Keith White speaks to COVER magazine about the challenges he faced during his tenure as President of the ILA from 2007 to 2009.

Institute of Loss Adjusters

Institute of Loss Adjusters

In the years preceding my becoming president of the ILA, I had been involved with the ILA committee intermittently for some time. Then, days before the 2005 AGM, I was told that the ILA needed a President, and we had few to choose from; there were not many candidates on the membership list, as so many had already been presidents in the past. So, that is how I came to hold the position.

The two things that I focused on were pertinent to our members: BEE compliance, in accordance with the Financial Services Charter, and FSB regulation. None of us knew how BEE would affect us (this was before the Department of Trade and Industry introduced the Codes of Good Practice); we were just were getting letters from insurers about the Charter regarding applying BEE with regard to ownership, management and employees. Adjusters were feeling that, being so small an industry, BEE would not affect them very much. Complying with the requirements of BEE is a challenge for many of our members as there are a number which are one-man operations (companies that are larger, like Crawford and Cunningham Lindsay, might have found it easier to meet conditions).

Also, at the time, the FSB was introducing the process of having service providers in the industry accredited with them (this they have now achieved, and the accredited bodies are largely brokers and insurance companies). Loss Adjusters were not service providers according to the FSB definition, so we, as an industry, felt somewhat marginalised. So, we at the ILA felt that we wanted to raise the profile of the industry and show insurers that we were self-regulating. But, I was concerned about the service that some adjusters were providing, in fact, the service was sometimes lacking. Consequently, the route we went was to review education and introduce the system of CPD points, for continuing professional development. Peter Veal came on board as our Director, and because of his compliance officer background and his education involvement, he knew the direction education was taking in this country, particularly with regard to SAQA requisites. We looked at level of education we were demanding of our members; at that time, it was an AIISA (Association of Insurance Institute of South Africa) or FIISA (Fellow of Insurance Institute of South Africa) qualification. We looked at aligning our requirements with SAQA, following the route that authorities were going. We spent a lot of time working on new education requirements, trying to put together standards and courses, and linking it to CPD points. By and large, however, this course of action evoked a negative response from our members, who did not really understand why they needed to improve their qualifications, having been in the industry for 30 years.

Thus, with these two issues to deal with, we had workshops for our members in an attempt to explain the rationale behind our actions to them; I found this process quite frustrating. Nevertheless, we are quite proud of the fact that, with regards to BEE, we put together a learnership programme in which 10 PDI students participated. We placed an advertisement in the Sowetan and The Sunday Times newspapers and received over 1000 responses. We were looking for people that had tertiary education, and people that had done degrees with Technicons that had become universities, for example, Vaal and Tshwane universities, responded. We worked through the applications, selected 10 candidates, and, with the help of member companies, we ran a successful programme. We looked at repeating the programme the following year, with valuable experience behind us, but, we did not receive sufficient buy-in from members. Thus, in my two years as President, I felt a bit like I was taking one step forward and two back. Fortunately, as Alan Blem shared my vision, he drove the idea of professionalism, and I stayed on the committee for the first year as the previous president and continued to work on promoting the CPD system, and assisting Jan Schubart with education initiatives. The following year, I took over membership.

Going forward, I would like to see members of the industry recognising that there have been developments in the industry, and that it is to their advantage to participate in programmes that will grow them professionally. Certainly, insurers are increasingly only using Adjusters from whom they feel they will get value.

We are still working at raising the ILA’s profile to show the market how professional our members are, how well-qualified, and creating awareness of what we are doing to raise and maintain standards. In addition, we continue to try to get market buy-in to use only members of our institute; the rationale is that they are regulated as we have a constitution, code of conduct and a complaints process. There are also many adjusters who are not members, and Alan and I worked at including public assessors, so I encourage current members to be more inclusive. The members of the committee would like to expand – we don’t want to be perceived as a little, insular club; we would also like to move into Africa more. I would like members to appreciate that we just don’t have sufficient influence in the industry with a membership of only 400 people, especially with regard to achieving our goal of raising claims handling standards, and of insurers seeing that we add value to the claims handling process. We are pleased to say that many insurers have acknowledged this, but, it often happens that an insurer prioritising cutting of costs, and loses out of the expertise of an accredited loss adjuster. I appreciate insurers that carefully consider viable fee structures in service level agreements; we need more of these. I am also grateful for insurers who train their claims people to have the expert knowledge to choose the correct loss adjuster; otherwise, misunderstandings can arise between the insurer and loss adjuster. Of course, we have also acquired some experience in dealing with training providers, and Peter Veal is useful in providing practical guidance with regards to this.

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