After a few extensive national claims events it would be great to get some of your insights. To start off on your side, Chris, in insurance we talk a lot about the fact that we sell hope. People get a piece of paper, and they hope that if anything unforeseen happens, that a claim will be paid and will lessen the loss they have suffered. In other words, when it comes to the claim time, that is when they realise what they have bought. So, from your perspective, what are the most crucial factors influencing that experience?
Chris: In the Renasa environment, claims go so much further. For us, it is an opportunity to shine. It is an opportunity to deliver a claims service which outperforms that of our competitors in the intermediated market.
Ultimately, your claims experience and how you service your clients is the shop window into Renasa and how our clients will view us and how they see us. The crucial factors for us, would firstly be empathy. Having a true understanding of your client’s post-loss circumstances, focuses our efforts in indemnifying the client. It helps us determine and establish what is required and how best to go about putting the client back in the position that they were prior to this loss.
Another fundamental for us, is the understanding that, in addition to the legal obligation that exists and the contractual obligation that exists between us and our client, there is also the moral obligation to make sure that your client is indemnified as soon as possible and as transparently as possible throughout the process. Other factors that we consider to be important would-be responsiveness. Speed is critical. The sooner you can admit liability and give your client the comfort of knowing their loss is covered, the better.
Then we have certainty and their transparency, for us the insured is entitled, as mentioned, to know straight away whether that loss is indemnified or not. The comfort that brings the insured goes a long way in buying us some mileage in the process. Communication is another key factor. The claimant should be well informed of all the information required from the outset and the steps involved in the process of claiming in our environment. Then, more importantly, providing the client with regular feedback during the life cycle of a claim is crucial for us.
Tony: I can give Renasa a bit of a punt here, because I saw in the latest OSTI report, that in terms of complaints per thousand, Renasa did exceptionally well compared to its peers. This brings me to my next question, because I am sure that a large part of that is because brokers play a key role in the whole claims process. That benefits you because you focus on the broker market.
Chris: Correct, their involvement in our claims settlement process is vital. So vital in fact, that we have, throughout the years, dedicated a vast amount of resources to develop and maintain a web-based claim settlement service to which they have access. Our national network of service providers has access to the system too. We believe that giving brokers direct access to our networks speeds up the claims settlement process in our environment.
Roughly 85% of all claims within the Renasa environment are settled within the broker’s office, within their mandate, courtesy of this infrastructure that we have made available to them. This goes a long way toward ensuring the speed and promoting transparency, which I alluded to earlier. Not only do they take care of clients during this challenging time, but they also care for the clients. Spending time with the clients’ aids us in the assessment of risk and future risks, which in turn contributes toward preventing losses of this nature.
If you can prevent these losses, surely you can reduce, minimise, or prevent the stress and anxiety that is coupled with submitting an insurance claim to an insurer. I cannot state or emphasize enough the importance of the broker’s role in this process and in ensuring that the claims experience with Renasa is an experience that one wants to forget, but which one will not forget because of the service and attention you were given.
Tony: Sean, from your side, we spoke earlier on claim times when the rubber hits the tar, and there is no better way to describe the rubber hitting the tar than in a major weather event like the recent KZN flood. Can you explain what the main challenges are at a time like that?
Sean: So, just to add to that, as Chris mentioned, the brokers are your shop window and that is of utmost importance to us. We rely on brokers, but we also rely on brokers to give us information to assess and validate those claims accurately and as quick as possible. These floods, like what happened last year with the riot event, was an overnight situation that we woke up to. What we would suggest is, assess your claims, quantify your claims, and immediately plan to go forward. So, it involves service providers, it involves coordination in repairs while evaluating the risks of increased costs of repairs, reinstatement.
The immediate important thing for us, was getting the correct information to handle and to make informed decisions as and when it occurred. My answer would be to understand exactly what you are dealing with, to share that understanding with them, and to make them aware of the process going forward. So, a challenge for me personally, would have been data, getting the right data and identifying the right claim. Ensuring that your brokers work hand in hand with you goes a long way here.
Tony: A question to both of you: What lessons should we, as an industry, learn from an event like this?
Chris: For me, the big lesson out of this was embracing flexibility, being prepared as an insurer to deviate from your normal standard operating procedure. And by that I mean the information you would call for from the insured, to approve the claim. To be prepared to deviate from that, to understand what the minimum requirements or minimum information was that you could get away with to start processing the claim. We were able to say to the insured that, ordinarily I would need a certain amount of information from you but, due to the pressures on the resources and the lack of materials in the province, we are prepared to indemnify you and propose settlement, even with you only having the minimum information available to us. I think the key for us was being flexible in our model and being prepared to deviate, because of the circumstances, from what we would typically do in an event like that.
Sean: Yes, just to go back and add to what Chris has said. He mentioned the word empathy. Having worked through, and worked with some of these clients, situations were not that easy for them. And Chris is so correct in that summary; to deviate from your SOP, to have an understanding that a client cannot do a certain requirement or certain document at that stage. We must also understand, it is especially important, that we are dealing with people’s lives in a personal space and in a business space. So, for us the empathy part of it was of utmost importance. The KZN area was hit by this catastrophe, it has happened previously. So going forward, what do we do to minimise future losses? And to understand that we help ourselves by helping the client as well. So that is the lesson that I have personally taken from this. It is also, for us, about using technology to create awareness on future exposures. I would certainly press for that and consider it.