The nature of the contemporary issues that challenge the global social and business spheres at large are unlike what the world has ever seen before. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the business world reached a turning point. Transformational agility and a pioneering spirit to drive resilience turned into the fuel for survival, directed by technologically progressive innovation, sharp focus on human capital development, the redefining of customer care practices and an increased emphasis on partnerships.
Currently, we are witness to a time of economic underperformance and this can both propel and suppress business innovation, making the race to economic stability an uncomfortable, uphill sprint.
Small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs), for the most part, can be characterized as distinctive, independent business entities with personalized owner-run management. Due to the tailored nature of their business models, they perfectly fit the mold of present-day demands. SMMEs have demonstrated vast potential to play a pivotal role as catalysts for effective transformation and wheel-turning modernization that could keep the South African economy afloat despite the economic disarray.
In their report, “Enhancing the Contributions of SMEs in a Global and Digitalized Economy”, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlights the value of well-run SMMEs as essential in “generating employment, innovation, environmental sustainability and more inclusive growth”. According to the OECD report, statistically the SMME stands in an impressive light, particularly in emerging economies, “contributing up to 45% of total employment and 33% of GDP”, significantly adding to “economic diversification and resilience”.
Specific to South Africa, SMMEs are well positioned to be a leading force in the growth of trade and industry, employing over nine million South Africans and contributing more than 60% of the national South African GDP. As a developing country looking to participate as a competitive force within the global market, the need for organic growth and the upliftment of local business emphasizes the importance of the conscious maturation of SMMEs as strategic cogs for the movement toward the greater economic and social well-being.
McKinsey & Company, in their report, “How South African SMEs can survive and thrive post COVID-19”, suggest that despite SMMEs being “the lifeblood of South Africa’s economy”, the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it a number of challenges threatening the closure of up to 60% of South African SMMEs. Of these, the lack of access to funding, shortage of financial knowledge within the sector, the struggle to gain access to required support, limited liquidity and cashflow management were the most compromising to the survival of the SMME.
The insurance industry stands at the fore in navigating balance in this erratic economic climate. Deloitte Insights, in their 2022 insurance industry outlook report, predicts accelerated growth this year with the global nonlife premium growth rising between 5 and 8% as business resumes a new normal. The report suggests vigorous attention be placed on the adaptability and growth of the skill sets of insurer employees to remain relevant within a dynamic and erratic business climate. They must be equipped to support businesses as they navigate the changed financial playing field. The insurance sector is of particular importance in aiding the reestablishment of struggling SMMEs by providing them with the tailored insurance cover essential to their needs and sustainability. The role of the Broker in this equation cannot be underestimated. The advice given by the Broker can be the difference between survival or not of an SSME in tough economic times. This speaks both to ensuring that the business has the best possible cover and that the premium is commensurate with the cover purchased.
Sharon Paterson, Infiniti Insurance CEO, stresses the need for insurance companies and brokers to develop products that take into account the needs of the SMME. The Infiniti approach favours and strengthens the innovative, progressive and evolutionary SMME sector and, through their Broker network provides the critical advice required to tailor the product to each individual SSME’s needs.
Due to the non-traditional nature of the SMME business model, the scale and variability of the risks demand strong collaboratives, continuity and progression in the relationship between the insured, the insurer and the broker. The role of the broker critical to enable growth by managing risk with foresight and expertise from the start. This is a time when the expansion and solidification of the broker/insurer partnership heightens in importance. I see the need for insurance companies to re-focus attention on prioritising personalised, bespoke cover to ensure the long-term sustainability of SMMEs.This has to be coupled with the sound advice that only a broker can give. Essentially, the livelihood of the small to medium business sector relies on the insurance industry growing in conjunction with and in support of the particular needs of the SMME client to maintain a risk-managed environment in which they have the opportunity to thrive.
A most revealing time is that of a crisis – highlighting points where growth is needed. “Rise or fall?”, is the cry of calamity. The corner stone of economic restoration in South Africa lies in the success of the SMME sector. In this mission there can only be progression. We need an insurance sector with relentless grit and resilience to create an environment in which SMMEs can reach their full potential.
To crisis, our reply; “We rise, we rise, we rise”.