Series launch: ‘In Focus’

We are pleased to announce the publication of a blog series, In Focuswhich will introduce you to the people behind FT Group, and the loss adjusting industry more broadly.

Over the last few months, I have spoken with our staff and asked them to talk about one area of their professional life – whether this is in the form of a whimsical story, or advice for those looking to enter the industry.

Image:  http://voakl.net/2014/12/30/2014-in-review/

Image: http://voakl.net/2014/12/30/2014-in-review/

 

Each instalment of In Focus is designed to help you, our audience, get to know us a little better. I mean sure, we are all very familiar with my covert biscuit operations, but there is not much dialogue in this field about the actual intricacies of the job.

You can find more information about the blog series, as well as other news from our company, here or here. Be sure to let us know what you think!

Exciting announcement ft. Shakespeare reference and visual imagery.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Something, something… Shakespeare.

Here at FT Adjusting, we smell mighty fine. There’s always a lovely, fragrant wafting of tea and biscuits about the office. Mixed in with a strong odour of determination, the steadfast stink of good grammar and the pungent aroma of aggressive typing, of course.

Anyway, to the point: I can exclusively reveal that we are on the cusp of launching our rebranded corporate group: FT Group.

Yes, that’s right. The website you were once familiar with (NB: we assume that you wait with baited breath for each new post) has had a makeover. Not only that, but the FT Commercial site will be making its grand debut at any second now.

We are proud to announce the launch of FT Group online!

We are proud to announce the launch of FT Group online!

 

We even have an interactive splash page with logos and everything (!!)

You can follow the progress of this launch on our Twitter feeds: @ftadjusting and @_ftcommercial (yes, we have two!), and you can also expect clipped rants about the trials and tribulations of the process here in the blog section as I cry into my keyboard at the thought of all the formatting to be done. Good times.

Tele-phoney

Before we start, I want to make it clear that I did not set out with the intention of blogging so frequently about technology. It honestly just genuinely astounds me – mind you, I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around the mobile phone yet (I mean, there are no cords – how does it work without cords? Where does the sound go??).

Speaking of phones (‘of’, not ‘on’ – do try to keep up), we recently got some new ones. Phones, that is. Not just a pile of 1s.

This may seem like reasonably mundane news that would barely excite people working in the office, let alone those who are unlikely to ever operate said phones. However, the phones have greatly influenced general behaviour – for starters, we have had to adapt to a whole new operating system. And then there’s the call transfer issue.

See - visible cords.  Image: http://www.beepzoid.com/old-phones/

See – visible cords.
Image: http://www.beepzoid.com/old-phones/

You see, where previously we would have a few moments between calls to notify the adjuster who was on the line, now there is an additional step in this process: we have to put the caller on hold first, before transferring them along. Now, on its own, this isn’t going to have ground-breaking consequences. However the decision to upgrade our communications system means that we have more considerations than before. We have dead air to fill – should we record something to fill the hold time? What tone should this advertisement take? And what on earth are we going to say?

Don’t get me wrong – we aren’t going to have trouble coming up with an idea. It’s more a case of getting carried away and scripting an hour-long production that we’re concerned about. I can see it now – voice actors, an accompanying film clip, a Broadway debut – even an international tour and obscure merchandise would be on the cards.

And to be honest, I’m just not sure that I have time for that.

 

Never mind the quality, here’s the “how much?”

There is a recurring motif to most insurance claims. It echoes through all meetings, reverberates up and down the phone lines, and creeps into every email like a pompous academic’s flashy notations.  It has been transmitting through all of time and space, and underpins the entire industry.

The message: how much?

Indeed, this is what insurance is basically providing – the funds to repair, correct, replace and compensate for some form of damage suffered.

In many large and complex construction related claims (be they PI, contract works or similar) the issue is finding out exactly what was involved and how much it will take to fix it. Insurers, through their lawyers, often engage specialist quantity surveyors to provide expert opinions on the “how much?” question.

image - never mind the quality

You have to admire our social media person’s skills. Alas, the marvels of Paint. Original image: http://en.wikipedia.org

 

The vibe we hear around the Rialto is that there are a lot of displeased insurers out there who aren’t getting what they thought from quantity surveyors. Apparently, even if they do receive an opinion on the “how much?”, it takes a really long time and costs a substantial amount of money.

