the return of Citizens to an insurer of last resort!):*Note I have another link where SF is quoted saying this is not going to happen letting their agents write for private insurers although they can write for Citizens)

http://www.miamiherald.com/business/story/886725.html

This is the link with the info about Sink”s letter to SF’s Jim Thompson and says right now their agents can only write for SF and Citizens:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/orl-statefarm0409feb04,0,3775835.story

Here is an article saying SF will NOT let it’s agents write through the private carriers:

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/feb/03/plenty-insurance-companies-want-state-farms-polici/news-politics/

Here are updated comments where SF says they haven’t given up on getting the 47% rate increase but it was not a ploy announcing it was leaving the FL market but sounds like they are considering an APPEAL on the rate decision:

http://www.jacksonville.com/news/florida/2009-02-03/story/state_farm_hasnt_given_up_on_47_percent_rate_increase

The above linked article is very interesting since major plaintiff attorney Chip Merlin recently posted several blogs on State Farm’s planned departure questioning if it was Propoganda:

This first blog discusses suggested “sham economics” between funds from the FL branch and corporate HQ:

http://www.propertyinsurancecoveragelaw.com/2009/02/articles/state-farm/state-farms-freakoutnomics/

Here is the one on Power/Propoganda Play questions:

http://www.propertyinsurancecoveragelaw.com/2009/01/articles/insurance/state-farms-power-play-and-propaganda-ploy/

I know this is alot of information to digest but they cover many of the base questions we all have about how this decision will effect us as residents of FL as well as independent adjuster opportunities.

In case your thinking well they will all just be moved to Citizens still…read these two additional entries from Attorney Chip Merlin about an upcoming Task Force meeting about returning Citizens back to an insurer of last resort. These were written at the beginning of January. He is the consumer representative on this Task Force:

http://www.miamiherald.com/business/story/838975.html

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/sfl-flzcitizens0104sbjan04,0,5619118.story

Where does this leave adjusting firms? Where does this leave independent adjusters? As there is two years State Farm indicates to get this worked out this will be major for independent adjusters servicing State Farm catastrophe losses as well as the vendors selected in Citizens latest RFP. It is interesting to note that Citizens FL had just approved the selection of 30 vendors and rejected 28 of them in a December 12, 2008 and many of those firms rejected had experience servicing their claims. More on that in the next blog…….

 

 

 

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Claim Career Coaching/Consultant Services for New Adjusters

September 29, 2007

It’s amazing the thousands of new adjusters with license in hand that have no idea what’s next and how to proceed with gaining either employment as a staff adjuster working directly for a carrier or what it takes to get assignments as an independent adjuster. Getting your adjuster’s license is just the first step of many important steps in the area of training required to move forward in your career in claims.

We constantly receive resumes from folks who write us “licensed, prior construction experience, ready to work” having no clue that the license does not prepare you for the specifics required to successfully  process claims.There are detailed file requirements which must be met to have files approved. For a property adjuster, this means estimatic software training, contents training, additional living expense training, training on carrier expectations on building estimates so you understand carrier general guidelines on things like matching, line of sight issues, and much more along with much detailed policy training so you properly make coverage determinations. Construction knowledge is important but only a very small part of the information you need to know to properly handle claims. It isn’t the folks just with construction experience but also those with agency backgrounds, accounting backgrounds, business adminstration,etc who also think that license in hand they are “ready to go”.

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Obtaining your adjuster’s license provides you general information on state insurance regulations and ethics for adjusters, general coverage terms and insurance basic definitions but no where in the license training do you learn the specifics of claim file requirements, training on proper correspondence to be used, file documentation, what claim forms are used and how they are handled, and complying with fair claim handling practices so you are not the cause of litigation against the carrier and against you for “bad faith” claim handling by not complying with timely claim handling procedures along with proper coverage determinations.

