- What are your thoughts on employees returning to a conventional office setting?
We realise that it is unlikely we shall be returning to the conventional office setting. We are likely to adopt a hybrid working model which will encompass some nuances to suit particular team structures but it is obvious that we probably need 50% of the office space we currently have, and that the offices need to be reconfigured for more open-plan working areas, some meeting rooms but doing away with individual offices where this is practical to do so. We have already embarked on the process of reviewing all of our office accommodation requirements and leases.
- As the pandemic recedes, how do you see the competition for talent on teams?
The one major benefit of remote working is that we can employ people from around the country (and the world) instead of being forced to recruit only in a particular town or geographic area. The competition for talent will only increase as some of the existing talent moves onto greener pastures internationally or even local talent looking to semigrate. Businesses will need to relook at their terms and conditions of engagement and employee benefits which can include the ability to permanently remote work from home, etc. I believe South African talent can easily be employed to work in an international environment without having to relocate. I believe some foreign-based companies have latched onto this already.
- Consumers' expectations around product delivery and service have changed as a result of Covid-19, how do you foresee insurance adapting to this?
For starters, I would venture that a large percentage of us have gone online – whether its groceries, food, furniture, technology, etc. It stands to reason that with the forced increased adoption of technology we may see a rising interest in clients being able to access and use their insurance in much the same way they do with their banking. Of course this is still backed up by people if they don’t get the answer they are look for. Online in itself creates new cyber risk exposures not only for online businesses but for their customers too and the data around the topic suggests an exponential increase in cybercrime over the past two years. We have seen with remote working has improved productivity but probably also increased our levels of impatience clients want it now - when they want it, where they want it and in the form they want it in. And they want to pay less for it! It's a tall order, but not impossible.
- What are your thoughts on the prospect of more face-to-face interactions with clients?
We are looking forward to the face-to-face interactions with clients just because it is, in my opinion, so much easier to build on the rapport and trust in a face-to-face meeting. And we find many more ad hoc opportunities tend to arise when compared to the more formally structured virtual meetings. Again, with some interactions, virtual meetings are efficient and productive whilst I believe there is still a need for regular engagement with clients face-to-face and a large percentage of especially our business clients prefer this. As we have tended to deal with the majority of our individual clients telephonically, not much has changed in this side of the business.
- With the acceleration of digital transformation and AI, what data-driven solutions are you exploring or promoting?
Rather than divulging our secrets in a public domain, let me allude to our belief that data analytics is the way of our future and we are building and have built systems to build our data around our clients and their businesses to assist us in the areas of proactive advice, client exposures and other aspects of intermediary services. In addition we do have systems which utilise both AI and machine-learning to enhance both our service and advice to our clients. It is a work-in-progress and as we are constrained with budgets, these things take a little longer than usual. Fortunately we have a number of initiatives, and we are already a few years down the road. The one piece of technology I am particularly proud of is BluPixl, developed in conjunction with Cntrl – game-changing advice-based technology!
- How do you see advisory businesses growing in the future?
As the world grows in complexity and undergoes rapid and exponential change, the role of an advisor grows in importance. The key role of the advisor is simplifying complexity. Whether it is estate planning, retirement planning, healthcare, catastrophe protection, income protection, asset protection or legal liability exposures, the average consumer requires a professional advisor to prioritise and simplify risk exposures into terms that are easily understood. This is evidenced by a simple question to most consumers when discussing their non-life insurance: What are the most important things to you? Most South Africans will say their religion, then their family (without putting individual members in a ranking order), then their homes, pets and finally their cars. When one asks to review their non-life insurance policies, 55% to 65% of the premium is spent on their cars, 35% on their household contents and possessions, 15% on their homeowners insurance, nothing on the family and nothing on the pets and depending on whether or not they are self-employed or not. Sometimes it's nothing on themselves and their earning capacity!