Bellwood Prestbury’s veteran international insurance technical administrator, Rob Thompson, explains how hard-won experience can save time, money and, sometimes, even lives.
"People think admin is dull, but sometimes it’s literally a matter of life and death..."
One of our clients had a guy who suffered a bad car accident in the DR Congo. The best hospital was over the border so his mate piled him into the back of a pick-up and drove him there, only to find he didn’t have the right paperwork to go across. He was bleeding out in the back of a truck while people argued about bits of paper.
His HR Director phoned me. We used our connections to get a temporary visa faxed out and I’m happy to say he made a full recovery.
“Managing 2,500 people in different territories requires real attention to detail”
Of course it’s not all life and death. Lots of the important stuff is just keeping up to date with the complications of people moving in and out of cover, with or without dependants.
In one scheme, we have over 2,500 employees and their dependants split over Oman, Libya, Singapore, Europe, Dubai and Hong Kong. At any one time we have major claims, minor claims, elective treatments, people leaving, people joining and dependants in and out of territory.
If you want to ensure that employees (or their dependants) get seamless access to quality treatment, while the company gets maximum value for money, administration is king.
We keep meticulous records and open channels of communication with the US parent and the satellite offices to make sure expectations are in-line, from the person claiming, all the way through to the insurer underwriting the scheme.
“Keeping employees properly informed avoids complications”
Keeping employees informed of the detail of their cover is essential.
When we take on new corporate clients we create a tailored web landing page for employees. This explains the precise benefits they’re entitled to and lists all the important contact numbers they may need.
All the same, we expect phone calls from employees – it’s all part of the service.
“My top tip? Never assume an insurer’s invoice is correct”
International insurance can be incredibly complex and local insurance regulators play a huge role in complicating the simple. We have a client who has three different levels of Heath Insurance across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Each of those countries has different local regulations and requirements.
The annual premium is based on the number of days people are enrolled on the policy. People move in and out of territories, across territories and leave or join the scheme.
We check every invoice and invariably there are mistakes. This can add up to significant sums over the course of a year.
“Relationships are still important”
In an international business, it would be easier to rely on email for everything, but we know that personal relationships are still really important.
We had one scheme that we were switching to another provider to make a significant saving for our client. All the employee notices had gone out and we had managed all the people who were people mid-treatment.
The day before going live, the Dubai Heath Authority doubled the required maternity cover, which meant that the premium for our client would take a significant hike.
We were able to persuade the insurer to assimilate that cost and the scheme went ahead as planned – and as quoted.
“My worst time in insurance? Dealing with the loss of life in Afghanistan”
Back in 2010, we provided Personal Accident cover for a logistics company shipping fuel from the Pakistan border to Kabul.
Over the course of a year, the number of lost drivers was devastating. We have to organise compensation for numerous Afghani families. A complicated and heart- breaking experience I hope I never have to deal with again.
“With thousands of lives covered by kidnap insurance, we’ve rarely had a claim”
On the flip side, we also play a significant role in avoiding risks. Over the years we’ve covered thousands of people with Kidnap and Ransom insurance.
We give them a pre-departure briefing that brings them up to speed with local customs, places to steer clear of and potential flashpoints. It also explains how to reduce the risk of being a target, by varying routines, leading a low profile and avoiding risky behaviour.
While we have helped with a few emergency evacuations, I’m glad to say that we have have only ever had one that ended up in a kidnap situation.
“Clean spreadsheets win out over dog-eared receipts every time”
When it comes to international insurance, the quality of your admin can make a real difference.
If you want smooth claims, an insurer is much more likely to approve clean spreadsheets than something based on dog-eared receipts.
If you want to avoid unexpected bills, keeping accurate track of where your people or equipment are is more than half the battle.
If you want to steer clear of unreasonable premium hikes, having your current claims history at your fingertips is vital.
If you tell people that you’re in insurance you can see their eyes glaze over. Tell them you administer the scheme and they’re heading for the door. But actually our days are seldom dull.
Rob Thompson. Director of Bellwood Prestbury, responsible for supporting clients in over 70 countries worldwide.
A neat spreadsheet beats a pile of receipts every time...