When it comes to specialised Energy and Property loss adjusting, for both onshore and offshore Grant Smith has a clear vision for the future. As CEO of Braemar Technical Services, one of the world’s largest providers of such services, he firmly believes it is only a matter of time before an increasing number of customers follow the lead taken by his loyal client base and start working with a company that is dedicated to fully investing in the future. Braemar Technical Services is gearing for the future. More offices are being opened and strategic alliances developed in areas that are key to clients around the world. A serious recruitment drive is well underway, to attract not only new blood into what is a well-established profession, but individuals with relevant industry, engineering, and insurance backgrounds capable of delivering quality loss adjusting and risk assessment work over the next 20 to 30 years. In recent months the company has recruited seven Engineers, two Financiers and a Naval Architect to the business: James Pummell, Emma Davison, and Daniel Granberg in London; Jason Weingartner and Peter Henry in Houston; as well as Elizabeth Siemens, Rachel Tilford-Njaa and Thomas Friedl in Calgary; and Charles Honner and Hugh Evans in Singapore. The most recent recruit, who joined London at the start of this month, is Marc Godfrey, who brings 20 years as an independent adjuster predominantly in the property, construction and engineering sectors and, until recently, was working as part of the underwriting team for a large multinational reinsurer. Grant Smith takes his work seriously and he values the relationships his company have built with its established and growing client base, to the extent that he takes the opportunity whenever he can to thank them for their patronage and support, especially when you consider the changes that are currently happening in the world of loss adjusting. The emergence of a culture of staff poaching within the loss adjusting industry has had the effect of pushing up costs in the sector as a whole. Rather than simply handing these increased costs to the customers, Grant contends that you have to separate yourself from this practice by improving your internal systems; upping your recruitment drive, and instilling a robust and effective training programme which guarantees an influx of quality personnel onto your books. As he says, it is a win:win situation for both service provider and customer.
There is a lot of senior staff working in the adjusting industry who have 5 to 10 career years left, maximum. At what point do you say those firms are really building for the future? The industry is now looking to Braemar Technical Services and acknowledging that we are the ones bringing in the next generation of talent who will provide the next 20-30 years of loyal service to the industry. We are delighted to be seen to be the drivers of new talent into the industry and I personally want to thank our customers who are recognising the merit in what we are doing. If this can also encourage others that this is a sound and logical way to operate then that is a bonus, he said.
Having the right resource ready and capable to meet the demands of this industry is one thing but when you consider that loss adjusting is a risk averse sector, with many clients fearful of handing a major file to an individual who may not have a long established track record, it is vitally important that the mentorship, training and quality control systems Braemar Technical Services provides are in place, to encourage clients to make this forward looking change. As Grant explains, it is all about getting the right people for the job, who are well trained and understand the demands that are being placed before them. By working as part of the right team surrounded by valuable experience and mentorship, they can not only embrace best practice, but can enjoy the support they need to put forward their own ideas, to the benefit of all.
We recognise what the market is asking for. There is the same old guard of surveyors and loss adjustors in the industry who are getting older. That is fine and there is a valued place for this experience; we have it and recognise we still need it within our own company! However, if you look across our management team we have started to implement our succession plan. We have adjusters with 20 years experience behind them and 20 to 30 years of contribution still to make. On top of which we are continually bringing in new talent to supplement our existing expertise. If the rest of the industry doesn’t do this, then it will not be long before they start experiencing a shortage of quality adjusters, he said.
And what does this mean for the client? As Grant stresses: we are a service business, to do our job we must be continually looking ahead to see the needs of the industry and ultimately those of our clients. We need to get away from this short to medium-term view; certain clients understand that if things keep going the way they are going, then in three to five years time the adjusters they have been using won’t be there. As a result we have definitely experienced an increase in market share. Braemar Technical Services is part of the Technical division of Braemar Shipping Services Plc, a leading multidiscipline engineering and consultancy firm offering a broad range of services to the Shipping, Insurance and Energy industries including; Loss Adjusting, Engineering, Marine Surveying, Environmental Consultancy and Pre Risk & Warranty Surveying. The Technical division of Braemar employs over 300 Engineers, Architects & Marine Surveyors through a network of 40 offices across the globe. Braemar Technical Services has carved a niche for itself specialising in Loss Adjusting associated with five core industry sectors: Oil & Gas; Refining & Petrochemicals; Power & Utilities; Mining & Heavy Industries; Marine, Shipyards, Ports & Terminals. And while there may be some business areas where its expertise is separate from its sister companies within Braemar, synergies exist especially if larger jobs call for more diverse engineering, loss adjusting and consultancy input. When asked to provide an example of this in action, Grant Smith added:
The Asia Pacific region is just one example of where we continue to experience success through this collaborative approach. A big win for us was being chosen as the preferred independent loss adjustor for the Ichthys Project a major offshore and onshore LNG project centred on the Browse Basin in Western Australia. Ichthys is effectively three mega projects rolled into one involving some of the largest offshore facilities in the industry, a state of the art onshore processing facility and an 889 kilometre, 42 inch subsea pipeline, which is the fourth longest in the world. A combination of Insurers and the development Operator interviewed a number of loss adjusting companies that they wanted to consider for the role and we were selected because of our experience in both the onshore and offshore energy space. This is due in no small part to the breadth of experience and technical expertise that we were able to provide from within the Technical division.
It is not just in the Asia Pacific region where Braemar Technical Services continues to experience success. Grant has overseen a series of strategic expansions with the opening of the Dubai office in 2013 to service the MENA region and the Columbus office in 2014 to service the growing needs of the US Shale producers and the existing needs of the refining, power, petrochemical and mining sectors, located in the North Eastern USA. Success has not just come through the establishment of their own offices. Grant recognises that to service the diverse needs of his clients it is sometimes necessary to provide access to local resources with knowledge and expertise necessary to the claim. To that end, the Braemar network was established. An example of this in practice is the exclusive relationship that Braemar have established with a team of multi-disciplined engineers based in Iraq, who operate from the three strategic Iraqi provinces of Baghdad, Basra and Erbil. We are ahead of the curve in our relationship with Iraq. Our clients who have used those resources have appreciated the value we have been able to deliver. Our partnership in Iraq is all about having the ability to respond to our clients needs in a manner that also ensures that our adjusters are safe. We can provide local adjusters on the ground with superior knowledge of the risks in-country and decades of experience with the facilities in question. Its a ‘no brainer’ Grant Smith is happy that Braemar Technical Services is being recognised for its efforts to be more customer facing and customer servicing, and is constantly looking at ways to improve the service it provides to its customers:
For example, we hold a lot of data internally which we are now interrogating through the implementation of new software systems, with a view to providing additional services to our customers in the future. In addition, we are looking at evolving the products we offer to our clients, which can involve internal training for our customers. We have taken a number of young underwriters on field trips to various fabrication and construction facilities, the most recent being to the Kvaerner Shipyard in Stavanger. We also run a series of training courses, such as our Southampton base course which includes helicopter crash survival training (HUET) and a series of claims scenarios / workshops. By partnering with the industry we can be part of the solution and in order to achieve our goal we have to continue to discover, encourage and bring in new talent to all areas of our industry, he concluded.