Sharon Paterson, CEO of Infiniti Insurance Limited, is raring to rebuild a resilient industry.
Before we can look forward to the future and what 2022 might have in store for us as individuals and as an industry we need to look back. The last two years have surely been the most disruptive and challenging ever for most of us as individuals and for the insurance and reinsurance industries worldwide.
We have faced the challenges of a pandemic the likes of which has not been seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918; something which we all thought that advances in medical science would ensure we would not have to endure. The resulting lockdowns meant that people in all industries found themselves working from home, juggling children, schoolwork and business commitments. For some it has worked well, and all companies are to a lesser or greater degree embracing work-from-home policies.
At Infiniti, we are moving forward cautiously. We need to be sure that we don’t only continue to give our partners and clients the service levels that they are accustomed to, but that we rise to new heights of service. We need to be sure that we do not compromise that goal in any way and so our current work from home policy is limited. Time will tell.
But what about those industries that could not function at all for the period of hard lockdown and then found themselves further prejudiced by their customers for fear of catching the dreaded Covid-19 that kept them out of restaurants, shops, hotels, aircraft, public transport and any entertainment venues?
Global supply chains have been constrained, experiencing major disruptions, which have had a ripple-effect across the manufacturing industry, trade and commerce, GDP growth has slowed and unemployment levels have increased dramatically.
Climate change is happening faster now than predicted. We have long been warned of the effect of our modern lifestyles which we so enjoy – the speed of travel and communication, the manufacturing and use of throw-away, pretty plastics – on the environment around us and on global sustainability as a whole. I remember, back in the 1990s, attending a talk by a re-insurer on the issue of waste and what it was going to do to the world. Now we are seeing the effects: more weather-related catastrophes, bigger fires, bigger floods. All this is exacerbated by high-density as more homes, factories and shopping malls are built closer together and as a result, often, more buildings burn or flood in one event.
Building Back Home
The looting in KwaZulu-Natal and in Gauteng last year has shaken confidence and cost dearly, impacting our collective risk profile. We hoped such events had left us with the demise of the apartheid regime and consequently we were wholly unprepared for this crisis. The robustness of our power-grid is being questioned. As with climate change and, I suppose, political unrest, the signs of Eskom’s troubles have long been apparent in the planned outages and the many press reports and yet, the solution is still elusive, despite vigorous planning and commitment to billions of rands towards diversification and the relative liberalisation of the sector.
So where does this leave us as an industry, as insurers and reinsurers in South Africa? Where is non-life insurance heading towards in this environment? New products, new rules, new ways? The year ahead for Infiniti is certainly, as coined by FIA, a year of doing. It’s a journey of discovery; the fundamentals have changed for the insured and for our industry. The product line-up is transforming and continuously evolving.
The unprecedented speed at which vaccinations have been made available across the world and here at home has, it appears, reduced Covid-19 to an illness far less life- threatening than it was a year ago. Life can go on and we all need to move forward with our lives but, we, as citizens of the world, need to take this opportunity to refocus, to think of our environment, and hope that our interventions are not too late. Meanwhile at Infiniti, we need to reserve for the increased weather-related claims and run a tight ship so as to keep increases to a minimum while not compromising on service delivery.
The Next Steps
We need to play our part in re-building the reputation of our resilient industry. We have all suffered the reputational damage of clients hit by losses not covered or not adequately covered by their non-life insurance policies. As an industry, it is of primary importance that we ensure this does not happen again in the future, and that going forward, all of our clients must know what they are paying for and what they are not paying for.
We face the challenge of clients in some instances wanting cover that we and our reinsurers find ourselves no longer able to provide. It is going to be a year of finding solutions to that disconnect – solutions that are doable by us as an industry and that provide the peace of mind that clients look to us for.
This is my ninth year in office as the Chief Executive Officer of Infiniti Insurance and I perceive this may very well be the most challenging, but also the most rewarding of years for all of us. Since we have been back at the office, new business – both in the form of new partners, and of more clients from existing partners – has been plentiful. Our internal processes are robust, and we are well placed to move forward and upwards. This is indeed a year of opportunity for all of us. It is up to us to grasp that opportunity and run with it.
Infiniti Insurance Limited is an A-(ZA)-rated non-life insurer that writes all classes of business including aviation, marine, watercraft, engineering, heavy commercial vehicles, liability and guarantees. The Infiniti advantage lies in the quality of our service and our commitment to excellence.