Thursday Thought Leader: Benedict Burke

What do you think of when you hear the word “insurance“? Do you think car accidents or home loss? Unfortunately, insurance yields a negative connotation, but the people who work in the industry have the best of intentions. They are caring, passionate, and thoughtful individuals who are there when you need a hand.

Cue in: Benedict Burke. As International Chief Client Officer of Crawford and Company, he was literally born into insurance. He didn’t stick around because his family wanted him to. He dedicated his life to insurance because he wanted to help people and this is where he knew he could make the most impact. To say that he’s a champion for and of the industry would be an understatement – read our exclusive interview to hear more about why he does what he does.

Benedict Burke of Crawford and Company is LegalNet Inc's Thursday Thought Leader

You are a staple in the insurance world. How did you initially fall into your career and what attracted you to claims?

The Burke family has long been associated with the insurance sector, so it was perhaps no surprise that I would enter the industry. However, unlike my father and brother, I chose to join the loss adjusting community rather than entering the broking fraternity. I joined Robins, Davies & Little (GAB Robins) as a trainee loss adjuster in 1981. This placed me right on the insurance frontline at the point of claim, which is exactly where I wanted to be. It is where the insurance industry delivers on its promise and demonstrates its true value to the customer by providing help when they need it most. It is where I believe quality of service matters most in the insurance chain and that belief still drives me today.

What have been the most defining moments or events in your career?

I have been very fortunate in my career to date, having worked alongside real luminaries in the claims industry. With their help and support, and my own drive to succeed, I have been able to reach a position where you can help make a difference not only within your own organisation and customer base, but also at the wider industry level.
I am extremely proud of the fact that during my career at Crawford I have had the opportunity to manage such a diverse range of businesses both in the UK and across the global claims arena.

On the industry front, I was honoured to be elected President of the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters (CILA) in 2015 and to have the opportunity to represent my profession on the national and international stage. During that time, I presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance and Financial Services to promote new policies on dealing with flood-afflicted customers in the aftermath of the 2015 UK floods.

I also served as an advisory board member of the UK Chartered Insurance Institute Claims Faculty and was a member of the task force which helped introduce the pivotal Aldermanbury Declaration on professionalism.

You have a record of campaigning for important causes, such as diversity and inclusion, and even dementia. Can you share more about these causes and what drives you to fight for things beyond your standard role?

I have long wanted our industry to be reflective of the demographics of the communities we serve. For Crawford, and for the loss adjusting community at large, the issue of diversity and inclusion is not simply a point of political correctness or moral integrity, it is a business-critical issue. Once again, I have been able to capitalise on my position within the industry to help drive this issue forward working with like-minded and equally driven colleagues and industry peers.

During my time as CILA President, we worked together to establish the loss adjusting profession’s first ever diversity and inclusion charter. Prior to this, I was also able to support Candy Holland, the first female President of CILA in her efforts to launch the Women in CILA initiative. These initiatives were key milestones, but there must be many more along the way. We must strive to create a truly inclusive professional environment, where what we say on our websites, in our policies and in our HR guidance is actually reflected in the diversity of the workplace itself.

The fight against dementia is in some ways a more personal fight, given that my family has direct experience of the devastating impact that this disease has. But it is also important to step back and acknowledge the broader repercussions of dementia. It is set to be the biggest killer in the UK in the 21st Century. We have no cure and over the last ten years there have been limited advances in treatment. So extensive is the spread of this disease that it is costing UK business and having a detrimental impact on the nation’s economy. There is a dual rationale for funding more in-depth research into dementia that extends the value of that research from the families affected right up to UK plc.

I am proud to be a founding member of the Insurance United Against Dementia which we have launched with the support of the Alzheimer’s Society. This is an industry-wide initiative and we have set ourselves a significant target to raise £10m to fund further research into dementia, but we are all fully committed to achieving it.

Benedict Burke of Crawford and Company is LegalNet Inc's Thursday Thought Leader

What is your advice for someone who is looking for something to be passionate about?

In my view, passion stems from being inspired by those around you. No matter what profession you enter, look for those inspirational people and take every opportunity to connect with them. Passion is infectious. My passion for our industry was ignited in those early days by the inspirational figures around me – my colleagues, insurers, brokers, risk managers and many others that I connected with. Working with talented colleagues to brainstorm ideas, find solutions, create new products, and deliver outstanding customer service has inspired me over the years, and helps ensure that my passion never dwindles.

What is your number one tip for a new entrant into the insurance industry?

My number one tip would be to take every opportunity to learn from those around you and to gain a broad-spectrum understanding of the multiple different parts that make up the insurance market. The industry brings together a huge range of skill-sets and capabilities, and it is important at that early stage in your career to get a sense of that diversity as it will help you decide on the specific path that you will want to set your career on.

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