We Need To Talk About Kevin

Good news to those of you who spent your childhood watching Sci-Fi flicks and wishing for a robot friend to keep you company and protect you in times of need, just like R2D2 from Star Wars or (for the more nihilistic kids) Marvin from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

 

r2d2

Image: pixabay

Soon enough you’ll be able to have your very own piece of artificial intelligence watching your back online! Well, close enough. Insurance Business has revealed that Suncorp is now the backer of an insurtech chatbot that provides micro-insurance for peer-to-peer, online transactions. And his name is Kevin.

So, how does it work? While it’s not exactly the same as having Bumblebee from Transformers fight off building-sized robots from outer space then spontaneously convert into a car, Kevin will protect you from online theft, fraud and scams. Customers using Kevin will be provided with a link that they can send to their online seller, ensuring that their transaction is insured for up to $100.

The project was developed after founder Juan Cartagena transferred funds in an online purchase but never received the product. He hopes that the project will protect most online transactions, as “users who buy and sell through Kevin will be subject to reputation, and scammers will simply try to avoid it, so we are likely to see a low level of scams, just because scammers tend to prefer to be anonymous.”

Who knows, perhaps sometime in the not too distant future Kevin will be a sidekick in all of our online lives. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlord.

Words by Skye Jamieson

Safety Dance

Today’s blog is named after the 1983 Men Without Hats hit! Let’s get real, though: if those guys were serious about safety, they’d make sure their hats were firmly on their heads. If your friends don’t comply with WHS, well, they’re no friends of mine.

If you hadn’t already guessed, this blog is dedicated to the humble PPE (personal protective equipment). It’s been on our minds here at FTA; we’ve now spent a few meetings checking that our inventories are all up to scratch. There’s nothing new we can tell you about PPE that Safe Work Australia hasn’t already said. But when it comes to having a comprehensive list readily available, then we might be able to help.

Here’s a handy list of different types of PPE, amalgamated from University of Western Australia and University of Wollongong resources.

Safe worker

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Head

Hard hats, helmets, sun hats

Eye

Goggles, safety glasses

Hearing

Ear plugs, ear muffs

Respiratory

Respirators, face masks, cartridge filters

Hand

Gloves, gauntlets

Footwear

Safety boots, gumboots, enclosed shoes

Personal protective equipment

Image: 3benefitsof.com

Skin

Sunscreen, hats, long sleeves, trousers

Outerwear

High visibility garments, reflective vests, fluoro jackets

Specific

  • Heights: safety harnesses, fall arrest devices
  • Chemicals: disposable clothing, sleeve protectors, aprons, coveralls
  • X-rays: lead aprons
  • Welding: leather jackets, trousers, spats
  • Furnaces/cool rooms: thermal wear

PPE isn’t foolproof, but that doesn’t mean we should skimp on it. WHS exists for a reason and wearing proper PPE when the situation arises is essential for our safety.

Words by Jenny Ryan

Productivity Plight

It’s getting Christmassy and I’m sure we’re all feeling it! The end of 2016 is nigh and everyone’s working hard so they can enjoy it. But watch out, friends, because the last thing you want is to burn out right before your extended siesta. We all want to stay on top of our game, but at this late stage our productivity might need a little boost.

Luckily the Internet knows how to help us work better, faster and stronger. Knowing what to do and what not to do are two sides of the same coin, and today we’ve flipped the latter. Entrepreneurship in a Box recently featured a list of counterproductive habits; they’re worth sharing as we hurtle towards our final days of business.

Working hard

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If you want to maintain your productivity, avoid these things:

1. Outdated technology

There’s nothing worse than being slowed down by WiFi or a computer on its last legs. Tech upgrades may cost money, but they’ll sure as heck save you time.

2. Lack of direction

Everyone works differently; some of us are naturally efficient, some of us aren’t. If people are struggling, they may need a little assistance setting some goals.

3. Bad ergonomics

How’s your office layout? If the design doesn’t streamline movement, it might be wasting everyone’s time. You can’t be productive if you’re battling to get from A to B.

4. Lack of communication

It’s hard for a team to progress if they’re not informed or in the loop. Once everyone has a clear brief, you can see where productivity may actually be flagging.

Working together

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5. Isolation

We all need a bit of ‘me’ time, but it’s not always great to be cut off from your colleagues. Collaboration is just as important as getting your individual tasks done.

6. Mismanagement

Again, everybody is different and responds to leadership in their own ways. If you’re not getting through to your people, consider trying a different approach.

7. Distractions

We’re all guilty of this, but sitting in an empty office is no fun, either. Bring in some stimulating decor, rather than objects you’ll want to fiddle with (i.e. your phone).

