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Get to know… Kirsty Coates – Head of Claims

Kirsty Coates joined Carbon late 2021 as Head of Claims.

She recently took the time to chat about her background, her role in the business, the changes in the claims sector as well as what International Women’s Day means to her.


Tell us about your background before joining Carbon  


I joined Carbon at the end of 2021 from Antares Managing Agency (QIC Global) where I was a specialty claims manager with a strong focus on worldwide delegated contracts across multiple product lines. Prior to this, I was a claims adjuster with Atrium Underwriting. 


What attracted me to Carbon is that it’s a fully delegated syndicate as my background has primarily always been in that field. I had always wanted to work in a startup – rather than in a bigger company where you’re a small cog in a big wheel – which is more nimble, entrepreneurial, and where there is a can-do culture. Add to that my long-standing interest in data, I was really eager to find out more about Graphene and the enormous benefits that brings. So, it wasn’t a difficult decision and I have never looked back.


You are responsible for managing Carbon’s portfolio of claims – what does this involve and look like in practice?


Because of the delegated nature of the book, we manage a large number of Delegated Claims Administrator (DCA) relationships and a lot of that requires oversight management.. We have a wide ranging population of claims, across various jurisdictions, and with differing complexities depending on the claim type – so we rely on our DCAs for their knowledge, local expertise, and delivering comprehensive, smooth claims handling for our customers. We truly value our DCAs as an extension of the Claims team and we have a robust onboarding process in place to ensure they fit into the Carbon philosophy and ways of working. 


With the larger, more complex, contentious claims, we manage these in-house – liaising closely with the underwriting and actuarial teams with whom we have a regular dialogue at all times. That’s where Graphene really comes into its own in terms of driving decision-making and claims oversight and management. We often talk about Graphene being built by our fantastic team and the platform underpins everything we do because it presents all parties in the distribution chain with superior data to ensure they are completely aligned.      


When you joined Carbon, you spoke about the claims discipline across our industry being ripe for innovation and transformation by leveraging modern technology. Please could you elaborate on that and explain how Graphene in particular is helping you in your role?


Graphene is an incredibly effective platform and a real game-changer in our industry. It ingests all of the risk premium and claims data into one data model which can be manipulated – and we use various attributes to be able to pull out relevant claims analysis (which drives the book) as well as looking at DCA performance. There’s no doubt that Graphene has revolutionised data ingestion, analysis and consumption.  One thing that I helped to introduce since I joined the business is a centralised claims coding tool which, while we recognise can have its territorial restrictions, allows us to hone in on the types of claims we’re looking at and what is driving our results.  


There’s been a lot of change in the claims sector over the last five years with a lot more focus on automation and AI as a key business enabler – and in the delegated space, there is room for more automation if this is planned properly and done effectively. The end customer, however, is clearly key and the customer journey and experience has to be at the forefront of any decision we’re making.  Greater automation is inevitably going to happen but the balance needs to be spot-on before this can be implemented into claims management.


What is it about Carbon that makes it such a great place to work?


For me, it’s the people. The management team has done an excellent job in instilling a culture where people feel valued and rewarded for their contributions. While we do hybrid working, the majority of staff come into the office more often because they like and want to be there. The environment is great and there’s no substitute for those personal interactions and engagement with your colleagues – it certainly beats endless Teams calls.


The culture is truly inclusive in the sense that people are free to voice their opinions, to challenge processes, and adopt new ways of working – and know they can do so in a safe environment where they can have a voice and that their views are as valid as the next person’s. There’s a real buzz and it’s a good mix of forward-thinking people with different backgrounds, skills and experience – an environment where we can all learn and push boundaries.    


What does International Women’s Day mean to you and your role at Carbon? Do you think enough is being done to promote gender equality and empower women in our industry?


As an industry, while some progress has been made in terms of diversity and inclusion, I don’t think that anyone would dispute that there’s still a long way to go. While there are some encouraging conversations going on, nudging the agenda along is simply not good enough – there needs to be even more of a sustained effort to ensure that diversity remains a key priority for every organisation moving forward and isn’t just a tick-box exercise. This is particularly important when we think about the next generation coming into the industry. 


At Carbon, this is very much embedded in our DNA, our culture, our ways of working and our thinking. We have an inclusive working environment where people know they can contribute, and ideas and achievements are celebrated. That helps to boost morale and team culture. It’s worth noting – and applauding – that our Quants, who are one of the main teams within Graphene, have a number of women which is great to see in an historically male-dominated tech environment.   


If you had a call to action for claims practitioners across the market, what would it be?  


Embrace change! In areas such as claims, there have been changes to people’s roles, how claims are handled, and the impacts of new technology and increasing automation to enhance the overall value proposition. So, claims practitioners need to diversify their knowledge, adapt to new ways of working and collaborate with and learn from others within their businesses as well as across the wider market. 


We are very much a people industry so there’s no substitute for networking and attending in-house as well as external meetings to make those invaluable connections. That personal interaction was lost a bit after Covid and as this is a relationship-driven market, it is so important to maintain those contacts through meetings, events, telephone calls or even just grabbing a coffee with someone. Showing your face and networking is invaluable.


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