Once the flames die down

What have Neal Warden, Gerald Williams, Andy King and Harry Roberts got in
common? They are all qualified accountants who have in the last ten years become
presidents of the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters.

Since there are only 31 qualified accountants who have CILA qualifications,
the fact that so many have risen to the very top of this profession requires
some explanation. There are around 1,500 qualified members of CILA.

One simple reason that this group of accountants is doing so well is that
they are all in their prime. They all joined loss adjusting in the late 1970s
and early 1980s, very soon after qualifying, when the profession was not only
expanding, but also under pressure to become more professional. Rather than use
outside professionals, loss adjusters had the confidence to recruit in-house

Reinsurers were no longer writing blank cheques and insurers were demanding
higher levels of professionalism and expertise from loss adjusters who, at the
time, handled most claims. There was a need to make underwriting profits, which
led to the recruitment of accountants (for business interruption and profit
loss), surveyors (for property and subsidence), engineers (for manufacturing
claims) and lawyers (for liability and recovery work).

Typically, Andy King, now senior vice-president with broker Marsh’s risk
consulting practice, says: ‘On qualifying with Coopers and Lybrand in l982, I
had wanted to go into its investigation department, but there were no vacancies.
Loss adjuster Thomas Howell (now Crawfords) offered me very similar work. Like
most newly qualified accountants I was anxious to get away from audit work.’

The reason accountants have done well and developed such a high profile in
not only the loss adjusting professional body, but their firms as well, is
because they are involved in the major corporate claims that today always have a
business interruption element.

The rise of accountants in loss adjusting has also coincided with the rise of
companies buying business interruption cover. Accountants were therefore quickly
at the top table of loss adjusting firms. The insurance market realised that
certain individuals in loss adjusting firms were the key to successful claims


King says: ‘By the early 1980s, being a good old boy and fudging through
complicated claims was no longer the way things could be done. Unsupported deals
were no longer acceptable. Accountants coming into loss adjusting was all part
of raising the game.’

Accountants are used to getting things done, they have a management training
second to none. Having an eye for the bottom line has made them indispensable to
not only their firms, but the CILA. The top accountants in loss adjusting are
also invariably the top fee earners, which is one reason why so few have moved
over to become chief executives.

There is also some debate as to why it’s accountants and not surveyors who
have made such a mark on loss adjusting. Recently, when loss adjusting as a
profession has been forced to retreat, many in the profession have looked to
accountants as rainmakers who could help preserve the financial viability of the

Clive Haslock, who now runs his own forensic accounting and loss adjusting
consultancy, and has been treasurer of CILA, says: ‘It is true that no
accountant who has qualified as a loss adjuster has become CEO of a major loss
adjusting firm and I think that this is part of the prejudice against


Harry Roberts is the current president of CILA and technical manager with
Cunningham Lindsey, the largest loss adjuster. It was no coincidence that he
chose to have his inaugural AGM as president at the Chartered Accountancy Hall.
He says: ‘The large business interruption cases mean that not only accountants
are involved with the high-profile, high-value cases, but that on a personal
level they are talking to insurers at senior levels. This means they become part
of the key relationship between loss adjusters and insurers. Leading the teams
on large claims means they are in a position where authority comes easily. When
it comes to CILA, I think one of the reasons that accountants have boxed above
their weight is that we are used to setting standards and that is what we are
interested in doing in our new profession.’

Sue Willmott is business interruption director at GAB Robins, one of the big
three loss adjusting practices. She became a loss adjuster in 1984 for the
everyday reason that, as a young mum having been a finance director, she was
looking for a part-time way back into work and loss adjusting was the best

‘Accountants are only brought into the profession to work on major and
complex claims, which automatically gives them a different profile than other
loss adjusters. Accountants are also trained in looking critically at businesses
and are also involved in management. This leads naturally to getting involved
and running CILA.’

One-time CILA president Gerald Williams, now director with FitzGerald
Consulting, says: ‘In the 1970s, there were only a handful of business
interruption cases a year, now there are dozens. Buncefield is a case in point.
Money is just more important all round. Warden, King and I all worked for what
was then Thomas Howell, where we were encouraged to get involved with CILA. I
think we have a little more oomph than other professions.’

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