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Buyers back insurer claims index

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Buyers back insurer claims index

LONDON—Risk managers in the United Kingdom have welcomed efforts by their representative association to measure insurers' willingness to pay claims.

The Assn. of Insurance & Risk Managers this month offered more details on its planned willingness-to-pay index, which is intended to provide a standardized measurement of claims paying performance among insurers for risk managers to use as a benchmark.

At its annual conference in London, AIRMIC announced that the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters had agreed in principle to become involved in the project. AIRMIC initially will analyze property claims and attempt to evaluate insurers' procedures, resources, accuracy, impartiality, speed and evaluation in paying claims.

Most risk managers questioned by AIRMIC in a snapshot survey prior to the conference said they supported the idea of a benchmark for willingness to pay valid claims.

AIRMIC said that a survey of its membership showed that 69% backed the idea of an index, 12% were against the plan and 19% were not sure.

Of AIRMIC members who responded to the survey, only 42% rated their insurers as "good" or "excellent" in respect to claims handling speed and accuracy, while 56% rated their insurers' claims procedures "good" or "excellent."

Colin Campbell, AIRMIC's new chairman, said that while credit ratings and other measures can give an indication of insurers' ability to pay, the willingness of insurers to pay when a crisis happens is less easily known.

Mr. Campbell, who is head of risk management at London-based fashion retailer Arcadia Group P.L.C., said AIRMIC's intention was to come up with a rating system, but not one that would "name and shame" insurers.

"As a former risk manager, I think it is an excellent initiative. I wish we had had it in my day," Alan Fleming, incoming chief executive of AIRMIC, said of the proposed index.

The move is an example of risk managers looking to find industry-led ways to reform market practice, without resorting to regulatory intervention, noted David Gamble, outgoing executive director of AIRMIC.

Mr. Fleming said it is important for risk managers to have a relationship with claims personnel in insurance companies.

He also noted that AIRMIC's proposed index could be extended to cover coinsurance and reinsurance arrangements. Often it is the company that reinsured a risk that can hold up the claims process, he noted.

London-based broker Aon Ltd. said it welcomed AIRMIC's initiative and said that it had been operating its own willingness-to-pay index of insurers for more than 12 months.

"Aon's model assesses each insurer and reinsurer's claims philosophy, operational excellence and claims delivery," Martin Thomas, an executive director at Aon Ltd., said in a statement.

"An overriding benefit of the index has been using the data to work closely, when requested, with insurers and reinsurers to enhance their claims service for our clients," he added.

According to Aon's data, in the London insurance and reinsurance markets, 83% of companies are achieving the benchmark standard or higher. The index covers about 60 insurers and reinsurers across all classes of business.

Of the companies rated by Aon, the claims service of 20% is deemed "best in class," while 20% of companies are "above average."

The index rates 43% of companies as "average," 12% as "below average" and 5% as in "need for improvement."