From payphones to twitter

Sean Cleary founder and Managing Director Clearys Loss Assessors

Sean Cleary founder and Managing Director

Celebrating 25 years at Clearys Loss Assessors

This year Cleary’s Loss Assessing and Insurance Services celebrates’ 25 years in business. We spoke to Sean Cleary, founder and Managing Director on the early days of being in business way back in 1984 and about how much change has taken place over the last 25 years.

Ireland in the 1984 was a different country to the one we live in today. Unemployment peaked, emigration was extensive and interest rates were in double figures. Tax rates also were at record levels with the government of the day telling the people that they were living beyond their means and the country was broke. All was doom and gloom and although it is fair to draw parallels to the situation we face today, back then the outlook really was bleak with little or no hope for optimism.

It was against this backdrop that Sean Cleary decided to start his loss assessing business with very limited resources’ and little experience in a marketplace that felt it did not need his services. The only competition at the time was a Dublin firm with one office and three employees so by starting with two offices and eight staff, Cleary’s instantly became the largest firm of loss assessors in the country.

Cleary’s strategy was simple, to communicate to the Irish public the benefits of using a loss assessor when claiming on their insurance policy. This was done through the methods of the day including the golden pages, local and national press and word of mouth. Because of the nature of their work, Cleary’s quickly became known by the media as the “Robin Hood of the Insurance Industry” a title that still gives rise to a mixture of pride and laughter at Cleary’s HQ.

Most business at the time was conducted over the telephone and when out of the office payphones were the order of the day, if one that still worked could be found and you had the correct change to use it. It would take three years for Cleary’s to get their first mobile phone, one of those bricks that weighed about the same as two bags of sugar and had a battery life of just twenty minutes. Looking back, Sean Cleary fondly recalls all the technology that came and went such as the facsimile, electronic typewriter and generations of personal computers that operated on this or the other language. Nowadays there is a great appreciation for e-mail, windows, mobile phones, voice recognition software and SatNav to get you where you need to go.

It’s not just technology that has changed over the last quarter of a century, the policies being produced by the insurance companies have also changed a great deal becoming more and more refined, invariably protecting the insurer more than the insured. Today consumers face a situation where insurers write the policies and call the shots with complete control, there is little or no consumer protection. To be fair, Sean Cleary freely admits that in the main, the insurers are fair and generous when settling a claim when liability is not an issue, but stresses that there is no accounting for personalities when issues arise. This last point is very important when dealing with somebody’s property which has been destroyed and you are relying on the insurance company to deal with you fairly and pay out as soon as possible.

Problems arise when dealing with inexperienced individuals who become disagreeable and delay and hinder the settlement of the claim. This is a growing problem and one that Sean Cleary is highlighting through his new blog, www.indemnity.ie, a free source of advice on insurance matters for the consumer.

Cleary’s have settled thousands of claims over the years, big and small, and those that are settled quickly are made possible by parties on both sides being both knowledgeable and experienced. Experience is key to effective loss assessment with decisions being made quickly on the back of clear instructions allowing all parties to move forward quickly. Sean Cleary strongly believes that consumers should never be bullied into taking a settlement on a genuine and legitimate claim, a tactic that is increasingly being employed in the industry by the large insurers who’s ultimate goal is to keep shareholders satisfied.

Looking back on the last 25 years Sean Cleary is proud of his accomplishments to date and is currently opening Cleary’s up to new ways of communicating with their customers through blogs, their website and the increasingly important twitter. It is easier now to communicate with the public in ways and means that are meaningful to them. What has remained the same are two things; The claims, Chimney Fires, Lightening Strikes, Floods, Storms, Burglaries, Oil spills and so on, all these things continue to occur and Cleary’s still derive immense satisfaction in helping people in terrible situations to get back on their feet and get on with their lives.