Meet Russell Williams – Team Manager, Comcover

Russell began his career in the insurance industry in 1975 and worked predominately as a Claims Manager in the General Insurance market in Australia. During that time, Russell specialised in large and complex claims in the Liability, PI, D&O / Property & BI / Motor / Marine fields. In more recent years, that has grown to include a variety of Class Action matters as well as highly sensitive matters for Government.

Throughout his career, Russell has developed extensive understanding and expertise through exposure in a variety of claims manager roles, in both state and national level.
Russell’s previous role was the Risk and Insurance Manager at Crown Casino. He developed extensive knowledge of how claims should be managed from a client’s perspective and an appreciation for the impact big litigation can have on an organisation.

Russell formally joined Gallagher Bassett (GB) in 2004, working on the HIH Claims Support Scheme. Russell said,

“This was a fantastic project as we had to build together a team from scratch effectively, it was like a green fields start up in one sense. This was a run off business in which we were charged with helping the Commonwealth Government manage their Support Scheme for former HIH Group policyholders whilst also helping the Liquidator of the group consolidate the losses and returns to maximise the shareholder / creditor payouts.”

Russell then took a team of specialists to assist Suncorp manage some of their Liability claims.

Since 2009, Russell has been solely focussed on the Commonwealth Government’s Self-managed fund – Comcover. He manages a team of thirteen claims consultants, overseeing the Motor, Property & BI, Overseas Travel and Expatriate Health, Liability PI & D&O claims. According to Russell,

“This has seen us managing some of the most interesting and complex claims across these portfolio’s that I have ever been involved in. We have dealt with Motor Vehicle claims in a variety of locations around the world, not just in Australia, for a variety of different types of “modified” motor vehicles. We have looked after Property claims arising from various Cyclones in a variety of locations, not just on the Mainland, to Fire damaged assets in remote locations, including the outer territories such as Christmas Island and The Cocos Islands.” 

“Our dedicate Overseas travel team also look after the health claims for the many expatriates working overseas and this involves us being available 24/7 all year round. The Liability team have managed some novel and complex claims, including a variety of class action claims both in Australia and currently one overseas matter.” 

Russell has been focused on the strategic development of the larger and more complex matters to ensure his team has the right resources such as identifying the right Senior Counsel and putting together the right Counsel Team for the various matters, advising the Agencies and assisting them get through the litigation. 

Russell has also reviewed Ministerial Briefing papers, edited various Government Committees reports and even sat down with a departmental Minister to advise on the appropriateness of the settlement of a claim his Agency wanted to resolve. 

“As with all matters we manage our focus is trying to find a resolution as quickly as possible and to avoid litigation wherever we can, this does not always work and there are times where you have no alternative but to run the case.”

“However, the best results are those in which you achieve an outcome without litigation. The best example of this is the approach we took to a large fire claim that destroyed a large number of properties. As soon as the Agency notified us we engaged a loss assessor to go to the area and to start discussions with the potential claimants. In many cases we were actually in contact with them before their own insurer’s had made contact. I’m pleased to report that for the 100+ claims we received none were litigated and only a small number had lawyers appointed.”

The team has been successful in managing matters in nearly every jurisdiction in Australia, including the High Court as well as in foreign jurisdiction such as France, United Kingdom, Noumea, Belgium and the Middle East. 

Russell is proud to have had a stable team with very little turnover of staff. GB’s Comcover team has developed fantastic relationships with the various Agencies and their results has given the Agencies confidence in the team’s ability in giving advice to meet their needs.

A key strength of the Comcover team is their diverse background, having experiences in self-insured organisations, brokers, lawyers, insurers, retail and assessing. This provides the team with a wide variety of skills that assist in managing the various claims. Russell said,

“Agencies rely heavily on us in times of crisis and we are yet to let them down. The beauty of having such a stable team is the consistency in approach and decision making. We have been doing this work for nearly 10 years and our people have more IP about an Agency than some of the people working in the agencies given the turn-over of staff in some areas.”

Russell is looking forward to continue developing his team’s skills and understanding.

“I think our experience with the HIH Support Scheme and the Comcover account have given us a unique ability when it comes to managing large and complex claims. Our broad experience and technical capabilities enable us to consider matters from a range of perspectives enabling us to give clients options when it comes to litigation or to major claim events. I’m now looking forward to continuing to develop my team’s skills and to seeing what lies ahead, there is always something new to learn.”

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