How Can an Overworked Public Sector Insurance Manager Reduce Stress and Make Savings?

Many people in the public sector find themselves in the stress-inducing situation of being responsible for the insurance function with very limited staffing resources to meet apparently insatiable demands, often now, as a result of recent restructurings, alongside other functions they are required to manage at the same time. So let me pass on some of the things which I found worked for me when I was at the sharp end, which I hope you can adapt successfully to your situation.  

 

The Problem.

Firstly let us agree as to the particular challenges arising in the management of the insurance function, especially when you have to combine it with other duties.  Three factors contribute to the difficulty, often unrecognised by senior management.

 

  • Lack of resources.  Not only has there been a reduction in the number of your staff but some of the most experienced have left and not been replaced.  Or else they have been replaced by inexperienced staff with little or no training in insurance.  It is not easy to delegate with confidence.
  • No reduction in demands.  The number of claims has not reduced in proportion to your resources.  The time required for annual renewals is the same as it was. The need to give departmental managers feedback about claims and advice about their risks or insurance cover is as great as ever.  Or greater, since they too are under increased pressure.
  • Fluctuations in workload accompanied by deadlines.  It never rains, it pours! Claims and other demands on your time do not spread themselves out evenly over the year, but there are strict deadlines for claims and for renewals, so you cannot postpone some to let you deal with others, let alone any other work you may have to do, with its own deadlines.

The Solution

  1. Review systems. Make the time to review all your systems.  Remember “the Three E’s”: Efficiency, Economy, and Effectiveness.  In the management of risk, effectiveness is more important than the other two.  It is more efficient to pay every claim without investigating it, but not a good practice.  Establish key indicators.  Make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related) and especially remember R for realistic.
  2. Consider carefully what to delegate.  The advice almost invariably given is to delegate almost everything (to free you to manage).  It is also almost always impractical when your staff are untrained and inexperienced, as well as each having a full workload possibly including other duties.  Do not merely push all your problems onto your staff.  But see (6) below.
  3. Dump the rubbish.  Find ways to stop doing things that are more time-consuming than they are worth.  I increased the excesses on most property policies and greatly reduced the number of items insured on All Risks policies.  The premiums saved more than paid for the resulting uninsured losses. This saved a lot of time for other managers as well as for me, by cutting out a lot of claims, as well as saving time spent checking endless lists.  It also made the renewals process easier.  Next, I amalgamated a lot of specific policies onto a few blanket ones to reduce time in checking whether something was covered, as well as reducing the risk of something being uninsured by omission.
  4. Prioritise.  Try to make time for things that might bring worthwhile results.  Once I had reviewed cover to get maximum value for the premiums we were paying, I found that investigating liability claims was the most cost-effective use of my time.  I also found that helping departments manage their risks better was worth the effort.
  5. Get the most out of insurers, brokers, claims-handlers, and solicitors.  This involves a bit of a balancing act.  They can all be helpful in providing lots of useful advice and training, so work at cultivating good relationships with them.  However, remember who you are working for and do not let these outside bodies dictate to you:  insist on getting service, including feedback on claims, when you need it, and be prepared to question their decisions or advice if you are not happy.  I learnt a lot by asking questions and not being satisfied with incomplete answers.
  6. 6.      Train.  Look out for free or low-cost training opportunities for yourself and your staff, including any shared or part-time staff.  Then see what you can delegate.
  7. Outsource selectively.  Buy-in additional resources as and when needed to help iron out some of the fluctuations in your workload, and to obtain expertise you do not yet have.  If carefully targeted and controlled, this can give good value for money.

Results

If you do any or all the above things you should obtain the following benefits.

  • Time.  You can save enough of your time to enable you to do the things that really matter.
  • Control.  You will find yourself taking control of the situation rather than vice versa.
  • Confidence.  You will build your confidence and hopefully start enjoying the job.
  • Savings!  You will be able to save your authority money by reducing premiums, claims and uninsured losses (not necessarily in that order).

Are you and I soulmates, like me and Boris?

In a recent interview, Boris Johnson was accused of inconsistency in some matter and instead of trying to convince everyone that there was no inconsistency, as a lot of politicians would, or giving such a long answer that we all forgot the question, he said “Let me be clear about the Johnson policy on cakes. I believe in having them and eating them, wherever possible!”

Apart from finding this refreshingly honest, I like it because I can so well identify with it. I always want to save money, but I don’t want to have to give up anything I spend it on. When I took early retirement I liked some things about no longer having a job:

  • Not having to get up every morning,
  • Not having to travel into work.
  • Not having to jump when someone says “jump!”

You could probably add to this list. But I did miss certain other things:

  • Money.
  • Having something purposeful to do.
  • Meeting people.
  • Money.

Well, some people have found a way to have their cake and eat it!

