August 25, 2020

Why we empower adjusters rather than encumber them

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Over my three decades working in insurance claims, I’ve seen the big carriers increasingly try to turn their adjusters into process-robots. Corporations are so insistent on making sure every claim is handled the same way that they burden adjusters with pounds of procedure manuals then bind them with red tape.

Two years ago I joined forces with a small band of like-minded industry veterans to form Vault, an insurance company for affluent families. Our aim was to create the kind of company that we had always wanted to work for—one that provides agents and clients with the service they want and deserve.

Building the claims department from the ground up meant hiring great adjusters, tearing off the shackles imposed by previous employers and empowering them to use their experience and creativity to serve the unique needs of each client.

We’ve built a team devoted to giving people their lives back after a devastating loss, not checking off boxes in a procedure manual. One claim file review at a giant insurer I worked for is seared in my memory as an example of the institutionalized insanity that is giving our entire industry a bad reputation. Amid bills for thousands of dollars in body work after an auto accident, a company audit challenged a small charge from a florist and “failed” the file. I explained that the adjuster had discovered that this wasn’t just a simple car crash. It involved a rare special edition luxury car just days after it was given by client of our company to his wife. She was shaken by the incident, so the adjuster arranged to have a bouquet sitting in the front passenger seat when the repaired car was delivered back to her.

At Vault, our adjusters know they have the autonomy to determine what each client needs and the freedom to respond to it with the solution that is right. Some may seek advice and guidance from a pro who has seen this before. Others simply need a hug and sympathetic ear. We’re ready and able to provide all of it.

Exhibit A: Not too long ago, a broken pipe damaged a kitchen that a client had just lovingly renovated. We would have paid to tear out and replace the entire kitchen, but the family didn’t want to go through all that again. So our adjuster suggested a way to replumb the water supply lines while keeping the kitchen intact.

Exhibit B: Another family, displaced by a fire, was less concerned with the house than with the continuity of their children’s schooling in an exclusive neighborhood where rental units were scarce. So the adjuster worked our contacts in the real estate industry to find an available house—in the right school district—that wasn’t even on the market.

Was that in our “manual?” No. Was it what the client needed at that moment? Absolutely. That’s why our adjuster didn’t need to ask permission to spend time finding the solution.

Sometimes a client simply needs the money to begin the process of putting their lives back together. That’s why our adjusters have the authority to advance money against the eventual claim without all the paperwork and documentation larger companies require.

Yes, we have to watch out for fraud and comply with the terms of our policy contracts. But our reviews are about looking for issues we can share with the team so they can keep making the right decisions. We’re not trying to catch people making mistakes.

To be sure, we’re not trying to paint ourselves as altruists. Our service-centric approach is good business. We’ve learned that there’s a direct correlation between how satisfied clients are with their claims experience and how likely they are to embrace a long term relationship with Vault. What drives satisfaction is when adjusters are fast, decisive and responsive to each client’s individual needs. Nobody likes an insurance company more because their claim was handled precisely the same way as thousands of other claims.

Put another way, for us to respect the unique needs of each client’s claims, we’re going to trust empowered professionals over rules-following robots every time.


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Peter Piotrowski is Vault’s Chief Claims Officer. With over 30 years’ experience working for some of the industry’s top players, he possesses an intimate knowledge of the high net worth insurance space with an emphasis on loss prevention and mitigation strategies essential to supporting clients when they need it the most. As ambitious in his professional life as he is in his personal life, and a Renaissance man at heart, Peter is a competitive cyclist and participates in triathlons.

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