How professional is the property segment of the property and casualty (P&C) claims industry? What can we do to ensure a firm grasp of changing technologies and restoration practices? Have we set a standard for performance that, across the board, eases settlement of property technical claims? Is being a property adjuster a respected career with recognized professional milestones?

Two years ago, a conversation about those and similar issues led to the formation of an industry-wide Property Advisory Committee, and, ultimately, to the development and release of Property Technical Certification (PTC) I, the first of three designations, in December 2010. Many would consider this lightning speed for a sometimes glacially moving industry. How did things come together so quickly and what could this type of certification mean to you and your company?

Simply put, PTC is designed to address a pressing need in the P&C industry. Those who have touched this project, from the largest insurers to small independents, agree that it’s about time.

Identify Deficiencies in Training, Expertise

First, it is difficult to determine the expertise of adjusters, and even harder to predict their future performance. Though having knowledge is no guarantee of performance, lacking knowledge is a guarantee of failure. It is impossible to perform well in our industry without the proper technical knowledge. Industry post-Katrina performance reviews were lukewarm at best, due in great part to a lack of property claim-handling knowledge. Though some companies may have commendable training, as an industry, we do not.

In addition, millennials have arrived in the workplace, bringing with them what some refer to as a “just-in-my-time” learning mentality. They want practical, vital information and learning today that will help them do their jobs better tomorrow—not next week or next year. They want point-and-click job aids and easily accessible performance support that complements learning and is accessible 24/7. They want a designation that will demonstrate that they have property technical knowledge, no matter where their careers might take them.

Meeting these needs is a central focus of those on the Property Advisory Committee and in initiating a summer pilot of online courses for the PTC designation.  

Patrick Milone, vice president of the Property Services Division of Custard Insurance Adjusters Inc., sees this type of certification “as a way to keep adjusters current in all property aspects of the claims arena via training by an accredited resource.” Milone also considers the compliance aspect of PTC to be important, as all courses have been approved in every state that requires adjuster continuing education. This resource is KMC On DemandSM, part of Crawford & Company. KMC technology enables the PTC to record user completions. Each course in the PTC has a corresponding performance support file that is easily accessible and has vital information to assist the adjuster long after the course is completed. Performance support files will be regularly updated as they become the industry technical resource of record.

With this approach, emphasis switches from mastery of a test to ongoing workplace support. Therefore, passing an  exam becomes the beginning, rather than the end of the learning experience. 

However, technology must be paired with good content to be truly valuable. To optimize expertise through training resources, it is crucial that insurers address  deficiencies. “The PTC program targets a void in many of the claims training courses available to property adjusters,” says Pam Kobin, divisional vice president of Great American Insurance Co.

The combination of cutting-edge technology and access to valuable content can fundamentally change the insurance industry. “Promoting professional standards for structural repair will further raise the collective technical knowledge of our industry,” adds Paul Tracey, director of Property at Allstate Insurance Co.

Attaining such a seemingly lofty goal is realistic, says Tom Carstens, senior vice president of performance improvement for Crawford. “We will require all of our property adjusters to achieve the PTC designations. We’ll start with PTC I and then move onto PTC II and III in 2011 and 2012. This is a serious opportunity to improve performance, and we have already heard from clients who expect us to embrace this certification.”

Are Designations The Answer?

Tim Bowen, director of the Home Ops Team for MetLife Auto & Home, agrees that options like PTC will enhance the learning experience of those in the P&C insurance industry. “Looking forward, I can see a designation such as PTC as a differentiator when selecting claims service vendors or for hiring new associates,” Bowen says. “In theory, certified professionals will have the tools, knowledge, and validated competencies that will position them to provide  claim customers with an enhanced service experience. The appropriate curriculum and platform will provide the flexibility to make learning/development a continuous process.”

Permeating all aspects of the industry means making inroads into post-secondary education, too. Claims education as a percentage of total curriculum is underserved and, to a great extent, overlooked. This is particularly true in university insurance programs, where very few graduates follow the claims career path. But that can change, says Jim Jones, director of the Katie School of Insurance at Illinois State University.

“Having professional designations improves the employment prospects for our students,” Jones said. “We are currently reviewing ways to integrate PTC into our curriculum and encourage students to take the modules outside of class, as well. This gives students practical information and exposes them to an aspect of claims they may not have otherwise considered. [This education approach] is a win-win for students and their prospective employers.”

Joe Sprangers, Practical Property instructor for Fox Valley Technical College in Wisconsin, holds a similar view. “I have reviewed the technical aspects of PTC and think that such a program  will go a long way in educating our future field adjusters to so they can become more detail-oriented when dealing with property losses.” To raise the profile of claims adjusting, KMC says it plans to partner with post-secondary educational institutions to offer its PTC to insurance students.

Perhaps the largest immediate impact PTC can potentially make is on loss handling in catastrophes, the company added. The public’s perception of post-Katrina property claim handling was poor, and an effective certification program can help change that in the future, says Paul Kottler, president of IAS Claims. “For example, I see PTC as the start of a major paradigm shift within the claims profession, bringing cutting edge technology, learning, and certification to help re-define professionalism within the property claims adjusting practice.”  

Call to Action

This call to “stand up and be counted” includes restoration contractors, both independent and networked, says PTC technical advisor Brandon Burton, technical education manager for Restoration Sciences Academy. “Consistency of knowledge throughout the insurance community is critical in assuring best practice and effective relations with the restoration and mitigation contractor community. We have provided significant content from our Restoration Sciences Academy curriculum to the PTC program to support this initiative,” he says.

Conversely, the potential for better contractor education on the subtleties of property claims can also assist insurers. More and more often, contractors serve as the eyes and ears of insurers at losses, and everyone would benefit if they were better versed in topics such as subrogation, ethics, cause and origin, claim documentation, and property investigation, all included in PTC courses. To that end, contractor networks Alacrity and Crawford Contractor ConnectionSM are contributing to the PTC Property Advisory Committee.

Perhaps it is best left to Woody Britton, past president of the National Association of Catastrophe Adjusters (NACA), to sum up the potential benefits of this type of technical certification.

“As adjusters, we are subjected to a variety of claim requirements from different vendors and carriers. The PTC program offers insight into the insurance industry as a whole,” he says. “The standards and information can be taken and used with any carrier or vendor. The technical aspects of claims are often overlooked and I believe that achieving the PTC designation will give new hires and experienced adjusters an insight and the key claims handling tools to handle the wide variety of requirements we face.”

“At times, an adjuster feels like they are simply an appraiser that has no input or knowledge to add to the claims completion,” Britton continues. “If an adjuster is armed with the right designation, then carriers and vendors are assured that the person has put forth the effort to improve their knowledge base and become a key part of the claims resolution process.”