Marine Link
Tuesday, July 16, 2024

New Chair of Association of Average Adjusters Says Communication is Key

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

May 21, 2024

© biancia / Adobe Stock

© biancia / Adobe Stock

Ann Waite has been elected to chair the Association of Average Adjusters for the year 2024-25. She is the first woman to hold the office in the history of the association, which was founded in 1869.

At the annual general meeting of Fellows on May 8, 2024, Waite was also elected an Honorary Fellow of the Association, which she has served as secretary for 11 years.

She succeeds Burkhard Fischer, a director of Albatross Adjusters, Limassol.

Waite runs a London-based independent claims management company, AW Marine, and among other casework handled claims involving the Costa Concordia, an Italian luxury cruise ship which struck rocks in January 2012 resulting in the largest financial loss to the marine market to date.

“My career within the shipping insurance arena, the majority of which has been spent within claims, has meant that I have immersed myself in marine casualties, many of which involved average adjusters,” said Waite. “Burkhard Fischer mentioned [at this time last year], how the association is becoming more international and more diverse. Being elected as the first woman, not to mention not being an average adjuster nor a judge [Sir Nigel Teare, a former High Court judge, was chairman for the year 2022-2023], certainly supports that and is indeed a huge honor.”

Waite continued: “After spending many years as a broker in the international marine world, one important principle has always been paramount in my thinking: that communication between those involved in a maritime casualty is essential to the smooth resolution of claims for our mutual clients, the shipowners.”

She recalled that when she and fellow claims practitioner Charlotte Warr founded the IMCC (International Marine Claims Conference) in 2004 the theme of its first conference was Communication is Key. “To ensure that the best possible service is provided to the buyers of insurance, it is essential that clear communication exists between all parties involved facilitating professional handling of marine losses.” Average adjusters are pivotal in that process. They were problem-solvers and often adopted the role of mediator, she said.

“There is no excuse today for not communicating well with our maritime ‘family’. Today we can be in touch 24/7 but the tendency is to use the phone for email, WhatsApp, messaging, or social media rather than for actually speaking to each other. Sadly, it seems that the art of face-to-face verbal communication is diminishing far too rapidly. I am not sure why, but it is a trend that, in my opinion, does not aid the resolution of complex claims matters.

“The ability to read the emotions and non-verbal communication of another person increases understanding and elevates relationships and is how trust is built. If you don’t know someone and have not built trust, how can you discuss delicate matters and possible solutions outside the entrenchment of the written word?”

The adjuster was most probably the party closest to all the relevant information. “Average adjusters are detail people, analyzing the facts and applying the principles of adjusting in an equitable manner. Their skill set, when combined with their problem-solving capabilities, puts them in prime position at the center of the claim.”

Combining the independent stance of the average adjuster, said Waite, with good communication between all parties, resolution of claims should be possible without resort to the courts. “I would therefore urge all parties involved in maritime casualties, if not already doing so, to build on existing and new relationships facilitating a much easier conversation in difficult times.”

Before forming AW Marine, Waite was global head of marine claims with Aon (previously Benfield Corporate Risk). Earlier, she was chief operating officer and claims director of Dex Serv, a hull and machinery insurer of which she was a founder member, managed by the Thomas Miller group.