Case study: The price is right

28 Mar 2005

The insurance loss adjustment business is a highly competitive one with independent consultancies vying for business from the insurance companies. Their job is to visit the scene of an incident such as a fire or burst pipe and assess the actual value of damage done to the insured property. Pro Adjust is one of those independent consultancies that uses technology to allow it to offer countrywide coverage despite the fact it only has offices in Dublin and Sligo.

The company came into existence on 11 January, 2004 when a number of loss adjusters left their former employer to go into business for themselves. “We got our first job on 14 January,” recalls operations director Mitch Wallis. “And I had an email server — on loan from MJ Flood Technology — up and running on 15 January and by 29 January our offices here in Dublin were fully up and running.”

The firm employs a total of 14 people with loss adjusters based in Sligo, Galway, Mullingar, Limerick, Kilkenny, Portlaoise, Bray and Dublin and secretarial support in Headford, Co Galway. “Without having a well-distributed office you wouldn’t be able to do the job effectively. We would be spending all of our fee income on mileage plus the amount of time it would take. If there’s a house fire in Donegal you can’t just ring them and say you’ll wait until there’s another incident. At the same time you can’t be driving too far. That was the biggest task for us. Our previous employer had offices in Sligo, Galway, Mullingar, Limerick, Kilkenny and Bray but we couldn’t afford that as a start-up. We have two physical offices — Dublin and Sligo — otherwise, everyone works from home.”

However, just because they work from home does not mean the adjusters have to go without the benefits of the office. While Wallis looked after creating the company’s core management application, he turned to MJ Flood Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of MJ Flood, Ireland’s largest business equipment company, to supply the hardware and communications infrastructure the fledgling company would need. “I had been working with MJ Flood Technology for many years and I knew it to be a good partner,” he says.

MJ Flood Technology provides computer systems and services to the SME and corporate market. According to James Finglas, sales director of MJ Flood, it used a combination of best-of-breed technologies to deliver a complete solution to Pro Adjust.

“Pro Adjust has servers in both Sligo and Dublin,” he explains. “A major part of the project was providing security for these. To do this we used a firewall configuration based on Cisco products and using CheckPoint software. We also used software from Trend Micro for antivirus and Computer Associates for backups.”

Connecting the various employee locations proved to be a challenge as not all of them lived in urban areas. Where possible, MJ Flood Technology used DSL, however in some locations ISDN had to be used. In fact, one employee, Una McHale, who provides secretarial support to several loss adjusters, still works out of her mother’s front room because her own home three miles away is unable to get either DSL or ISDN. MJ Flood Technology set up a virtual private network using CheckPoint’s Safe@office. All Pro Adjust’s data, therefore, is securely encrypted.

“All our people have a full copy of our claims system on their laptops,” says Wallis. “So an adjuster goes out to visit a claim, he takes pictures on his digital camera, dictates his report into a digital dictaphone. He puts the photos into the claims document and emails the audio file of his dictation to McHale in Headford. McHale then transcribes it, stores the report with the photos in the database and sends an email to the adjuster to say it’s done. The adjuster then proofs it, makes corrections and emails it to the insurance company.

“We had a case of a major fire in Tullamore in May, three adjusters went down there and before the fire went out they were able to assess the loss, put a reserve figure on it and do an immediate advance report. That report was on the insurance company’s desk by 8am the following morning.

“We need to react quickly. Our service level agreement is that we contact everyone on the day we are instructed and every loss must be inspected within three days and claims under €10,000 must be settled within 10 days,” he explains.

According to Wallis, the system has also had an impact on employee’s quality of life. “McHale used to work in our previous employer’s Galway office and she would spend 50 minutes each day in each direction commuting from her home in Headford. Now she simply goes down to her mother’s house. Her productivity has gone through the roof and she has her life back.”

Pictured are Mitch Wallis, operations director at Pro Adjust, and James Finglas, sales director of MJ Flood Technology

By David Stewart