Mike Stapleton, senior vice president, claims administration at CNA, responded to some questions about the technology factors that affect the way CNA and its claims unit operate and how technology is affecting the performance—and the demands—of adjusters.

PropertyCasualty360: What is the state of your claims administration system? If it is a legacy system, what are the drawbacks? If you have upgraded your technology, what kind of benefits have you seen?

Stapleton: We have both a legacy system and an upgraded system. Four years ago we started to build what we call One Claim Platform. We have a commercial claim organization and a specialty claim organization. They were on different platforms. On commercial we embarked on a program that introduced a claim platform and we have now upgraded to a current model for commercial claims. That wasdone in November of 2010.

We’ve migrated a portion of our specialty claims operation and we plan to have thatdone in another year. Having two systems creates its own sets of challenges around data integrity, financials, and people working in duel environments and creates more inefficiency.

This helps to support the culture around One Claim Platform. The new platform provides more robust data; it gets away from adjustors documenting so many files; and utilizes more structured data. Before, if you couldn’t find it in the file notes, you couldn’t find it anywhere.

Our claims field organization helped us build the new platform with areas such as what would be needed in their claim file. We can extract a multitude of data for whatever reports or knowledge we might need. It served a lot of internal needs to put one source of data in places where it is needed.

PropertyCasualty360: In what way is technology changing how adjusters perform their jobs? What kind of savings can a company achieve through a more effective use of their time?

Stapleton: We are all looking to leverage technology to the ability we can. There are variables that come into play, but one of the things we incorporated here was moving to a paperless claim environment. For a commercial carrier with the type of claims we have and our volume of claims, it was quite an undertaking.

That was the first major step for us and we continue to move our teams to be comfortable in the paperless claims world. That’s the way claims are sent today—email or an electronic format—and we want to make sure our environment supports our customers, our vendors, and any individual the claims department interacts with.

Having that piece of paper no longer sitting in front of them has been an adjustment, so we’ve spent a lot of time around change management and training and allowing individuals to grow in that environment. They probably feel a lot better about this today than they did three years ago when we embarked on this journey.

These have changed the expectations of the adjusters to perform on a timely basis because they have better access to information and the ability to make decisions quickly. There’s an expectation from our customers that we have this availability of information and the ability to respond quicker than we did in the past.

When you look at BlackBerries and mobile devices, we are always available to our customers. It’s not the nine-to-five we used to have. We are always attached to that device because it is our link to our customers and individuals who may need us.

PropertyCasualty360: How is the role of the adjuster changing with your company? Are you supplementing your staff to independent adjusters? What must be done to sustain the quality of adjusters working in the p&c industry?  

Stapleton: Technology can’t take the place of experience. It can’t take the place of the complete knowledge and someone’s gut feelings—all those things that those senior people bring—and the expectation to share with the new people coming on board.

How do you take that knowledge and experience and put it in a way that those new to the industry will understand it and in a format they are comfortable with? Whether that is webinars, personal seminars or meetings, on-the-road training, or—taking a step back—having face-to-face contact with people like I did when I got into the claims world.

New people are used to communicating with text, email, voicemail and thing like that and youdon’t learn like that. The challenge is to take that blend of street smarts and experience and share it with new people and in a format that is conducive to the people we are hiring today.

The people today are in a better position today than I was 30 years ago because they have more access to information. They seem to be energized by the Internet and how to obtain information. That’s what we need: people who are inquisitive and interested in growing their knowledge in different ways.