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Nurturing trust in a digital age

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Trust is crucial in our industry. The good news: it’s on the up. In Deloitte’s 2022 Insurance Industry Outlook report, research findings from surveys showed an increase in trust in insurers despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic – findings that are backed up by local statistics.

According to SHA’s 2022 Specialist Risk Review report, 92% of business leaders surveyed indicated that they had high levels of trust in their insurer, an encouraging finding that highlights the role and importance of the insurance industry.

We’ve approached the top trust-earning insurers to look at the causes for these improved bonds and to learn how they can be strengthened further.

Little Extras, Big Gains

“When a business owner or personal client enters into a short-term insurance contract with an insurer, they bestow their trust in that insurer to assist them as quickly and effortlessly as possible in the unfortunate event that they should suffer a loss,” says Rochelle De Lucia, a partner in sales and distribution at King Price Insurance.

In the acclaimed industry report, Deloitte’s researchers revealed that small business survey respondents cited additional support services, accelerated claims payments and premium discounts as reasons for improved trust. This shows that putting a focus on services for SMEs goes a long way.

With their emphasis on providing affordable insurance to taxi owners and emerging businesses, Dave Gould – CEO of Vulindlela Underwriting Managers – explains how this is working with their strategy.

“We have launched a new product to insure the assets of really small emerging businesses, called Business Lite,” he says. “It is a fully digitalised product, built around vastly improved efficiencies to especially cater for the cash-flow challenges of small businesses.”

In SHA’s case, the services they offer are highly specialised. “When embarking on our digital distribution journey, we saw the need to create bespoke solutions specifically for this segment of the market,” says Bongani Nxumalo, Trainee Digital Distributions Specialist at SHA.

“SHA recognises the far-reaching consequences that this ever-expanding cyber risk could have on a business, particularly those that may not have the resources or infrastructure to deal with such an event. We tailored a complete cyber insurance solution for small-to-medium sized enterprises,” says Nxumalo.

1Life Insurance is confident in their digital presence too; they’ve been doing this since 2019 when they launched Vantage, their digital solution for financial advisors. “Since then, we have incorporated remote acceptance into Vantage,” says Barry Shrosbree, senior manager of Distribution at 1LIFE Insurance. This means that the intermediary can now finalise an insurance or investment policy completely remotely, via the use of electronic signatures and one-time pin functionality. “There is no need to ever meet the client in-person,” says Shrosbree. “All sales and servicing can be done remotely. This frees up the adviser so they can focus on the advice process and on bringing risk and investment solutions to more clients.”

He says they have further enhanced Vantage by incorporating the Wealthport LISP into the system. “This means that intermediaries now have access to our Investment products, via Wealthport and Vantage. This enables faster, easier online processing and servicing of investment products,” Shrosbree notes.

SHA has a similarly sleek online set-up for intermediaries. “SHA’s cyber offering is available to all our intermediaries via our digital platform, The Pocket Underwriter, which provides a wide range of knowledge-based tools to support and empower the broker to generate their own quotes and policies within minutes,” explains Bongani Nxumalo. “By utilising these services, brokers can provide a more transparent and efficient experience for their client.” 

For King Price, the emphasis is on swift processing. For this to happen, there needs to be an empathetic understanding of our unique situations of everyday South African life.

“The events of recent years, fires, floods and unrests showed the South African public just what an important role insurers play in their everyday lives,” says Rochelle De Lucia of King Price Insurance. “King Price has streamlined our service delivery and turnaround times in all departments and our in-house surveying department ensures that both our and our future clients’ risk conforms to all King Price and other regulatory requirements to minimise any potential hiccups at claim stage.” 

Of course, nothing beats good service delivery – a veritable rarity. “Combine this with friendly, qualified staff and an industry leading assist programme and online app and you have a recipe for a great client-insurer relationship,” De Lucia adds.

Winning Clients: Online and Offline

Since March 2020, the insurance industry shifted from in-person interactions to only digital to a hybrid form of relationships with clients. The challenge lies in maintaining connections across personal and digital channels.

JP Holmes, National Head of Specialist Property Line Of Business of Bryte Insurance, says they launched several initiatives to improve engagement and customer service.

“These included information-sharing platforms, as well as one-on-one broker and client training and debate sessions, where we often had to answer and deal with some tough questions and thought provoking topics,” he says, adding that, “Bryte uses a predominantly broker-intermediated service, keeping the communication lines clear, transparent and open. Since 2022, the in-person activity has regained a lot more momentum – and we realise the value of face-to-face meetings. Therefore, it is now our focus to be in touch with brokers and clients more regularly.” 

Dave Gould says Vulindlela Underwriting Managers is putting their energy into an online mode of communication from a cost and an efficiency point of view. “We are not looking at in-person engagements at this stage, as this drastically increases the costs of the product, and our primary aim is to keep the premiums affordable,” explains Gould. “We are hard at work, improving our social media presence, as well as Webchat and other digitalised communication functionality.” 

For SHA, trust is fostered in the online domain. “Leveraging technology, we are able to digitally offer a wide range of specialist products, as well as obligatory risk management services, which builds and improves trust between the insurer and the insured,” says Bongani Nxumalo.

A pattern is emerging that shows that the more efficient the digital processing of claims is, the more the relationship between both parties improves. “From a claims point of view, all fast-track claims were digitalised by submitting interactive claims documents, photographic evidence which resulted in quicker turnaround times in settling the claims,” says Rochelle De Lucia of King Price Insurance.”Furthermore, desktop assessments allowed for a streamlined claims process and in turn a quicker settlement of claims under already stressful Covid-19 times.”

