Claims Management – The Power of Specialisation

[This quiz is based around an interview taken from the MetLife’s Life Insights Podcast interview series]

Specialise, specialise, specialise… this is the ethos that lies at the very heart of Curo Financial Services. Over the years, this has allowed Curo Financial Services to not only be great at what they do but has also helped fuel their growth and enabled them to create many centres of influence. In this podcast, Brent Satill, Risk Adviser at Curo Financial Services, explores one of these areas of expertise – claims management.



Julio Cagigas: Hello everyone. And welcome to the MetLife podcast. My name is Julio Cagigas. Today I’d like to introduce you to Brent Satill. Brent has been in the industry for the last seven years and joined Curo Financial Services, which was established nearly 20 years ago.

Curo is a predominantly insurance business, which has over the last few years branched out into other areas such as full planning specialists in hard-to-place insurance and claims management, which is an area that we’ll explore today. Brent, welcome along. How are you going?

Brent Satill: Very good. Thank you very much for having me, Julio.

Julio: Are you able to just drill into what Curo is all about a little bit deeper, please.

Brent: Sure. So, as you said, Curo came about almost 20 years ago. It was born from the merger of two sole practitioner risk specialists, one of whom happens to be my father.

From the very start, one of the Curo’s core values was specialization. We’ve always believed that specialization will allow us to be great at what we do. And through this value, we’ve developed many centres of influence that fuel our growth.

We’ve worked very hard at developing this expertise. For example, we do all of our product research in house. We do not rely on any research houses for that, as we believe we can actually do a better job.

As time went by, we began to receive inquiries from advisers from all over the place, looking for assistance as we developed a bit of a reputation in the industry, and those inquiries generally came in the form of hard-to-place cases.

And after helping advisers for a couple of years, we decided to branch out and actually make a business off-hand. That led to the creation of Special Risk Managers, which is a brand, as you said, that helps people obtain insurance when they have chronic health conditions.

The success of this business is solely down to us being able to leverage our expertise that I mentioned before, as well as the relationships that we’ve been able to build over the years.

A couple of years after the creation of specialist managers is when I entered the business. I actually started working part-time in the business after university, and then went to work at an insurer for 12 months after graduating. And then I returned to the business full time and became authorized 12 to 18 months later.

At the time of entering the business, the Trowbridge Report was released shortly after. And given the concerns that were raised around commissions, we decided to look at avenues in which we could diversify our revenue stream. Having spoken with claims people at various insurers, we anecdotally believe that around 70% of advisers do not handle their clients claim.

Julio: Right.

Brent: It is something that we’ve always done as part and parcel of our services, and it’s something that we almost expect it to be standard, that everyone was doing. And we were quite shocked to find that out.

Having received referrals from a couple, from a number of different advisers over the years, with regards to hard-to-settle claims, we followed a similar path to specialist managers and launched an independent brand called Insurance Claims and advisers, which specializes in claims management. And that’s essentially how it all came about.

Julio: Brent, if I’m hearing correctly, whilst you’re expanding into other areas, insurance is still the core of it. And I know you started doing a bit of financial planning and so on, and you have over the last few years, but insurance is what sort of started that business. And it’s making it tick along.

Brent: Spot on. Exactly.

Julio: Couple of things that you sort of mentioned there that I’m interested in. I’m very interested in exploring the piece around claims that you mentioned because that is sort of unique and different to what’s happening out in the market.

Are you able to sort of dive into that one a little bit more for me and tell me how that part of the business works for you?

Brent: So essentially, we assist non-clients in managing their claim for a fee. So, when I say non-clients, the clients for whom we did not service their policy. We’ve never received a commission or anything of the sort.

Julio: Gotcha.

Brent: Through the nature of TPD claims specifically, we’ve decided to go down the path in terms of pricing, where we charge a tiered percentage-based thing. TPD claims, as you would know, are incredibly complex. And the claimant is naturally out of work. As a result, we use a percentage-based fee that is based on the amount that the claimant receives.

Julio: Okay.

Brent: If the claimant was not successful in receiving their money, we do not charge a fee whatsoever. However, for income protection, we do charge an hourly fee depending on the staff member that’s doing the work.

The reason this is of such appeal to our clients is because we do not charge a fee if they do not receive that claim. Their payment, rather. The client and referring advisers have been very happy with this model and process. It effectively allows us to provide our service to all claimants.

Julio: So, any client that is a client of Curo doesn’t go through this process? They just essentially go through you as a normal client. There’s no fee charged or anything like that because they’ve been a client of your business. Is that correct?

Brent: Correct. And further to that, it adds a lot of value to that conversation with the existing Curo client and that we can hand on heart say that “You will be eligible for this service for which we charge a significant sum to people who are not clients”.

Julio: So that’s really interesting, Brent. Have you got any particular examples of claims where you’ve had to get involved, from whether a client’s come directly or from another adviser and what sort of outcome you’ve been able to have with that?

Brent: Sure. So, I’ve got a couple of examples and stories for you. The first one I’ll tell you is actually an existing client of ours, so it doesn’t necessarily meet that description, but it’s an interesting one, nonetheless.

Brent: They initially had their former claim declined. The client had a squamous cell carcinoma on their lip that was 2.3mm deep. Insurers typically do not ever intend to cover skin cancers other than a melanoma. And the current PDS very clearly excluded the condition.