In other cases, the report is so qualified or has so many “coulds” and “maybes” that insurers feel that all they have received is a “definite maybe”.

We understand that often there is not enough information to allow a more definite answer and that quantity surveyors are as mindful as the rest of us about being sued for professional negligence, but we wonder if using a QS in the first instance is what insurers really want.

Maybe a humble adjuster can provide enough information to allow a preliminary assessment of an amount for a reserve to be determined. This calls to mind the old saying “You wouldn’t use Phar Lap to pull a milk cart”.

The “social media(s)”

As you have no doubt realised, FT Adjusting has undergone a bit of work. We’re quickly approaching our fourth birthday and frankly, it’s starting to show. Nip here, tuck there. New face(book) – well, not quite.

I thought this would be as good a time as any to reflect on the changes of the last few months.

Now, I don’t mean to boast, if you were to search @ft_adjusting on Twitter, you would find more witty musings from yours truly; condensed to a modest 140 characters. I’ll give you a moment to absorb that information (believe me, most of our office is still in silent bewilderment). And not only do we have a Twitter account, but we even have someone running it. That’s right, we have content!

A glimpse of our fancy new Twitter content.

A glimpse of our fancy new Twitter content.

In an effort to be more personable and expand our audience, we’ve also started doing things on LinkedIn. No one is entirely sure what these “things” are, but it’s happening, nonetheless. We are sharing updates, making connections and viewing profiles (in a non-creepy way, of course).

There have been discussions about Facebook and Instagram, but we live in fear that we won’t have enough cat videos or indie sunset shots to keep our broad audience entertained. Plus, we aren’t sure that we have the nerve to wait to hit the illustrious 11 Instagram likes for each post. It’s just too much pressure.

So feel free to explore our exciting multi-platform presence. No seriously, do it. Pls.

A teacup in a storm

In the recent storms along the East Coast, many people were seriously affected by the destruction wrought by high winds, lashing rain and falling trees. Houses lost their roofs, trees came down on cars and buildings, and numerous properties were without power – some for many days. The sheer weight of hail falling on western Sydney warehouses caused widespread destruction, and many contract sites were flooded.

Naturally, there were a very large number of insurance claims following these events. It was “all hands to the pumps”. Loss adjusters all along the seaboard have been kept extremely busy, investigating and assessing an extensive number of property damage claims.

Sydney storms. Image: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-25/readers-photos-of-sydney-hail-storm/6422006?site=sydney

Sydney storms. Image: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-25/readers-photos-of-sydney-hail-storm/6422006?site=sydney

As consolidation has occurred in the loss adjusting industry, I’ve heard a constant theme from those who remain: the capacity and the expertise to handle such situations endures.

Well, that’s the theory anyway.

FT Adjusting was approached by two loss adjusting companies – who, for the sake of the innocent (and protecting our PI insurance), shall remain nameless – asking if we could assist them to assess the numerous claims sent to them by insurers. They were drowning (to use an appropriate word) in the flood of claims being made. They couldn’t cope and needed assistance.

So much for the theory.

I have to say this piqued our interest at FT Adjusting. What was happening, and what was on offer?  It’s always good to help out a brother or sister loss adjuster, but not at the expense of our own work and our own clients. The catch, as ever in these matters, was in the detail or, more specifically, the rates.

If the words “peanuts” and “monkeys” sound familiar, you will begin to get the idea.

When you look at the demise of certain loss adjusting establishments (mentioning no names), you have to wonder who will be next, given the apparent rates which are being charged. A charge to bottom seems the most appropriate way to summarise it.

So, thanks very much guys, but we’ll stick with our existing clients and give them the service we know we can provide, not just dream and pontificate about.

The lesson perhaps for us all in the insurance industry is to beware of expansive assertions that can’t be met when the going gets tough. Cheap deal(er)s tend to get hoisted on their own petards.

Tim-tamptation

Temptation can take many forms. Whether it’s coveting thy neighbour’s wife, garden, family or haircut; nothing pierces the heart quite like that longing feeling when you want something you know you shouldn’t.

