Industry Leader Interview with Ben Leech, Keoghs Fraud Partner
9th March 2021Tweet
- What are the challenges are facing your business right now, and how are you working to overcome them?
Inevitably the two major issues on everybody’s lips are Covid-19 and the impending whiplash reforms, both of which will impact the very nature of road traffic accident claims and have major implications in the fraud space.
Whilst the move to remote working has been seamless for Keoghs as a business, the pandemic has had a notable effect on litigation. Court hearings are now routinely dealt with remotely which allows them to be listed at short notice. This brings its own challenges and that’s before we even consider the question of assessing the demeanour of a witness, critical to the issue of credibility.
Another significant development as a result of Covid-19 has been remote medical examinations and the threat this poses to compensators, particularly when dealing with suspected fraudulent claims. There can be no guarantee that the person being ‘examined’ is the claimant at all, or that an examination has even taken place.
Meanwhile the whiplash reforms have finally been delivered and will go live from 31 May 2021. Dealing with simple road traffic accidents in different portals and with different protocols is going to have a significant impact on insurers dealing with these claims. Whenever there are multiple routes for a claim to be dealt with, opportunities arise for would-be fraudsters. We are working closely with our clients to understand the threats posed and provide insight as to how they can be identified, tracked and solved. A critical element of this will be the use of automated technologies which can take unstructured data and structure it, helping inform the approach to certain abusive behaviours.
- What has been your biggest business learning from the coronavirus pandemic?
It is a truism but your people are your biggest asset. The manner in which our IT department pulled together to facilitate over 1,000 people being able to work from home, through to our operations team organising how the business would function remotely, has been incredible. But most importantly I’ve been amazed by the way our case handlers have risen to the many new challenges they have faced. Each and every one has gone the extra mile to deliver the very best service to our clients whilst having to deal with lockdown and home schooling. The way they have responded allows us to be incredibly confident that whatever issues we face, we can overcome them and excel.
- As we go to a “new normal” what are you looking forward to returning to and practices will you keep?
Routine and default use of video conferencing will certainly remain. It is the very best way of developing relationships and helps reduce travelling time. The ability to connect quickly with professionals across numerous industries remotely really allows for problems to be solved quickly and to get to the nub of an issue.
Conversely, being able to meet people in person is what I most look forward to; I think the majority of people thrive on social contact.
- If you could go back to the beginning of 2020, what piece of advice would you give to yourself?
Buy a good chair for the study! Seriously though, I think it would be to trust technology and that paper is no longer necessary. Yes it can be frustrating but it is incredibly empowering. The fact that I no longer need to print is amazing. It’s not just great for the environment but also means that things can be done quicker and more efficiently. Everyone has embraced technology – I’ve had Teams conferences with people from all walks of life; judges, QCs, engineers and witnesses who fought in the second world war- all so much for the better. Sharing real time images and accident locations really makes the difference.
- What would be your prediction for the industry in 2021?
I anticipate that 2021 will see an increase in litigation as the claimant fraternity seek to recover costs from matters and they are able to leverage the benefits of home working. The whiplash reforms will be a challenge for insurers and is likely to result in further litigation. The law of unintended consequences will allow for fraudsters to exploit any loopholes in the new rules which presents a very real threat to insurers. Despite the very best of endeavours, rules always require further clarification and that means strategic litigation will fall from both sides of the claims industry, with fraudsters looking to exploit any lacuna in the rules. No doubt the new tariff will be exploited as a means to secure settlements of entirely fictitious claims or fraudulent exaggeration of genuine injuries to game the system and seek damages over £5,000 and obtain legal costs. Whichever way you look at it, I think 2021 will be an incredibly busy year, but one which we are more than ready for.