Business Monday

Cunningham Lindsey probes major insurance claims in Americas

Peter Ravey, the hub director for Latin America and the Caribbean of Cunningham Lindsey, a big multinational global loss adjustment and claim management firm.
Peter Ravey, the hub director for Latin America and the Caribbean of Cunningham Lindsey, a big multinational global loss adjustment and claim management firm. FOR the HERALD

Tampa-based Cunningham Lindsey, a global firm that evaluates, manages and adjusts multimillion-dollar insurance claims, opened its Latin America and Caribbean headquarters in Miami in March.

“We chose Miami because it has become a hub for insurance and reinsurance business in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Peter Ravey, a mechanical engineer and major and complex loss adjuster who took over as director of the Miami office when it opened.

The firm sees good growth prospects in Central American and South American markets, where premiums have significantly increased over the last decade and are expected to rise even further. Latin America represents “an important share” of the company’s international revenues, Ravey said.

“I have to be able to travel at a moment’s notice to investigate a claim at any point in the region, and Miami has flights and connections that can get me anywhere in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Ravey said.

Cunningham Lindsey is a major player in the world market of insurance claims adjustment, an often complex and highly technical process that involves evaluating large insurance claims to decide if an insurance company or group of companies must pay a claim, and if so, how much.

The privately held firm was established in 1999 from a group of Canadian and U.K. companies with extensive experience handling and adjusting insurance claims, some going back more than 100 years.

“There is a long history of loss adjustment related to insurance fraud, especially in England,” Ravey said. “Owners of vessels would insure their cargoes for large sums, and then sink their own ships.” The owners would then claim huge (often fraudulent) losses and demand payment from insurance companies. Companies that researched and adjusted these claims consequently became an important part of the insurance world.

Today, Cunningham Lindsey has a diversified global client base, including international insurance companies, insurance brokers (for example, those affiliated with Lloyd’s of London), large reinsurance companies and others. Reinsurance is a way of spreading out risk. A reinsurer agrees to pay part of a potential claim, and in return receives part of the premium.

Unlike insurance firms that handle auto insurance claims, Cunningham Lindsey works for insurance companies and reinsurers to evaluate claims that can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, like $400 million in hurricane damage to petrochemical plants or $10 million in malicious damage to a hydroelectric facility.

Its work covers catastrophe response (hurricanes, tornadoes), damage to industrial plants, oil refineries, mining operations, art works, etc., and liability/casualty coverage in areas like product liability and retail and distribution companies.

Cunningham Lindsey has international competition, including Lloyd Warwick, McLarens and Crawford.

Ravey is one of the company’s most experienced loss adjusters for what the firm calls “major and complex” claims. While he oversees the firm’s operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, he also plays an active role in visiting sites related to regional claims and evaluating the situation. The Miami office now has four professional staff, plus office personnel, and is planning to expand.

“I’ve handled cases ranging from trains to gold mines to power plants … and even a spaghetti factory,” Ravey said. “I’ve worked at a mine at [more than 16,000 feet] in Chile and then gone to the Amazon jungle in Brazil,” he said. “The claims I’ve handled ranged from about $10,000 to $10 million. Floods, hurricanes, explosions and terrorist acts — they’ re all part of the job.”

Ravey started working for Cunningham Lindsey in 1993. The Manchester, England, native has spent many years working in Latin America. A chartered mechanical engineer, Ravey early in his career was employed by the British aircraft industry and later worked with Britain’s GEC (General Electric Co.) in Abu Dhabi installing gas-powered generators.

The strength of Cunningham Lindsey, Ravey said, is that it can draw on a wide range of experts to analyze each situation. The company’s investigators, working with local police and other experts whenever possible, use their skills in engineering, forensic science and a variety of other technical areas to determine what exactly happened at the site of a claim, and where the responsibility lies.

“When we investigated a claim in a jungle region, for example, a company claimed that its facilities were damaged by bad weather,” Ravey said. “This part of the world always suffers from bad weather, so we used historical satellite data to determine if the weather was as bad as was claimed.” The firm also looked at whether the claimant secured its property as required by the terms of the insurance policy.

When the company is reviewing a claim for a factory that has been forced to close, Ravey said, it uses experts who can assess the actual costs for replacing the plant and equipment, the repair schedule and the loss the insured will incur from downtime.

The work performed by Cunningham Lindsey is given to the insurance company or group of insurers, which makes the final determination on whether to pay a claim, and for how much.

Even though the firm works for insurance companies, its goal is to provide an honest evaluation of each claim, Ravey said.

“When we go into a case, we have to be extremely open-minded about what we are going to observe,” Ravey said.

“We try to help in rebuilding businesses and getting over their losses. We try to assist in getting people beyond their losses, in getting paid what they deserve.”

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com.

Cunningham Lindsey

Business: Cunningham Lindsey works with insurance brokers, insurance companies and reinsurers to manage and adjust commercial, government and other insurance claims that can reach hundreds of millions of dollars. The firm operates in 60 countries and has teams of specialists who investigate incidents in major cities, jungles and disaster zones, trying to understand exactly what happened in each case and determine the level of liability according to the terms of insurance coverage. Investigations can involve the hijacking of commercial vessels by Somali pirates, coverage after a complex housing project is delayed by a disaster or evaluating coverage after a massive fire in Australia that destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

Corporate headquarters: Tampa.

Latin America and Caribbean hub: 1111 Brickell Ave., Miami, opened in March.

Regional management: Peter Ravey, director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Founded: Cunningham Lindsey was founded in 1999, combining several claims handling and adjustment companies from Canada and the U.K., some going back more than 100 years.

Employees: Four claims professionals in Miami and more than 7,000 employees worldwide.

Ownership: Privately held company. CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm, is the majority shareholder. Other shareholders include other investment firms and company management.

Revenue: The company does not release financial data to the public. According to a report from Moody’s Investors Service, the credit rating and financial research firm, Cunningham Lindsey had 2014 revenue of $767 million.

Website: cunninghamlindsey.com

Sources: Cunningham Lindsey, Moody’s

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