The client’s policy was taken out about 10 years prior to the claim and was upradable. We went through each product disclosure statement that had subsequently been issued after the client took out the cover and managed to find one with weak enough wording that permitted the claim. We then managed to turn the claim round, and the client received $320,000 after initially being declined.

The second story I have for you is a client who had an incidental cancer known as a microscopic papillary carcinoma of the thyroid. No formal contract really intends to cover this condition, either. The definition of cancer in the product disclosure statement that applied to this policy referred to any malignancy that’s characterized by uncontrolled growth.

Julio: Right.

Brent: When the GP and the oncologist returned their claim forms, this very question was asked, and they both answered, “No. It was not characterized by uncontrolled growth”. The claim was then declined. Through our and expertise and experience, we know that this cancer does in fact meet this description.
And the confusion came from the fact that, although it didn’t actually grow and spread, it is still characterized by uncontrolled growth. We then sought a second opinion from a subsequent specialist which then led to the original doctors changing their opinion and redoing their forms.

The client then received $670,000 on their trauma claim. As you can imagine, both of these scenarios led to clients, these two clients, receiving life-changing payments and becoming incredible advocates of ours.

Julio: Unless you’re a true specialist in that space, you may not look to take that further. I think the other side of it is, you’re charging a fee for this. And I assume that the client initially with a decline was able to get this over the line. So, they would be happy to sort of pay a fee for that to get the $770,000 claim paid out.

Brent: It’s a truly fantastic feeling for both ourselves and them. And the fee is never in question because of the fact that our expertise has really resulted in them receiving this money.

Julio: Yeah. Good outcome. Well done. If I’m an adviser, and I have a tricky claim, I might not be the most efficient or have the most expertise in that area. And I’ll be interested in sort of maybe getting you guys involved or someone else, whoever that might be.

I guess one of my concerns would be around, I want to make sure I keep that client going forward because they’re a client of mine. So how do you guys sort of tackle that?

Brent: Sure. So, I think at the heart of any advice practice that relies on centres of influence, regardless of where those centres of influence come from is integrity and the commitment that you will never speak to the client about anything that the referring adviser may be able to offer them themselves.

These relationships are central to the success of our businesses. As a result, we never want to tread on anyone’s toes. And the clients also respect that as well. Naturally, some of these clients will then come to us and ask for some planning advice. And we’ll say, “You better go back to your adviser, Joe Bloggs, and run this by him to see if he can assist you with this because he’s introduced you to us in the first instance”.

Julio: And I assume if a particular adviser wanted to, you’d be happy to sign something as well, to make sure that it’s on paper and so on. Although it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue, anyway, but I assume you wouldn’t have any issues with that.

Brent: Most certainly. We’re more than happy to engage in a formal referral arrangement that precludes us from doing so. I’ll also say that, as you touched on, we have also diversified into the planning space, and we have a specialist adviser who looks after that.

And our existing centres of influence are offering planning as a service of their own. And it does not change a thing on their end with them knowing that we actually offer this service, too, because our integrity is primary to everything that we do.

Julio: Well, obviously, like I said at the start, Curo has been around for years in the risk space and obviously now branching out into other areas. And you have for a little while, and I’m just interested in understanding the thinking around why you’ve gone that way.

Brent: As I touched on before, the Trowbridge Report, everything that’s surrounding commissions is what sparked this off. I’ll say that the claims management side of the business is the most fulfilling and rewarding aspect of what we do.

Everything that we do beforehand is ultimately to prepare for this. And there’s no greater satisfaction in being able to deliver the news that changes someone’s life.

Secondly, with the threat to commissions, we are looking at ways of diversifying our revenue streams to attract more fee-based business for obvious reasons. Claims management is a fee-based revenue stream that leverages our existing expertise and relationships. And therefore, it’s a natural progression for a risk specialist business.

Finally, as commissions continue to reduce and more advisers stop offering risk advice, there are more and more unadvised clients in the market and subsequently more and more unadvised claims.

So, unlike the risk market, it is actually a growing market and one that is growing quite rapidly, and it allows for us to offset what might be happening on the other side of the business. The opportunity is enormous.

Julio: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think that’s a good way to think about it and good strategy for you all, Brent. So, yeah, that’s interesting.

Look, just finally, what place have you got for that side of the business? The claims side of the business in the say short to medium?

Brent: Over the next 12 months, we are going to look at engaging in extensive marketing for the business. Until this point it’s really been relying on referrals, word of mouth, so on and so forth. However, we are going to be making a bigger push in the direct-to-consumer space.

And ultimately, as we have been successful in doing with special risk managers in being the preeminent brand in sub-standard lives, we are looking to do the same in the claims management space.

And we see that as a long-term key part of the business that is going to continue to grow with significant opportunities ahead of it that will ultimately form a very considerable part of business.

Julio: So, look, I’ll think we’ll probably leave it there, Brent, but first I just wanted to thank you for your time. Look, I think it’s been really interesting to hear about you, what your own business is doing, some of the strategies you’ve put in place to diversify your business into other areas as a result of some of the changes in the industry.

They’re really interesting parts, and I’m sure everyone listening will enjoy hearing about how you are approaching that. So, once again, thanks very much,


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