Ask an Adjuster: Terry Ward, Crawford Global Technical Services® Adjuster

terry wardTerry Ward is chairman, Crawford South Africa (S.A.); head of Crawford Global Mining; head of Crawford GTS® division in S.A.; and GTS senior adjuster. In this installment of Ask an Adjuster, he shares the habits of highly successful adjusters and discusses his hobbies of bird watching and golfing.

How did you get to this current position?  What prepared you for this role?

I was 19 years old when I started adjusting, and have now been in this business for about 46 years. Starting as an adjuster trainee with a small firm, I started my own adjusting business in South Africa; then sold it to GAB Robins (international loss adjusters) where I worked as chief executive officer and a practicing adjuster for a number of years, until joining Crawford South Africa eight years ago.

Why did you become an insurance adjuster?

I was born in Zimbabwe and was introduced to someone there in the compulsory conscription army who was an adjuster who offered me a job.  This wasn’t initially my chosen field or one I actively pursued or prepared for; you might say I got into the adjusting business accidently, not by design.

What is a typical day like for you?

There are no typical days in this field, that’s what I love about it. I enjoy the variety; you never know what you’ll be involved in from one day to the next. Being a non-executive chairman, I enjoy the hands-on aspect of my job. Most of my days start around 6:30 a.m., when I begin to work through the administrative and dictation aspects of the job. I also meet a lot with in-house teams on large losses, such as mechanical and civil engineers, business interruption specialists, general adjusters and others, to maintain momentum and continuity on those matters. During the day, a fair amount of my time is spent reviewing other adjusters’ reports and mentoring adjusters or out on appointments and new instructions. I balance my time between inside and out of the office, but a great deal of time is spent traveling on large, complex losses.

What is the most interesting claim you’ve ever handled?

Probably one that I was involved in for more than four years, with Laurie Bevan, chairman Crawford Australia; and re-insurers and brokers in London, Australia and Germany. On this matter, we were dealing with a large, complex claim worth more than U.S. $1b, resulting from the 2008 floods in Queensland, Australia affecting a number of coal mines owned by one of the world’s largest mining and industrial groups.  What made this project interesting was the complexity and value of the claim, and the ongoing long-term interaction between the brokers, reinsurers, insurers, captive insurers and the adjusters. There was a complex web of companies and individuals involved with multiple attempts at negotiating settlements, eventually resolved in arbitration in Singapore two years ago for around U.S. $700m.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you be doing?  What is your dream job?

I don’t know; I enjoy what I’m presently doing. I guess if I had to pick, I’d become a multi-billionaire through the lottery. I would spend time golfing. I consider myself a keen golfer; it’s my pressure relief valve. I also enjoy wild game viewing and bird watching.

What makes you successful at what you do? 

While most adjusters today are specialists in a given area, I consider myself a jack of all trades – master of none, because I’m self-taught. I don’t have a specific degree in any specialist field; I have a diploma in Business Management, am a Fellow of the Institute of Loss Adjusters of South Africa and have served two terms as president of this institute. But, my personal philosophy for success in this job is what I do myself and it has been well accepted in South Africa now. I surround myself with experts who know what is required in any given situation. I bring together the natural talents from those who, through their experience, have become experts in their areas of expertise. I consider myself a project manager, with negotiating skills but one who is also involved in a hands-on capacity. I think teamwork is king! It is a great strength, saves time and brings great quality and benefits to the handling of claims. It’s not rocket science, but it works. Working as a team exposes them to growth potential, enhances revenue for the company and makes for a more efficient adjustment process which ultimately benefits the insured and insurer.

What’s the best advice you could give to someone to be successful in this field?

  • Understand that this job requires total dedication
  • One must be prepared to work long hours (you cannot be a clock-watcher and succeed at this job); you must be available 24/7
  • Relationship building is extremely important
  • Getting your qualifications through education and training is essential
  • Committing to the team work philosophy

Are there any additional habits of highly effective adjusters?

Be prepared to acknowledge your mistakes and learn from those mistakes, learn as much as you can from your mentors, and apply what you see and learn.

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