A number of the articles I write discuss education and the work that AICLA does on its education pathway and its conferences. I was recently provided with a document from the 1st Loss Assessors Convention held in Melbourne by the Loss Assessors Council of Australia in November 1967 (happy 50th anniversary to the convention). There had previously been conventions (conferences) at a state level, but this was the first national gathering in Australia. There are three things that strike me in reading the Presidential Address, given by Mr. Warren McArthur.
First, his opening statements talk about the theme of the convention and he remarks that there is no theme that can come “to grips sufficiently with the many and varied facets of our occupation to satisfy everyone”, and so their theme to the extent one was needed, is simply “education”. It is interesting how this challenge has not passed over the last 50 years. Loss Adjusting is still a broad church, from marine to motor to liability to property to business interruption to cyber. Maybe the church is broader now, with new classes such as environmental liability and cyber, than it was 50 years ago; certainly the challenges of designing conferences and education seminars to interest such a wide range of practice is undiminished.
The second thing that is of interest is how things stay the same as much as they change. In 1967 there was obviously no email, faxes have since been invented, come to ubiquity, and largely disappeared again, drones were science fiction. Yet, he talks about loss adjusting in the 1940s and that “one had to be a “Jack-of-all-trades” with a better than average knowledge of the whole range of subjects likely to be encountered…”. I infer from his comments that he was thinking that things had become more specialised and, whilst this is true today (again thinking for example of cyber), I think there is still a large section of the loss adjusting industry that would be “jack-of-all-trades”. There are many adjusters that work in smaller branches or rural areas that end up doing property, liability, marine and/or motor losses on a regular basis. As much as we embrace specialisation, in my view generalism is still a very useful tool. The general adjuster may one day disappear but that day has not yet come.
Finally, as was probably universal in the professions at the time, there was a presumption in his speech that loss adjusters were men. He describes the main object of training is to “educate young men” and laments how difficult it is to secure the services of “suitable young men”. Although it is no longer presumed that the profession is only fit for men, only about 10% of our members are women. I don’t know whether this is because women choose not to be chartered loss adjusters, or because of some bias – be it sub-conscious or institutionalised – but it is not good for any profession to have such a disparity. We might have changed the language in 50 years, but it hasn’t significantly changed the outcome. Correspondence on this subject will be gratefully received!
Leon Briggs, Chartered Loss Adjuster
President – AICLA