Insurance claims handlers ensure that insurance claims are handled efficiently and that payment for valid claims is made to their policyholders. They decide on the extent and validity of a claim, checking for any potential fraudulent activity.

Insurance claims handlers coordinate the services that may be required by policyholders following an accident or incident. This can include arranging and coordinating for approved tradespeople to make homes safe again or organising replacement goods if a policyholder has been burgled.

They may be involved in large-scale accidents and incidents, for example a bridge collapse.

As well as communicating with policyholders, insurance claims handlers liaise with external experts such as loss adjusters and lawyers. They may become involved in loss adjusting activities, (investigating the loss), or in legal discussions about the recovery of money from the party responsible for the loss. Work on complex cases requires experience and expert knowledge.

Responsibilities

Insurance claims handlers are involved in managing a claim from beginning through to settlement. Depending on their level of experience and knowledge, they may be involved in investigating potentially fraudulent claims and undertaking a range of loss adjusting activities.

Depending on your experience and level of responsibility, typical activities may include:

  • providing advice on making a claim and the processes involved;
  • processing new insurance claims notifications;
  • collecting accurate information and documents to proceed with a claim;
  • analysing a claim made by a policymaker;
  • guiding policyholders on how to proceed with the claim;
  • contacting trades people from a network of approved professionals and arranging for them to make repairs on the policyholder's property;
  • monitoring the progress of a claim;
  • investigating potentially fraudulent claims;
  • identifying reasons why full payment may not be made;
  • ensuring fair settlement of a valid claim;
  • building relationships with loss adjusters, forensic accountants and solicitors, as well as other legal/claims professionals;
  • ensuring the customer is treated fairly and that the customer receives excellent service in accordance with industry and company guidelines;
  • handling any complaints associated with a claim;
  • involvement in loss adjusting activities and in legal discussions relating to settlement;
  • seeking legal recovery of monies paid out;
  • managing a team of claims handlers (at managerial level);
  • taking responsibility for productivity and profit;
  • adhering to legal requirements, industry regulations and customer quality standards set by the company.

Salary

  • Starting salaries at entry level, e.g. trainee claims handler, are typically around £14,000 to £18,000.
  • Starting salaries for those on graduate trainee schemes typically range from £18,000 to £25,000.
  • Salaries for those with the right experience, skills and qualifications, e.g. Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) or Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters (CILA) qualifications, can be in excess of £50,000.

Salaries vary depending on employer and location.

Additional benefits can include a company car, medical insurance, life insurance and discounted insurance premiums, as well as profit share, non-contributory pension and bonuses.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

The working week is usually 35 to 40 hours. Office hours may be Monday to Friday, although those working in contact centres may do shift work, including evenings and weekends.

What to expect

  • Work can be based in an insurance office or contact centre.
  • Although office-based, you may need to travel to visit clients, brokers and solicitors.
  • Jobs are available in most areas of the country. Offices are usually based in large towns and cities.
  • The job involves working to tight deadlines, working under pressure and using technology.
  • The dress code is professional.
  • Absence from home overnight and overseas travel is uncommon.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, the following degree subjects may increase your chances:

  • business/management;
  • economics and accountancy;
  • law;
  • mathematics.

This area of work is open to diplomates. The following HND subjects may improve your chances:

  • accounting/finance;
  • business with languages;
  • business/management;
  • legal studies;
  • mathematics;
  • politics/government/public administration.

Entry into claims work is possible through a claims-graduate trainee scheme with the larger insurance companies or loss adjusting firms, or a general graduate-management training scheme that includes claims work.

It is also possible to go directly into claims work after initial training. This route is open to those without a degree. An alternative route into the job is through more junior/clerical positions, moving up through the company by training and promotion.

Apprenticeships are another useful way of gaining entry and progressing. The Apprenticeship in Providing Financial Services is available at Level 2 (intermediate) and Level 3 (advanced) and there is also a Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Insurance.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not required.

There is strong competition for positions both from graduates and non-graduates with general insurance claims experience. Apply early in your final year.

Skills

You will need:

  • customer service skills;
  • negotiation and decision-making skills;
  • communication skills and a confident disposition when dealing with people, often in difficult circumstances;
  • organisational and time management skills;
  • commercial acumen;
  • the ability to think strategically;
  • initiative and the ability to adapt quickly to different situations;
  • good numeracy and literacy;
  • interpersonal skills;
  • discernment and the ability to assess a situation objectively;
  • attention to detail and sound report-writing skills.

Knowledge of foreign languages may be useful.

Personal qualities are as highly valued as qualifications and experience in claims work.

Employers

Insurance claims handlers work within insurance companies, insurance brokers or for claims management or loss adjusting firms.

Opportunities are available throughout the country.

Key areas within insurance that require assessment include domestic property, for example in incidents of fire, burglary and motor vehicle accidents.

The UK's insurance market is the largest in Europe and third largest in the world, employing around 314,000 people (Association of British Insurers).

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies handle vacancies. See advertisements in the national press and specialist journals.

Large insurance companies advertise vacancies on their websites.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Graduates on a trainee scheme with a large employer usually undergo two years of intense on-the-job training. Training is usually in-house and is supported by formal training courses. Support is provided by your line manager and a mentor.

This initial training may be followed by a further two or three years' training in negotiating claims and underwriting risk.

Training areas may include:

  • investigating the scene of an incident, claims management, liability investigation;
  • taking statements, the claims handling process, insurance practice;
  • personal insurance practice, commercial insurance practice, life and disability claims;
  • negotiation with specialists, such as solicitors.

It is important to keep up to date with legislation and developments in the industry, and membership of a relevant professional body is important for continuing professional development (CPD). See the:

Both these organisations offer qualifications ranging from entry through to advanced level.

For those without previous experience, the CILA provides an entry-level qualification, Cert CILA, for anyone in the claims industry. It provides a broad introduction to insurance and claims and can be used as a stepping stone to their top-level Chartered or Certified qualification. On successful completion of the Certificate, it is possible to take the Diploma (Dip CILA).

The ACILA Associate qualification, which confers chartered status, is available to those working at a loss adjusting firm or practice. The equivalent MCILA qualification (available to those whose main role is the investigation of loss, but who don't work for a loss adjusting firm or practice) confers certified status.

To become an associate member of CILA you need to pass a series of examinations and obtain five years', (three years in certain cases), experience working as an independent loss adjuster.

The CII Advanced Diploma in Insurance provides a comprehensive overview of insurance, including areas such as insurance and business practice, insurance law, building a long-term business, operational management and specific types of insurance such as property and aviation.

Members who hold the CII Advanced Diploma in Insurance are eligible to apply for chartered status (subject to having five years' experience, not necessarily post-qualification) with the CII.

Individual insurance companies may also provide their own ongoing-training courses in areas such as personal safety and communication skills.

Career prospects

Career progression up the management structure is possible, either in the claims, or other departments, of insurance companies.

Within a large company structure, claims handlers can progress to:

  • team leader;
  • claims manager; and then
  • claims director.

With experience and progression comes an increase in responsibility for more complex cases.

Involvement in project work, such as quality control or training, is also possible, depending on the nature of the company.

Other possibilities include a move into loss adjusting, risk management or health and safety consultancy.

In order to progress, it is important to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) through training courses provided by employers and relevant professional bodies.

There are opportunities to work with more specialist teams, such as fraud investigators, disease and environmental claims, or with large case technicians. Gaining more specialised qualifications can help you move into a different insurance area, such as employer or public liability.

In order to gain further responsibility and experience, it may be necessary to move to a larger company or an organisation with a focus on a specialised area of insurance.