On one hand, this is all rather self-explanatory. But on the other hand, it’s wise to remember that our performance comes down to not just one factor, but to many. There’s always something you can try to up your productivity between now and your last day for the year.

Words by Jenny Ryan

Collaborate and Listen

In the last few weeks, networking and relationship building have become regular topics of conversation around FTA’s meeting table. Our ever-popular adjusters have been hitting the events scene, so it makes sense that industry connections are on our minds of late.

It just so happens that Insurance Business Online has also been interested in business networks, particularly Janine Garner’s ideas about commercial collaboration. She has lots of good things to say, so you should definitely check out the article in full when you have the time. Until then, we’ve prepared a little taster for you: five key reminders about the shift from ‘Me’ space to ‘We’ space!

Brainstorming group

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1. Collaboration is a form of amplification

It pools skills, strengths, expertise and intelligence, which allows us to work smarter, faster, and better towards results and solutions.

2. Networking has a great domino effect

Sharing and discussion inevitably creates new opportunities and innovations, as well as additional networks for future collaboration.

3. Diversity is the lifeblood of collaboration

Embracing different perspectives breeds awareness and knowledge, and extends the breadth and depth of conversations.

Multiple light bulbs

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4. Leaving our comfort zone is a must

We are marching towards an uncertain future, so it’s important to push boundaries, take risks, break barriers and challenge ourselves.

5. Collaboration takes time

It’s not always easy, and it requires us to think outside the box. But the potential rewards – more streamlining, engagement and satisfaction – are great.

Put simply, we’re better together.

So share. Question. Innovate. Learn. We’re all better off by doing so!

Words by Jenny Ryan

Constructive Conformity

Conformity isn’t such a hot idea when you consider how commercialised and media-saturated our society is. As long as people operate within the bounds of reason, then nonconformity is a-okay, right? Well, this may be true of humans, but if there’s one thing that absolutely should conform, it’s our building products.

Architecture and Design have reported that the Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products has been revived. The original inquiry lapsed during the last federal election, but the newly reformed committee will have until 25 May 2017 (with submissions closing 1 December 2016) to deliver their latest findings.

Scaffold

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InsuranceNEWS identified ‘flammable building cladding’ and ‘dangerous electrical cable’ as issues for further investigation. But asbestos remains one of the biggies, with the committee expanding their terms of reference to include its illegal import. The inquiry will encompass:

  • The prevalence of asbestos-containing products
  • The impact of asbestos-containing products on industry and safety
  • Potential improvements to current regulations
Concrete

Image: pexels.com

To assist in the fight against non-conforming building products, NATSPEC will launch a National Construction Product Register (NCPR) in 2017. This will help the construction industry identify products that conform to Australian standards, in turn leading to safer buildings. The NCPR is supported by:

  • Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors’ Association of Australia
  • Australian Institute of Building
  • Australian Institute of Building Surveyors
  • Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors
  • Consult Australia
  • Engineers Australia
  • Master Builders Australia
  • Standards Australia

We’re interested in seeing how both the Senate inquiry and the NCPR turn out!

Words by Jenny Ryan

LA Confidential

Can you keep a secret? This isn’t a preamble to juicy gossip; it’s a genuine question.

A recent article on Lexology raised the issue of confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements in claims handling. Since insureds often provide insurers with confidential information (which may become critical to an insurance investigation), it is paramount that this information is not misused (un)intentionally.

The article states that, in the past, insureds and stakeholders shared an ‘implicit understanding’ – these days they’re more likely to share a formal agreement. Consider the following pressure points, though:

  • Insurers have special needs; aside from loss adjusters, they may need to share information with professional advisers, internal management or reinsurers
  • The insurance community is small; large claims attract lots of attention and this may lead to discussion or speculation among colleagues
Locked information

Image: pixabay.com

Depending on where you are, disclosing confidential information can be considered an offence and countered with legal action. That makes for a financial and reputational disaster. So how do you safeguard against that?

It sounds obvious, but stakeholders need to monitor what they discuss and with whom, particularly in the public domain. When in doubt, ask the following questions:

  • Is this information considered confidential?
  • Is disclosure to a third party appropriate?
  • Does the third party have a legitimate connection with the claim?
Briefcase

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We all know how important trust, honesty and loyalty are in this industry. Let’s not forget that that extends to our treatment of information as well as people!

Words by Jenny Ryan

Building Resilience

Resilience.

It’s a word we’re probably more accustomed to hearing in a high school PDHPE class than anywhere else. But as Sourceable says, our built environment has to be resilient if it’s going to weather all the storms (literal and metaphorical) that come its way. Loss adjusters know how much stress extreme weather, for instance, can produce. That’s why Sydney and Melbourne have been selected for the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program, which is dedicated to ‘helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century’.

