Business Insurance

Global claims coordination makes a world of difference

By Hamish McBride and Kathleen Ellis

Global Claims

Big Ben in London makes a chime that is known the world over, but those who hear it may not fully grasp the series of carefully timed and coordinated motions that occur inside the Elizabeth Tower to ring the famous bell. Multinational insurance claims similarly have a lot of moving parts that require coordination.

Efficient global claims handling requires an insurer to align its internal resources and departments including underwriting and loss control in addition to its claims staff. Complexity is greater with claims arising under Multinational Programs because policyholders often operate in multiple countries, each of which have differing regulations, and may have several policies triggered by  a loss. That is why it’s important for an insurer to understand how claims handling operate outside a customer’s domestic market, to coordinate local policies around the world and to act as the link between the master and local policies in terms of a coordinated response.

The opportunity for bespoke global claims coordination is growing as companies of varying sizes acquire multinational risk profiles. At one time, large companies were the predominant players in international business. Times have changed. Today, many smaller and midsize businesses are able to source labor or materials internationally, and some are also selling their goods in foreign markets. When losses become insurance claims, those smaller organizations need the same coordinated approach that large multinationals have been accustomed to receiving.

Ultimately, claims are why businesses pay insurance policy premiums. Businesses of all sizes rely on their insurance partners to respond to situations that arise — no matter where or when.

A look at claims coordination

Consider the following scenario: A midsize manufacturing company based in Chicago learns of a large property loss at its Taiwan operations at 5 p.m. local time [4 a.m. Chicago] on a Saturday, outside normal business hours.  The policyholder’s questions are many, and it wants quick answers: How should the policyholder proceed? Whom should the company call? What steps can it take to mitigate the loss, repair the damage and minimize disruption? Could a similar incident occur at the company’s other international locations? How will the company recover?

Now consider this same scenario when the policyholder is insured by CNA. Notifying CNA of the Taiwan incident kicks into motion a team that is highly skilled at coordinating claims and international resources. The policyholder can rest a little easier knowing the insurer has the claim response in hand and is communicating with the customer as well as its underwriter and broker. What enables CNA to act so promptly on such a claim? CNA’s approach to global claims coordination, which began months earlier when the claims team met with the policyholder to better understand its business, its exposures and to discuss processes that would help the company if a claim occurred.

Whether the policyholder is in five countries or 40, and has a marine, general liability, property or other claim, CNA’s approach does not vary by line of business. A claim’s complexity may change, but the process of coordinating global claims is the same. It’s about understanding the customer’s needs, ensuring everyone is conversant in the customer’s insurance program and communicating effectively, and putting the right resources on the ground in a timely manner. Aligning and preparing the necessary resources to respond is much easier when the insurer takes the time to understand the customer’s business and develop a claim procedure document that outlines the details of the insurer’s response should a claim be filed.

The claims process can be daunting, even for companies that have full-time risk professionals. For smaller companies, where risk management may be one of many responsibilities for a given individual, a multinational claim can be overwhelming. In either case, having expert, dedicated service from an international insurer enhances the value of the insurance policy.

Recently, CNA assisted a technology industry customer that operates in more than 25 countries. When the insurer bound the risk, CNA’s head of multinational claims traveled to the customer’s U.S. headquarters to discuss the policies. The goal was to understand the complexities in the insurance program and learn what kind of claim process would work best for the customer. Rather than impose a process on the policyholder, CNA created a bespoke claims response plan. Coincidentally, the policyholder’s operations in Germany experienced a loss in the first three days of coverage, yet the claim process went smoothly and quickly because of CNA’s coordination efforts, which began at the policy’s inception.

Technology is a great enabler for businesses in all industries, but any effective insurance solution is led by people. When an insurer bases its solutions on collaboration, personal connections and relationships, it’s much easier to know whom to call when a policyholder has a problem.

Hamish McBride

Hamish McBride is head of multinational claims at CNA.

Kathleen Ellis

Kathleen Ellis is senior vice president of CNA International.