At FTA, that something is biscuits.

If you were to open one of the cupboards of our kitchenette, you would realise that I am not kidding. Neatly stacked inside is packet upon packet of Coles brand chocolate biscuits. Dare I say, they are better than Tim Tams.

I’ll give you a second to pick yourself up off the floor after that earth-shattering admission. And I really hope that you won’t think any less of us. But they honestly are.

Image: http://www.missemzyy.com/2013/10/01/tim-tam-cake/

Image: http://www.missemzyy.com/2013/10/01/tim-tam-cake/

If a David Attenborough-esque documentary was to be made, forever committing the FTA offices to the silver screen, there are certain patterns of behaviour that would become apparent: the hovering by the kettle; the sideways glance to see who’s watching; the stealthy slip of the hand into the biscuit tin; and finally, the backflip and fade out. This happens so fast, it’s barely visible to the naked eye. And yes, we do all backflip out of the kitchenette.

The burning, unspoken question remains: how often is it socially acceptable to go to the biscuit tin in one day? Once? Twice? How spread out should these visits be?

I’ve come up with a useful solution: grab handfuls of biscuits so you don’t look like you only turn up at work to create crumbs. Not only does it save you the walk of shame, it also means you rarely have to emerge from your office and interact with others. I mean sure, you end up with melted chocolate on everything in a 50 km radius, but at least you’ve kept your dignity…right?

e-fficiency

2015 may be the year of the sheep, but in the FTA office we are celebrating the dawn of the soft copy era. Our admin staff look well overdue for a holiday after spending the last three months moving our databases completely online. No scanner has ever received such a workout, nor has a cleaning company been faced with so many bags of shredded paper.

Oh, the paper.

Now, don’t get me wrong. While our staff may all still ride dinosaurs to work and go hunting for their next meal, our systems are not so primordial that we still use quills and notebooks.

Puh-lease. The only notebook we have has keys and a mouse, and on the off chance we do need to jot something down, we have yellow notepads for that. That’s right, yellow. Fancy that, coloured paper! What will they think of next?

The bulk of the work involved dealing with the archives. Separating files, removing staples, scanning paperwork and shredding until we could shred no more. And while we are still haunted by the musky scent of the shredder overheating, I thought this would be a good time for a reflection on the alleged “efficiency” of this move.

Just look at FTA – we’ve been around for 3 years and somehow we’ve produced enough scrap paper to survive an apocalypse (how scrap paper will help us survive remains to be seen, but really, it’s hard not to be impressed by how many boxes of it we’ve collected). Countless binders of legislation, file notes and case details had blossomed like mould in every room. Poor Ben had been missing for weeks behind boxes of miscellaneous paper.

Although it was a tedious process (read: very, very, very tedious), it’s marvellous to think how much space there is now. There’s so much room for activities! And think of all the trees that have been spared by our decision to go paperless. Improved air quality in your area? You are welcome, my friend.

So now we are officially paperless – in the sense that we no longer print anything and everything that is remotely relevant to a claim – what should we print? Is there an etiquette? Should I only print the finalised work, or is there an allowance for certain documents to cross the dimensional barrier between the onscreen and the hard copy? What is most “efficient”?

Heck, what does “efficient” even mean?

Some would define it as “touch typing”; others, the use of multimedia platforms to complete work on location. Now, you might type at snail’s pace, or so fast that you frequently set your keyboard alight. What’s most important is the quality of work you produce, and I believe a middle-ground is always the best option – what with OH&S and all. Plus having to clean up after fire extinguishers is even worse than archiving. Trust me, I’d know.

So, where does this leave us? I’m still not sure. I mean yes, it is easier to navigate documents on a screen, but I don’t think this replaces the joy that only hard-core margin-scribbling or excessive highlighting can bring.

Whether soft copy strategies will make our lives better or worse remains to be seen. In the meantime, I’m going to go and dictate my next email report into my software voice recorder, then upload it for my secretary, who will dictate it into a voice recognition program because the software doesn’t like my voice. Then she will print out a draft for me to alter by hand, which I will then return to her for the dictation of the corrections, before exporting the document as a PDF. Now if that isn’t efficient, I don’t know what is.