Man walking through city

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Resilience needs to be built into our buildings, so to speak. And it’s not enough to bolster one or two things, either; would you put on a jacket to ride a motorcycle, then leave the helmet at home? The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Similarly, resilience has to permeate all levels of the built environment if it is (and we are) to survive: from planning to delivery, from suppliers to builders.

Click here for more explanation of what defines resilience in this context. It’s worth remembering that buzzwords like this sound great on paper, but they’re no help if they don’t translate into real life. We need to be very clear about how to make our constructs resilient if we want to have any hope of making them a reality.

Words by Jenny Ryan

Dire Fire

It’s not often that I blog about construction issues – they just don’t come up on my radar – but you know what they say: ‘new month, new me’. I suppose it’s also a case of ‘new month, new matters coming to light via the Internet’. But I digress.

26 October was the day of the Risk Frontiers Annual Seminar in Sydney. Here, CSIRO’s Justin Leonard (Research Leader, Bushfire Urban Design) raised the issue of supposedly bushfire-ready properties.

In Australia’s climate, it makes sense to ‘fireproof’ things as much as possible. Unfortunately we are now seeing ostensibly bushfire-ready properties being destroyed by the very thing they’re built to withstand. The problem is twofold. Firstly, some building surveyors are signing off on homes that have not met bushfire standards. Secondly, some homeowners are making non-compliant modifications, like installing wooden decking.

Fire

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Mr Leonard pointed out that, during last December’s bushfire at VIC’s Wye River and Separation Creek, only three of seven homes built to ‘the latest bushfire standards’ survived. He has called for a user manual that informs property owners of their obligations in regard to these standards, saying:

Regulations aren’t going to get us that far on their own, but a combination of regulations, common sense and good occupier behaviour could work.

We’re fortunate to have early warning systems and they’re certainly a great asset to property owners. But we all know that bushfires can be hard to control, and you never know what can happen. We can hope that there will never be a ‘next time’, but if there is, then owners and builders alike need to be vigilant in upholding safety standards.

Words by Jenny Ryan

Advice About Advice

Loss adjusters deal with all sorts of people: insureds, uninsureds, self-insurers, third parties, brokers, solicitors… Phew. There’s a lot of talking and, yes, quite a bit of advising going on. But as our industry changes more and more, should we be looking at how we do all that?

Talker

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Insurance Business Online recently reported on how brokers should ‘transform’ the way they give advice. Harshveer Singh, Bain & Company’s APAC corporate finance leader, raises some good points here. Singh is an advocate of advisers possessing three ‘ever-lasting’ characteristics:

  1. Staying in touch (with customers)
  2. Coming across as professional
  3. Focusing on need

He also suggests:

  • Being present in the customers’ lives
  • Having a deep relationship with customers without trying to push products
  • Adopting an ‘omni-channel’ (e.g. digital and face-to-face) approach to advice
Woman talking

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Granted, Singh’s words are directed at brokers, and some are quite open-ended. But that doesn’t mean that they have no value for loss adjusters. In fact, I’d say they’re quite compatible. Connecting with people, maintaining professionalism, blending different types of interaction – these are all ideas worth considering as loss adjusting shifts and transforms.

And besides: the more we can learn from other sectors, the better positioned and equipped we’ll be to deal with said transformations.

Words by Jenny Ryan

The Skills Are Alive

Last week I used Job Outlook to paint a picture of the average Australian adjuster. I poked around most of the available data, but one area I didn’t inspect too closely was the skills. As it turns out, Job Outlook lists not one or two skills, but a list of twenty that loss adjusters and insurance investigators need – all ranked according to their individual importance (seemingly out of 100%).

Frankly, the skills that made the cut weren’t what immediately sprung to mind when I thought of ‘loss adjusting’ or ‘insurance investigating’. Nevertheless, when you look at them all together, it makes sense that they would be considered important assets.

Meeting

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The top twenty skills, in descending order of importance, are:

  1. Reading comprehension
  2. Writing
  3. Active listening
  4. Critical thinking
  5. Speaking
  6. Negotiation
  7. Judgment and decision making
  8. Complex problem solving
  9. Monitoring
  10. Social perceptiveness
  11. Active learning
  12. Coordination
  13. Service orientation
  14. Persuasion
  15. Time management
  16. Instructing
  17. Mathematics
  18. Management of personnel resources
  19. Systems analysis
  20. Learning strategies
Calculator

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That all seems fairly reasonable but – not being a loss adjuster – I couldn’t tell you from experience how accurate this list is. Is there anything you think should be there, but isn’t? Or vice versa? Looking at this, one thing’s for certain: you need to be able to wear a lot of hats in this line of work.

Words by Jenny Ryan