The world finds itself in a position where we have to acknowledge our universal co-dependence. Countries have no choice but to work together in this global fight against COVID-19. The pandemic has had an unimaginable impact on our respective health systems, social wellbeing, and, of course, the economy. The insurance and financial services industries have a critical role to play.
According to PwC’s COVID-19 and the Insurance Industry article, “Insurance companies play a pivotal role during times of economic stress by helping companies and households manage risks and cushion against losses. Yet, as one of the biggest groups of investors, they are also vulnerable to volatility in financial markets.”
This double-edged scenario places the industry in a very precarious position where nothing short of innovative approaches will help us all adjust to the ‘new normal’ of life after the pandemic.
Makhosazana Dubazana visited the STEAM Room and gave us a sneak peek into the local insurance industry.
Please share a bit about yourself
My name is Makhosazana ‘Khosi’ Dubazana. I studied Geography and Geology and completed my Masters in Geography and Environmental Studies, focusing on Climatology and Human Health Risk of Environmental Degradation. During my Masters, I also completed a Data Science programme with the Explore Data Science Academy which enabled me to start my journey as a Data Scientist now working in the insurance industry. I am currently based in Ekurhuleni in Gauteng.
How was a day in your life pre-COVID-19?
A typical day on the job would start off by attending to work e-mails and answering questions from business units I service. I would attend meetings to discuss the needs and requirements for the business operations team I service. In these meeting, we discuss problems they have and the different data solutions we can implement in order to solve or better understand the problem. I would then scope out the solution and analysis data or build the solution.
My job generally requires minimum contact with the business operations team; all I need is a computer, software and a few meetings to touch base and I am good to go. Due to this, I am able to continue working from home. It is not the same for all people who work in this sector; many had to put down their tools to remain at home and help flatten the curve.
How has the insurance industry been affected by COVID-19?
COVID-19 has forced our industry to re-evaluate the way in which we conduct business; the areas of the financial service of the insurance industry have been deemed essential services during the lockdown. Therefore insurance companies are still operating to ensure consumers can claim. In many instances, a customer can claim, the claim cannot be serviced as it’s a non-essential service. Therefore, for smaller businesses that render those services and work in partnership with the insurance companies, that means they are not able to stay open during this time, which will result in cash flow deficits. The insurance industry had to step up and ensure that they support these small businesses with support packages. Furthermore, the industry has put into place measures to support its consumers during this time, where we see most insurers having implemented premium reductions for the month of May. Some insurers have also implemented a reduced excess amount for claims in the period during and after the lockdown.
Companies in the sector, have implemented various strategies to continue business. Others have expanded the work-from-home policy not only to technical roles, but a number of call centre agents who are working from home to ensure that consumer needs are met and supported.
How can the insurance industry recover and assist the country in recovery?
In the insurance sector, companies have put into place ways in which they can support and help small businesses to insure that they stay afloat during this period. This has largely been done by making funding available to support these businesses. Companies in the sector have put mechanisms in place to support consumers. However, the industry will face losses when consumers cancel insurance plans in order to save a few bucks or as a result of jobs losses.
As the insurance industry, we cannot control job losses. Government should continue to seek ways to support big and small businesses for the next few months or until businesses have recovered from the impact of the lockdown period.
As South Africa’s lockdown continues and number of infections rise, businesses are putting together plans which will ensure their survival post-COVID-19. How will the world be after lockdown? We may not know. But we all know it will not be different and perhaps this calls for a different way of doing business, especially in the insurance and financial services industries.
About the Author:
Amandla Kwinana is a strategic content and communications specialist and member of the Womandla Foundation STEAM Committee.
About the STEAM Room:
The STEAM Room is a space for women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to explore innovative solutions to the challenges facing our communities and share intriguing stories from their respective worlds. The platform also provides an opportunity for STEAM entrepreneurs to profile their ventures. As with a traditional steam room, women step out of the STEAM Room feeling rejuvenated.