De Lucia emphasises that removing stress from the claims process created transparency between the insured and the insurer, thereby instilling trust between all parties. “In-person surveys fell away under hard lockdown which forced the insured to provide accurate information to the insurer – which in turn allowed the insurer to trust the information which the insured provided to them,” she explains. “Once the lockdown levels were relaxed, safety protocols were put into place to ensure the safety of our clients and staff.”

“At 1Life Insurance, we are able to fully complete a policy and service the client via our digital solution for 1Life-contracted intermediaries, Vantage,” says Barry Shrosbree. “1Life Vantage enables our contracted intermediaries with real-time underwriting and straight-through processing.”

The proof of its efficiency is in how quick the process is. “We currently have over 97% of clients accepted and processed within 35 minutes. IFAs are able to work completely remotely with the assistance of Vantage,” Shrosbree explains.

As digitally agile as they are, they also allow intermediaries to operate face-to-face.

“In the mass market section, we have the option for brokers to operate in the traditional manner or via a fully online, straight-through application, which is also available on mobile phones,” he notes. 

This notion of operating in both spheres is crucial. “Although we are moving into a new digitalised era, King Price still believes in building personal trust with a client,” points out Rochelle De Lucia of King Price Insurance. “We will always interact with our clients on a personal level, ensuring empathy and professionalism are kept at all times and, in so doing, not allow the clients to become just another algorithm.”

The Privacy Predicament

More relevant than ever in our increasingly digitalised world, privacy is a sensitive issue in maintaining trust. Only 11% in Deloitte’s global survey said their company is more transparent in how they collect and use a customer’s personal information. This is especially relevant to the South African insurance industry, following the implementation of the POPI act on 30 June 2021, which paved a new way for how clients’ information is shared and protected.

Bryte Insurance subscribes to the POPI Act in full measure, says JP Holmes. “We are always committed to maintaining the highest data safety and security levels, as it ultimately benefits our business and clients,” he says.

Explaining the use of personal information with a client, especially during the onboarding process, can be a minefield to navigate. Vulindlela Underwriting Managers has adopted a bare bones approach to clients’ details; using only what is necessary for the most affordable premiums. “Our onboarding is done with the assistance of intermediaries, who explain the need for necessary information for underwriting purposes, which we keep to a bare minimum,” says Dave Gould.

King Price remains firm on their personal information policy. “King Price has always held the privacy of all our clients’ information with the highest levels of trust and will under no circumstances release this to any other institution,” says Rochelle De Lucia. “We have strict security measures and policies in place with compulsory ongoing training for all King Price staff members to conform with the new regulations,” she explains.

The Growing Demand For Digital Security

SHA’s same Specialist Risk Review report that showed an overwhelming uptick in trust also revealed that 46% of SME business owners are now reaching for risk management services.

This, too, is an encouraging finding because it indicates that SMEs are becoming more aware of their responsibility for risk mitigation against cyber-attacks,” says Bongani Nxumalo. The increase in awareness has brought with it a demand for specific services.

“SHA’s own SME cyber liability offering is packaged with a suite of risk management solutions which caters for deep dark web monitoring and anti-virus solutions,” says Nxumalo. 

“It is, however, important to note that the risk management service product offering only serves to support existing cyber security infrastructure and does not in any way replace security infrastructure nor should it be used as the primary control to manage and mitigate cyber risk,” Nxumalo adds. “In addition, we have discovered that these services and products may have a more lasting effect on clients in terms of establishing the appropriate cyber risk posture for the company.” 

The Insurer-Intermediary Relationship

When the insurance industry considers the act of trust, it’s almost always in the context of establishing a rapport with clients, current and potential. But an often overlooked aspect is the degree of trust between the insurer and the intermediary. Without a solid connection between these two parties, building trust with a client is impossible.

Maintaining a trusting relationship with intermediaries starts with values, says Dave Gould. “We also make sure all products and services line up to our company values of people, hope, faith, integrity, leadership, innovation and agility without compromise.” But beyond the conceptual realm is also the physical process of working together with intermediaries through education and induction. “We do this through ongoing product training, as well as use of automated processes to provide faster turnaround times,” Gould says.

“We believe in the value of intermediated advice and therefore we believe in zero disintermediation,” says Barry Shrosbree. “We ensure that we co-build not only products but also digital solutions with our contracted IFAs. This ensures that they are involved from the start and it promotes transparency.”

At 1Life there is an importance placed on intermediaries’ sense of ownership.”Through Vantage – our digital solution for IFAs – their clients are completely ring-fenced and we ensure that they keep complete control over their clients’ financial portfolio,” Shrosbree adds.

It’s clear that onboarding an intermediary is as important and as precious as that intermediary onboarding a client. To encourage trust, the King Price broker division has qualified relationship consultants assigned to every intermediary, and longside this is an emphasis on company values. “Transparency, honesty and professionalism are the key fundamentals to building trust in every relationship,” says Rochelle De Lucia. “The King Price culture exposes brokers on every level to a different way of thinking and doing business. We at King Price understand the need for intermediaries in our industry and in partnering and growing with them through the good times and the bad will bestow the required trust we need in each other.”

Small changes make big differences in this field; if an intermediary can’t build a trust-forged relationship in person, providing prompt and thorough services goes a long way to building bonds.