  • They buy all the things they used to, but pay less!
  • They work when and how they want and get paid for it.
  • Their work consists mainly of doing things they used to do for free and not know it!

So I have joined them a few months ago. And it works!

If you want to know more contact me at jhmclaims.co.uk or go to http://www.utilitywarehouse.org.uk/johnhmurray  or ‘phone 01925 445215.
I haven’t told Boris yet. You could beat him to it.

Ding! Dong! What a legacy!

The death of Margaret Thatcher has reopened many of the debates which took place in her time in office. As Edmund Burke said about the French Revolution “this is a matter on which it is difficult to speak, but impossible to remain silent”… so here goes!

Many people have let this get rather personal, and I think that, at this time especially, it is important to be clear about the issues.  I remember while she was Prime Minister, that I was impressed by David Steele, then leader of the Liberal Party (before they joined another lot and became Democrats) who said “I do not question her motives, her character or her morality. My point is simple: she’s just plain WRONG!”

For me, the thing she was most wrong about was her economic strategy (I was taught Keynesian economic ideas which seem to have gone out of fashion here and throughout the EU, but are still being applied by President Obama – we should be so lucky).

The second thing she was wrong about, and is an unfortunate element in her legacy, is her view of the Public Sector.  She seemed to regard public expenditure as a Bad Thing which should be reduced whenever possible.  She somehow persuaded lots of people that privatisation was a Good Thing because by transferring a service or institution from the Public Sector to the Private Sector it magically ceased being a waste of money and became a great benefit.

I was brought up in a time when most British people were fond of, even proud of, a lot of public institutions such as the NHS, the BBC, the armed forces, and even the Railways and the public utilities, as well as our local authorities.  In a similar way we thought of our landscape and coastline, and the wildlife inhabiting them, as things that belonged to us all, even those who did not own a square foot of Britain. The police and the legal system belonged to us all as Justice cannot be divided. Those of us who worked in the Public Sector thought we were working for the public, not just for our bosses or their elected bosses, locally or nationally.

We economists understood that for many activities, from air travel to coal-mining, from education to farming,  there are costs and benefits which affect people other than those directly involved, and the State had a role in trying to share all the costs and benefits fairly. Fairness was something we British were famous for.

The Thatcher Revolution changed all that.  People seemed to value only what they owned. Everything had to make a profit or be considered as a burden on the nation instead of an asset. The pressure to compete led to parts of the Public Sector copying all the worst aspects of the Private Sector, sometimes without copying its better features.

For me that was a very sad part of Mrs Thatcher’s legacy. We need someone to make us re-evaluate the Public Sector.

I can understand why some people have celebrated the lady’s death, but I share the feelings expressed by Felipe Gonzales, Prime Minister of Spain for many years.  He was a socialist leader who had endured a great deal of injustice at the hands of Spain’s long-lived Dictator, General Franco. When Franco died, Gonzales was invited to join a private celebration, but he said “I will not rejoice in the death of anyone, least of all a Spaniard”. Hear! Hear!

 

 

 

Seminar 19th April 2013

In case anyone has not heard, I am speaking at a seminar on Friday 19th April.

All the talks are aimed at helping small businesses to succeed and it should be very good value for very little money. If you cannot come (or even if you are not interested) but if you know of anyone who might benefit, I would be pleased if you could give it a mention.  You might even like to advertise your business at this event!

The details are on this web link.www.bearbehindevents.co.uk .

You may also like to look at my own two websites www.jhmclaims.co.uk and www.utilitywarehouse.org.uk/johnhmurray, if you are not aware that I have improved my old one and have got a new one for the other business I am now involved in, where I help people and businesses save money and make money on electricity, gas, ‘phones, broadband and mobiles.

If you want to know more about any of these things, do give me a ring.

Hope to see you there.

John

Why am I called a “Distributor”?

Some people have wondered why I am called a “distributor” and not an “agent” or a “representative” of the Utility Warehouse.  Why not a “salesman”?  I certainly wondered about it myself at first.  Especially as I thought a distributor was a part of a car’s engine!

The answer turns out to be quite informative.

An agent has the authority to negotiate and bind his principal, such as the Company, to an agreement he or she has made with a client.  The Utility Warehouse does not give us any such power because it does not allow haggling.  We can only show and explain the tariffs set out by the Company and work out how they apply to particular clients: no one-off special deals to undercut the competition.

I am not a salesman because I do not really “sell” anything.  Virtually everyone uses gas, electricity, telephones etc. so I am not selling any of those services, I am merely explaining what we offer, what the options are and what each option would cost.  The client makes his or her mind up based on the potential savings, or lack of them.  There is no subjective element, where the decision would be swayed by my sales-talk.   The only “sales-pitch” if any comes when I try to persuade people to have a look at what we can offer.

