WBD Claims launched in early 2020 with the aim of disrupting conventional models of claims handling. Unsurprisingly, the global pandemic precipitated a series of challenges. However, as spring approaches in 2022, WBD Claims is set to reinvigorate the claims handling market with its cutting edge software platform and commercially-minded approach to handling complex claims. In a series of regular insights, the team will share some thoughts around the services WBD Claims can offer, as well as its insight into the insurance market, and the future of financial lines claims and beyond.

Two key players in WBD Claims are David Clark and Tim Barr. With 30 years' experience of handling financial lines claims, David joined Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) in late 2019 to head up and launch WBD Claims. David is uniquely placed to illuminate the ways in which the team is able to hit the ground running as the insurance market finds its feet following enforced periods of home working. Tim is a professional indemnity partner in WBD's London office who has 17 years of experience in dealing with financial lines claims. Tim works closely with the WBD Claims team and has his own take on WBD Claims' role in the post-pandemic world.

Why was WBD Claims launched?

DC: WBD has an extremely well established insurance practice, and we felt that the addition of a bespoke claims handling practice would ultimately be of enormous benefit to both our existing clients and potentially new clients. We felt the Third Party Claims Administrator (TPA) market had stagnated a little and could benefit from some level of disruption. We saw that there was scope for TPAs to provide a more personal and commercial approach in the financial lines space, and for clients to expect better than simply more of the same.

How did the pandemic impact the launch of WBD Claims?

DC: Unfortunately, the pandemic hit just as we launched. The market reverted to home working, and life as a new entrant to the marketplace was extremely difficult. As we are all aware, the pandemic brought challenges to the insurance market that have not been seen in decades, the impact of which was felt in all corners of our industry. That said, we knew before we launched that it would be difficult to bring a new and differently-thinking claims handling practice to a crowded and uniform marketplace, but we are in it for the long haul. The pandemic also gave us time and space to refine our thoughts about what we have to offer.

What challenges do you see for the market returning to post-pandemic normality?

TB: Although insurance claims professionals have not been physically close to the market over the last two years, they have actually had a closer handle on their claims and have been more available to respond to the needs of insured and brokers through remote working. I therefore think the greatest challenge for claims professionals in returning to the office environment is managing client and broker expectations whilst their performance is compared to the high level of service provided during the pandemic.

DC: Finding a balance with hybrid working is also going to be a challenge. Insurance, and particularly claims, has always been a 'people' business. With a lot of companies adopting two to three days in the office per week, inevitably lots of time in the office will be spent meeting with team members and external contacts, and this will make managing a full claims caseload difficult. I have already heard individuals say that now they are back in the office, they often spend their days in back to back meetings and get less practical claims work done.

There has been considerable discussion as to whether the London market is still relevant. What is your take?

DC: Personally I think there will always be a place for the London market. Having an enormous blend of talent amongst insurers, brokers and experts condensed into such a small geographical area remains unique in the global insurance marketplace, and it is a key London market strength.

TB: The pandemic may have altered how risks are placed but the reason why the London market is chosen to handle global risks hasn't changed. In fact, I would suggest that the London market remains best placed to deal with the increased need for specialist lines of insurance arising from post-COVID economic turbulence.

How are WBD Claims placed to support the market?

TB: I view this time as a period of reflection for the insurance industry. We have acknowledged that a flexible approach can be adopted for the provision of insurance services in a way that doesn't compromise on quality or profitability. As a new entrant into the financial lines claims handling arena, WBD Claims is able to embrace this new way of thinking from the inception of any claims handling scheme. This is possible thanks to a combination of market leading claims technology, a broker-facing claims service, and a dedicated financial lines claims team offering a personal approach.

DC: We are able to assist not only insurers with wide scale outsourcing and MGAs with more in depth claims handling and management needs, but also brokers with established client portfolios and larger and more sophisticated insureds with complex insurance arrangements. We have a genuine commercial and problem-solving attitude that runs through the entire WBD team, built up over 45 years of dealing with all types of insurance claims. Allied with the fantastic Virtualfiles claims management platform we are able to combine state of the art technology and reporting capability with more traditional claims handling expertise.

What does the future look like for WBD Claims?

TB: As disruption often brings about opportunity in times of change, it's timely for new TPAs like WBD Claims to offer a more flexible and personable claims model to support the insurance market. I see established insurers taking advantage of a hard market to benefit from higher rates whilst supporting a more agile workforce. However, I also think it's a good time for new entrants and MGAs with fresh capacity to compete for market share, and WBD Claims would welcome the chance to support any insurance business in these changing times.

DC: WBD Claims was launched primarily to handle financial lines claims. However, we have no desire to rest on that capability. During the pandemic we have been working with our wider insurance team to start looking at other classes of claims handling, primarily around casualty and liability work, which brings an entirely separate set of challenges. Watch this space…!