Much too often, we read posts in many claim forums about new adjusters learning from forum posts. While the forums are definitely interesting, there are many folks who are giving advice that have not held HR positions with carriers or with independent firms. Many have not held management positions and been through interview training or planning sessions about current hiring guidelines. Many others may have staff only backgrounds or independent only experience and may or may not have management experience in either so they do not have a full perspective on carrier or adjusting firm HR hiring plans other than what they or their buddies have experienced which can be different for each person depending on when they entered the industry and what was going on with claims volume and supply and demand of adjusters at their time of entry into this business. I am not discounting forums for they provide sources of networking and learning about some important things from the current event side of things but they are not something I would strictly rely on for such important decisions as a life altering career move.Things in our industry are constantly changing and you need to spend individual time researching current opportunities so you aren’t lead astray by reading of past practices for hiring when the industry is presently in a mode of change on where employment opportunities exist.  Here are links to our prior blogs where we investigated such issues as “Where have all the claim files gone”, “Are adjusters Fungible Billings Units” and “Are Independent Adjusters a Dying Breed”. Here are links to these blogs about changes in the claim adjusting community  here, here is  a link to the 2nd one and the 3rd one here. Listen folks, you need a clear road map to success in this business. Hit or miss postings in claim forums do not prepare you for the requirements of the job.

 Carriers require staff adjusters participate and successfully pass basic claim schools that generally last 2-3 weeks that teach just basic property and liability policies so you can properly understand coverage for the basic property coverage for a homeowners, mobilehome, and boatowners policy then intermediate schools follow which also last several weeks for more training on liability issues and more advanced training on commerical claim policy training as well as other residential and commercial estimating schools. All of these claim schools are followed during your career by excellent ongoing seminars the carriers sponsor for all kinds of topics like taking statements, properly handling written communication and letter writing skills to properly communicate with insureds, and seminars by attorneys teaching you about the issues that lead to lawsuits so you avoid them. I could go on and on about the value gained at these schools you attend as a staff adjuster. Looking back, just the first 3 basics schools we were required to attend were 3 weeks each for a total of 9 weeks in class. The career path for a staff adjuster generally takes 5 years of combined training and field claim handling before you are considered a claim specialist and considered to have the knowledge and background to handle all types of basic property and liability claims.

Unfortunately, independents are relying on many 3 day classes and in some cases 1 or 2 day seminars at independent adjusting firm seminars to learn a myriad of things like estimate software and file requirements. This is totally insufficient. The problem lies in the fact there is no clear path for independent training. There are some excellent schools available but you have to know what schools those are and what is available, what will add value to your skill set and what is considered of value by adjusting firms and carriers when they review the thousands of resumes received. There are some great claim conferences you can attend and others that are a waste of your hard earned dollars. During our online classes at ClaimSmentor, I hear regularly from independent adjuster trainees who have spent thousands (some $10,ooo or more) that tell me things we teach in our online 40 hour Fundamentals of Claims class that they have learned very basic things in our class that they have not been taught at these hit or miss seminars. I don’t know how they could work claims without these basics. It does no good to obtain assignments as an independent if you are just going to get sent home due to failure to properly handle claims. We’ve even had numerous folks who worked Katrina claims that tell us they wished they’d had this training prior to being “thrown to the wolves” when adjusting firms were too busy to concentrate on training during one of the worst storms in history. In our forums, I’m amazed to learn that even today when things are mild on assignment volume that new adjusters are being given daily assignments for fire losses, theft losses, and liability claims without the first instructions for where to begin or what is required in the file.

We offer several basic services and will be vastly expanding on those services in 2008 as we move forward in our efforts to enhance the career path for new independent adjusters. It is important for all of us in the independent adjuster arena to improve the image and skill set of those entering our industry if carriers are to continue to use us.

So where does a career consultant for claim career coaching fit in? The ideal situation is to spend  time with a claim career coach even before you take your adjuster license classes to make sure you understand the extent of commitment required to continuing education both from an expense standpoint and from a time commitment. If you’ve already obtained a license and don’t have a clear understanding of “what next” then it is well worth the investment of your resources to have a career planning session to set you on the right course. We walk you through a road map to success in your career so you know the expectations, the opportunities for training and employment/ deployment with adjusting firms and carriers. There are different paths you would take depending on your educational background, the budget you have available for taking classes and claim schools, and the time you have available around your current job to be out of town for schools. There are online training options, self study programs, field classes, field conferences, and many options exist in each area of claims depending on your interest in homeowner, auto, marine, crop hail, or multi line adjusting. We stay in tune and up to date on what is available both from a training standpoint and an employment stand point with an unbiased opinion since we are not affiliated with an adjusting firm or carrier which many are concerned about as they are not sure if the plans given are an effort to obtain their training dollars versus training that will bring them more opportunities with all firms and carriers. There is a difference.

