It never rains...

With storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge wreaking havoc across the country, Keeley Davies, Head of Property Claims at Hiscox UK, explains how the company managed the influx of insurance claims with a personal touch.

We’re passionate about the weather in the UK – it’s the perfect conversation filler. However, in the last five weeks, discussions about the weather have been of a more serious nature with the arrival of storm Ciara (dubbed “storm of the century”), followed closely by storms Dennis and Jorge.

Extreme weather can cause severe flooding and damage to homes, meaning that insurers have experienced an influx of claims. Keeley Davies, Head of Property Claims at Hiscox UK, has experienced first-hand how the storms have impacted policyholders and why their requirements sometimes go beyond the words on the claim document.

The little things

One customer whose property flooded was moved quickly into alternative accommodation in a hotel. “She mentioned to one of Hiscox’s Claims Underwriters that she didn’t mind not having clean clothes, among other things, but she was really upset that she didn’t have her face cream,” says  Keeley. “So, one of our team ordered her some and had it delivered to the hotel. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter to people.”

Keeley recalls another customer, an elderly gentleman, whose property had flooded and he had been stuck upstairs with his dog for three days. “He had also recently had a stroke and was reluctant to move too far out of the area – but everywhere close by had been flooded and therefore accommodation within a five-mile radius was very hard to find,” she says, adding that the Hiscox Field Claims team persevered, phoning around local hotels and pubs before finding accommodation for the customer and his canine companion.

Throughout the influx of claims, Hiscox has ensured that it responds in a timely manner. “We settled a flood claim on day one on the phone. It was clear from our conversation with the policyholder that the level of damage was so devastating that it was going to be a total loss, so we paid that claim out immediately so the customer could start buying new equipment and limiting the impact to his business operations,” says Keeley.

Surge planning

Hiscox UK has a ‘surge plan’ in place for scenarios such as extreme weather, which prepares the business for an increase in claims, including looking at resourcing and how exactly to handle the claims process in the event of a sudden increase in demand.

“We did a dry run of our surge plan in November 2019, so it was in front of mind,” says Keeley. “We are always closely monitoring the weather using weather alert services, so we have a good lead-in time if there is something that could impact our customers. This allows us to invoke our surge plan early and make preparations.”

Hiscox puts its customers at the heart of everything it does, which can mean making some difficult decisions to uphold this value. For example, invoking its surge plan meant it needed all hands on deck. “We’ve asked four people to postpone taking their insurance exams, we’ve postponed a training course for the team, and a few people have volunteered to cancel their annual leave, despite it being half-term,” says Keeley.

Extreme preparation

When it comes to dealing with extreme weather conditions, Keeley says brokers can help policyholders prepare. “Before something even happens, particularly in regards to flooding, we can encourage customers to sign up to weather alerts from local environmental agencies so they are forewarned. Following this, if there is a risk of flooding, move important items upstairs (if possible), or up high. We can replace a chair, but not a photo album,” she says.

Keeley recommends that policyholders phone Hiscox as soon as they are aware of any damage so that they can offer support and advice from the outset, and engage with their panel of approved suppliers to arrange alternative accommodation, prompt strip out and drying so that customers can return home as soon as possible.