‘Even partial risk management is better than no risk management’ – CIB

Since South Africa went into lockdown in March the entire insurance industry has had to come up with innovative ways of doing things. We’ve started having meetings virtually. We find ourselves extending contracts at no additional premium. We’ve had to find new ways to assess risk. We’ve explored new sales methods. In short, the world has turned upside-down, but the insurance industry has managed to survive – and, in some instances, even thrive!

“The Covid-19 pandemic has definitely thrown the proverbial spanner into the works of our everyday lives,” says Jon-Jon Smit, CIB Executive Head: Sales and Marketing. “It’s given us a massive wake-up call, reminding us that businesses need be adaptable and fluid.”

“It’s also a reminder that uncertainty and havoc can lead to great opportunity.”

CIB has used this time of “business unusual” to examine and tweak its business processes, and to get to know its customers better.

“We have learnt that you need to be ready for anything,” says Smit. “You have to adapt and roll with the punches. With the easy availability of Zoom and MS Teams, as well as constant online and digital communication, CIB has managed to interact consistently with staff and customers. In fact, we have had to be careful not to over-communicate!”

Smit says the sales channel has been extremely productive over this period.

“We find ourselves with more time to spend on the sales process. A more focused approach leads to a more competitive offering to the end user. During the time of heavy lockdown we managed to discuss and finalise many deals without a single face-to-face meeting.

“Although we are still very much in favour of seeing our brokers and enjoying the face time, we have realised that there are many other avenues available for doing business.”

Across the company, departments have had to face their own challenges and have managed to find ways to overcome them. The claims team, for example, has had a complete mindset change in dealing with losses that they can’t assess in the usual way.

Head of Engineering (and the newest member of the CIB management team), Michael Winstanley, says his team has been extremely productive and achieved several impressive milestones.

“Being able to get an engineering treaty in place in three weeks, without any traditional face-to-face meetings, shows that great things can be achieved working remotely when various parties dial in from multiple locations to tackle a common task,” he says.

From an underwriting and risk perspective, Louis Kahts, CIB Head of Underwriting says very few underwriters thought that a pandemic could cause worldwide losses in both claims and premium income over the same period.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has left no class of insurance unaffected,” he says. “We have seen more severe instances – for example in the hospitality industry, where a pandemic extension was offered – but what about marine and engineering covers? Although they did not specifically cover any element of the virus, their premium income has slowed down, or completely ceased.”

The marine industry, he says, could not deliver products. In fact, in most instances it couldn’t even move!

“In addition, construction projects were put on hold all over the world due to lockdowns and insurers were forced to extend contracts at no additional premium. The commercial insurance market is still waiting for the final number in terms of business lost and claims paid out.”

Risk management – specifically surveying – is another area where CIB has had to make a plan, simply due to the fact that businesses have not been running.

“It is difficult to analyse a business’s approach to risk management when it is only partially operational,” says Kahts. “The focus point for CIB has been to survey what can be surveyed and have discussions with the client to obtain any missing information.

“The main point is to not stop the risk management process. Even partial risk management is better than no risk management.”

“While we were basically drifting blindly into the unknown – along with the rest of the world! – CIB has managed to focus on the opportunities that Covid-19 has presented and come out a better business for it.”