August Covid-19 Client Update

13 November 2020: Now that England has entered its second week of lockdown 2, with similar measures in Wales starting to ease since Sunday, we considered it appropriate to review and update our clients on the measures QuestGates have adopted to maintain the highest possible levels of service during these uncertain times.

Loss Adjuster Visits

As per the first lockdown, loss adjusting is seen as an essential service and, as such, we continue to arrange visits to customers where necessary and it is deemed safe to do so. Understandably, many of our clients wish us to avoid offering physical visits as a matter of course and we are, therefore, continuing to deploy our virtual visit technology QUBEXpert in these circumstances.

For us, the key is responding to the preference of the customer in a safe, proactive manner and in accordance with Government guidelines. The rationale used where any physical visits are undertaken is recorded on the claim file.

Office Locations

The majority of our staff have been home working for many months, but prior to the second lockdown we had partially opened some offices on a trial basis in order to aid the mental wellness of those who have found the isolation of home working more challenging.

However, in line with the Government’s current position, namely offices should not be used unless absolutely necessary, we have scaled back our plans for further re-opening and have introduced a process whereby any attendance at offices during lockdown are agreed in advance with a member of the operations management team and where the person cannot reasonably work from home.

Furlough Scheme

Many have commented that “Lockdown 2” has a different feel to the first one. Whilst it is Inevitable that new claim volumes in certain sectors are likely to fall the longer lockdown is maintained, we have not seen a significant drop at this stage.

QuestGates is fortunate to have healthy levels of work in progress and we are therefore taking this opportunity to conclude outstanding claims as quickly as possible and provide customers with an efficient and empathetic claims service. Whilst the Furlough scheme has now been extended, we have no plans to change our current arrangements to take advantage of this.

Assisting the Hospitality Sector

It goes without saying that 2020 has been and continues to be a challenging year with Coronavirus affecting all of us in some way, and that is particularly the case for the hospitality sector.

From the outset, QuestGates has played an active role in supporting our clients in this business sector. One of the early concerns was the effect lockdown would have on our clients’ ability to investigate claims and subsequently manage them within the Ministry of Justice portal, thus potentially bringing an additional cost burden at a time when the industry could least afford it.

We were able to provide support to our hospitality clients when lobbying Government to agree a relaxation of the strict MoJ rules, to reflect the specific challenges that lockdown created from a claims handling and investigation perspective. Furthermore, we have continued to work closely with claimant solicitors to encourage pragmatism and co-operation, retaining the spirit of the protocol and seeking to avoid unnecessary costly litigation wherever possible.

In addition, with many of our hospitality clients forced to place their employees on furlough during the first lockdown, we provided a further layer of support by taking queries and referrals direct from stakeholders, which would otherwise have fallen to our clients’ own teams.

The pandemic has also served as a stark reminder that communication is key. In this respect, we’ve increased our routine levels of contact/dialogue with our clients and brokers and have fully embraced the use of digital technology. We have also adapted our working practices and put in place bespoke management information, designed both to assist our clients with their internal measures and to further evidence the value added by working with QuestGates.

As everyone’s working arrangements have become more varied, we have also seen increasing utilisation of our secure portal QUBEConnex, which provides our clients and customers with access to view their claims 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, should they so desire. There is little doubt that we all face continued disruption to our usual working arrangements for some time to come and we are, therefore, seeking out new and innovative ways to support all stakeholders within the claims process through this difficult and ever-changing period. We encourage anyone who needs our support to speak to their usual QuestGates contact.

Potential Fraud

Perhaps unsurprisingly, claims with suspicious elements to them have increased since the Covid19 outbreak. We were recently engaged on such a case – the circumstances of which seem to be far from isolated and evermore prevalent.

The claim involved a large stock and BI loss following water damage. The loss allegedly occurred in Oct 2019, yet the claim was only presented in July 2020. The excuse for the delay was that when the loss occurred the Insured had to re-finance quickly and as a result they had no time to notify insurers of their claim – they insisted that it was more important to ensure they could continue to trade, especially as they neared Christmas.

The insured then advised they were about to present the “very complex” claim in Feb/Mar 2020 but the UK lockdown came into force and they were forced to close the business. It was only when they re-opened in July 2020 that they allegedly realised the full extent of the loss.

Following the adjuster’s appointment, we were concerned that certain features of the claim were symptomatic of some of the trends we had seen in other “post Covid” suspicious claims, namely:

  • There was no cover for COVID-19 related loss or certainly not at the level now being claimed.

  • Any stock produced in Feb/Mar would have been perishable and obsolete as a result of the lockdown of the hospitality industry.

  • When they presented the loss it was very basic, produced on a single computer-generated document – far from the “complex process” argued as the reason for not submitting the claim to insurers in 2019.

  • The insured had claimed delay was also due to having to re-finance shortly after suffering the loss. One would have thought immediate submission of the claim would have gone some way to alleviating these issues.

Desperate times, financial motives and perceived “convenient” timing of a loss are all high on our list of fraud indicators, so having received instructions to conduct further investigation into the circumstances, the claim was immediately withdrawn, saving our client potentially in excess of £50,000. Our background checks had identified a number of concerns with the claim and if it had progressed the insured would have had a number of difficult questions to answer.

There is a real risk of an increasing prevalence in these types of claim being submitted as the economic impact of Covid19 worsens. Whilst we want to ensure genuine claims are resolved quickly and satisfactorily, we have a duty to spot and investigate those claims that may have a suspiciously opportunistic element to them.

Business Interruption Claims

We received large numbers of Business interruption claims due to the closure of businesses throughout the UK during the initial lockdown and volumes have started to rise again in the last few weeks.

Whilst 80% of the initial cases received have been concluded, many are complex and we are working closely with Insurers to ensure policy liability is evaluated quickly and that interim payments to assist businesses through these difficult times are made in a timely manner. We have also taken the opportunity to recruit further accountancy expertise into our Major and Complex Loss team to ensure we are able to pro-actively manage any increased volume of BI claims that may arise in future. This is in addition to the support we previously arranged with Cooper Parry, which will commence should very high clam levels be received

Of course, the appeal following the FCA test case is due to be heard next week and we will submit a further update once the implications of the outcome are fully known.