So I “distribute” information about our services, and then “distribute” our services to customers who choose them.

My role is also to look after the customer after he or she has signed up.  I deal with any queries or problems they may have during the transfer process and at any time after that, so as to ensure the best possible customer care.

Do contact me if you are interested.  Let me distribute some savings to you.

Risk Management and Horsemeat.

The recent and ongoing story about horsemeat in the food-chain includes several examples of good and bad risk management.

  1. Horsemeat is not in itself harmful to human health.  It is eaten in France and elsewhere without causing a problem.
  2. However, traditionally, most British people prefer not to eat it.
  3. The reasons we do not eat horses in this country have nothing to do with food safety.  See below.
  4. Many horses in the UK are treated with a drug called “Bute” (Phenobutazole) which can be harmful to humans so it is banned in the EU except the UK as we do not eat horses anyway, and as we have a procedure where a horse-owner has to certify that the animal will not be used for human consumption before a vet can treat it with Bute.  So horses exported from the UK for meat should be free of Bute, even if their meat ends up back in Britain.
  5. It could be argued that its ban in the EU was an over-reaction, even allowing for the fact that horses are eaten in some EU countries, and that the UK approach is a more balanced way of managing the risk.
  6. Bute was originally developed by a drug company as a painkiller for humans but in the course of testing it, they found it sometimes had harmful side-effects on humans but was much safer for horses.  Therefore they stopped the trials for human use and never really established how harmful it was on what kinds of people or how its harmful effects could be mitigated, because the costs of further research did not seem justified.  This was especially true as there was such obvious potential for marketing it to and through the veterinary profession.  This seems to me a sensible way of managing the associated risks from the company’s point of view.
  7. Given that the drug was never found to be instantly fatal to humans, and that the amount of it in a horse is only small and confined to certain parts, it is unlikely that the amount in any portion of edible horsemeat could pose a significant threat to anyone eating it. But I would advise against eating more than one horse per day.
  8. In order to deal with other, more serious threats to human health, the UK Government has established strict rules controlling the trade in beef, such that it is possible to trace a steak back to the actual cow. It seems like very poor Risk Management if it is true that such controls can be readily bypassed for imported meat or even UK processed meat.  It is like having state-of-the-art security on your front door and leaving your back door unlocked!

You may be interested in the origins of the British tradition of not eating horses.

In early Christian times among the Anglo-Saxons, eating horsemeat was often suspected of being linked to a continuation of an ancient pagan practice, probably a survival from pre-Roman times, when people used to sacrifice chosen horses to one of their gods, Epona, and then eat the meat.  It was therefore banned by the Church.  The ban was not issued on the Continent because the problem does not seem to have existed there.

When William the Conqueror heard of this he re-issued the ban, so that eating horsemeat was breaking the King’s Law as well as the Church’s.  Many people then found that eating horsemeat really was bad for their health!

So the tradition was established and continues although the ban seems to have been lifted a long time ago.

Today, there are, more importantly, animal-welfare concerns, as it is believed that horses destined for human consumption are ill-treated prior to slaughter, and many of us would like to see that issue addressed before we would consider eating horsemeat. 

New website

I have not created any new blogs for nearly two months – doesn’t time fly – for various reasons. One thing that has been going on in this time is that I have been having my website overhauled.  Do have a look, as it is now live. The address is still :

www.jhmclaims.co.uk

If you find the old site popping up, try clearing the “cashe” where your browser stores website addresses – well I think that’s what it is.

The new version should be easier to find and to navigate.

I am now thinking about updating the content.

I have another site relating to my other business :

www.utilitywarehouse.org.uk/johnhmurray

which is for people wanting to find ways of saving money on utility bills and shopping, whilst jhmclaims is about liability claims and risk management.

Hope you find one of them of interest.

Seasons Greetings

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my connections.

Did you know the real Mayas say the end of their calendar on 21/12/12 marked NOT the end of the World but the end of an era. So now we can look forward with them to a new era as well as a new year – lets hope its a better one!

My New Business Venture – Part II

I am now an authorised Distributor for the Utility Warehouse, having completed my training.  There are a lot of things I like about this role:
  • I can work as often or seldom as I want.
  • I can work at the times I choose.
  • This role fits in OK with my other business (claims handling and risk management).
  • There are incentives for meeting certain targets, but no big stick if those are not right for me.
  • I do not need to use any crafty sales techniques – that would turn me right off.
  • In fact in the training we are expressly told not do that – we do not need to as we have a competitive edge through price and service.
  • Indeed I am not really selling anything as the potential clients are all buying the products already, but at a higher cost – all I do is point that out! 
I highly recommend this – so if you are interested in either the role or the products please contact me or look on the website (see link).
And please believe me that nobody is paying me to write this, regrettably!