Board or bored?

It was a dark day in the FTA office when the new whiteboard was due to be mounted.

An all-star team of engineers were at the ready – aided by the watchful eye of our office manager. Many an action plan was drawn, while the residual blu-tack and sticky tape from the last attempt to hang the whiteboard taunted from the corner of the meeting room.

The large table pushed aside, one engineer after another took the almighty step up – up onto the office chair. Wire was threaded. Knots were tied. A swarm of engineers crowded the site.

Until – at last – the whiteboard was up. And no, not resting precariously on the bench near the front office. And no, not hidden up the back of the storage area. But actually attached to the ceiling by floss-thin wire. Look mum- no hands!

However, as the crowd stood and admired, there was a murmur tearing through the masses – one which would haunt the engineers forever.

The whiteboard was crooked.

Crooked!

Of all things – the shame was unbearable.

And as our office manager later noticed, the positioning of the whiteboard also obstructed the use of the filing cabinet. I mean sure, that’s very inconvenient, but we would all happily sacrifice the filing cabinet for a whiteboard any day. But a crooked one? The bench at the front of the office was looking pretty good again…

 

In true FTA fashion, rather than fiddle with the wiring, the higher road was taken.

If you walked into the office the following day, you would notice a barely-legible scribble on the whiteboard: Take off your right shoe. Then it will be straight.

No idea

 

So, why blog?

Even more pertinently, why blog about loss adjusting? Surely it is just about as interesting as spending your life researching the sex life of the bot fly.

On that note, you might be surprised to learn there has been no other sex life examined in such detail  – but I digress.

As you begin to examine it (I mean loss adjusting, not the bot fly) you find it encapsulates everything that is good and bad about humanity. Sometimes it’s like living in your own personal soap opera.  And sometimes you don’t even have to go outside your own office to experience it.

This is sure to be a recurring motif of the blogs on this site.

In all seriousness, we really did think long and hard about our online footprint and the type of content we wanted to publish. After all, who could pass up the opportunity contribute to the teeming mass of ideas and knowledge on this great information highway (I believe this is colloquially known as “the internet”)?

So we settled on blogging for this exact reason: to launch our extremely interesting opinions into the vast nethersphere of the web, and provide learned insight on a topic close to everyone’s hearts. Well, this and the fact that none of us had enough delightfully whimsical cat videos to justify an FTA YouTube venture. Or pictures of clothing to trigger mass debates about colour in the office. I should also probably state here that we at FT Adjusting knew that the dress was blue and black, and this is just one example of the competency of service we provide.

Clearly the next hurdle in this thrilling tale is how we settled on the type of content we would write about. One suggestion was a very topical and burning issue: the propensity of Chinese tile bedding to react at the molecular level with clay particles from the Indus Valley (which is in India, for those who might be geographically challenged) in re-constituted, engineered stone tiles, thus producing a phenomenon called – wait for it – “cracked tile syndrome”.

Surprisingly, this idea was not met with resounding (or indeed, any) enthusiasm.

After little debate, we reached a consensus that this blog pitch would be better once refined, serialised and syndicated to that august publication The Tiler’s Weekly. I don’t know about you, but we’re positively itching to snatch up a copy. Riveting stuff. Go team.

I suggested a post about the propensity of certain experts to list their entire life history on their CV, thereby making said CV longer than the actual reports.  I was then told that I should try reading my own business card. That’s what you call free and open dialogue, right?

Ultimately it was decided that like anything else, loss adjusting is full of the good, the bad, but mostly the mundane (none of us would own up to being ugly, and I’m certainly not going there). So we decided people can blog about whatever they want, whenever they want. But on the proviso we ensure our PI cover for defamation is operative, of course.

You might think I’m joking, but I was once involved in legal action over telling a joke.  If you ever hear me say “that reminds me of the one about…” trust me, walk away. Quickly.

 

So to conclude what was only supposed to be a short introduction:

Hello, we are FT Adjusting. And this blog is set to become bigger than Bieber, Grumpy Cat and the selfie stick combined.

 

Also, did you know the bot fly usually targets elk in Sweden and incubates its eggs by shooting them into the eyes of the deer? Who said loss adjusting isn’t interesting…