During our career coaching sessions with you individually, we review your background in depth to determine what the appropriate path and options are for you. It is not a one size fits all path but to determine where you can fit in within the claims industry and goal setting strategies to help you achieve the most reliable training out there within your  budget so you can achieve your dreams of successful employment. We’ll review your resume and make suggestions for improvement if you choose to include that option in your career coaching sessions. There are ways to stress your strengths to improve your resume as a new adjuster so you do get noticed and not just overlooked as one having no experience. If you missed our blog on resumes, here is the link. We will schedule follow up sessions with you as we monitor your progress and set priorities for your next training goals and your next course of action when applying for jobs with the right carriers and the right adjusting firms that most closely match your career interests. We can conduct mock interviews with those preparing for upcoming carrier or adjusting firm interviews so you know more about adjusting specific interviews and questions commonly asked with appropriate answers to these claim specific typical questions and much more which is customized  with our career coaching services to meet your individual needs so you accomplish your goals. It is time and money well spent so you avoid the pitfalls many are experiencing by random selections for schools, training, and job opportunities.

One of the most important times you should consider using a career coach is when you are making a life altering decision such as  those of you considering leaving a carrier career to go independent or vice versa. I was amazed to really grasp how different the two career paths are when I left the carrier corporate environment in 2001 after 28 years even though I’d managed independents on catastrophes for years. (That is an entirely different topic I’ll blog about one day as things are not what they seem when working with independents as we thought inside the carrier offices…there is alot carriers need to learn to understand these differences….you’d be amazed at what goes on that you don’t see!) If you didn’t read our earlier blog on the pros and cons of each career, here is a link to that blog.

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment for one on one career coaching, email us for our pricing information.

We also will be offering our next 40 hour Fundmentals of Claims class which will be held over at ClaimSmentor  in October 2007. The classes will run on Monday and Thursday evenings from 6-9pm CST online LIVE. The class does require pre-class homework assignments which are posted in our forums which include reading assignments so you understand the topic and question/answer sessions. The class is informative as well as fun. We’ll do REAL life like sessions on mock disaster drills and zoning your assignments to maximize your potential for meeting carrier quotas, form and letter training and exercises, additional living expense training, a contents claim handling session, address communication issues with insureds, public adjusters, and attorneys, estimate reconciliation procedures so you understand carrier guidelines and ways to more quickly assess the estimate differences between your estimate and a contractors, activity log training, and much more regarding carrier expectations on your received to contacted and inspected ratios and inspected to closed ratios so you understand time service expectations and tips on how to improve your statistics and file document submission so you too can eventually become a core adjuster when you learn to perform above the average adjuster. New adjusters are overwhelmed on catastrophe assignments with the extensive requirements when they don’t know these basics. Going live without understanding important basic requirements is surely a recipe for failure but it happens every day when new independents are sent out into the field without proper training during major catastrophes. This course is very time intensive and you’ll need to be able to dedicate a minimum of 40 hours to the course requirements to handle all required reading and homework assignments. Upon successful completion of the course, you will receive a certificate of completion of 40 hours in basic training. This class will compliment some of the training you’ve obtained in the field by providing a much more detailed explanation of file requirements. The class includes field reference guides for you to take out in the field for personal reference when actually working claims as a reminder to information learned in the class.

Should you be interested in this class or other classes on ClaimSmentor to include other courses such as Contents Claim Handling, detailed Additional Living Expense training, Fl Condo Assn Claim handling,  and other classes you will need to register for our forums to take these classes. A link to our registration information is on the About page here on the blog.

Enjoy your weekend! We’ll post more on the tropics later should it appear the many new storms brewing may bring new assignments.