Thokozile Mahlangu is the Chief Executive Officer at the Insurance Institute of South Africa (IISA)
“What a difference a year makes,” says the opening sentence of a report by international auditing and advisory firm Deloitte, published in December 2020.
The report focuses on how the insurance sector might look like in 2021 after canvassing opinions from 200 global insurance leaders.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic lockdowns was felt across nearly all sectors, with the possible exception of the technology sector.
Indeed Infosys, considered a leading technology partner by many insurance companies, reported that of the 100 global insurers who responded to their survey, more than 60 percent said upgrading their technology systems was an opportunity rather than a crisis.
Deloitte’s report indicates that non life insurers in the developed world are likely to see a flat financial performance during 2021, but the sector might rebound – carried mostly by the developing world.
Of course, it is difficult to see how this predicted state of affairs could materialise in a country such as South Africa.
For many years South Africa has struggled to create employment, even during times when the country’s gross domestic product was growing steadily, it was famously called “SA’s jobless growth”.
When Covid-19 hit South Africa, many people were retrenched by corporate SA. Unemployment went as high as 35 percent, and the jobs bloodletting has not yet stopped.
These challenges facing the industry and society at large necessitated a need to reposition the Institute. Management together with the Board of directors reviewed the strategic direction of the Institute and reviewed its purpose to ‘elevate the credibility of the insurance profession’ and reviewed its vision: ‘To be the leading professional body in insurance bringing prestige to the profession’
The reviewed purpose and vision is underpinned by a compelling service offering ‘accredit insurance professionals and provides programmes for skills development in the insurance industry’. The IISA strategy aims to contribute towards mitigating risks facing the industry in relation to developing relevant and required skills to take the industry to another level.
Therefore, the strategic focus going forward is on ensuring the Institute is sustainable and relevant to the industry and members. This will be done through developing and enhancing collaborative relationships, retention of Professional members & Corporate Partners as well as exploring alternative income streams.
Furthermore, the Institute will ensure social relevance and inclusivity through prudent procurement, enterprise & supplier development, and socio-economic initiatives.
The new way of doing things is a double-edged sword for organisations, for IISA this requires delivering skills development programmes in a manner that supports the new way of doing business as well as optimisation of technology.
Through the support of various corporate partners and other strategic partners, in 2020 we delivered over 70 training programmes virtually and reached over 3000 insurance practitioners.
Furthermore, we launched the eLearning Platform which provides content that can be consumed at any point in time. The said content includes a recording of past conference videos as well as recordings of the online sessions. We will continue to explore other platforms and means of delivering content.
Despite the challenging times, we launched a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) which is an alternative way of accessing the professional designations. The RPL will increase access to the designations as well as diversify the member demographics in terms of age, gender and race.
The use of technology-enabled us to successfully deliver an executive development programme as well as an insurance director development programme which was planned to be hosted face to face.
We had to respond rapidly and appropriately to ensure that the industry can access content that adds to their skills development and also provide a way of remaining connected albeit in a new normal.
It is no doubt that we will have to continue to improve the skills development programmes we deliver to the industry to ensure that there is a pool of skilled individuals that will be ready for the future trends facing the industry.
We look forward to hosting the African Insurance Exchange 2021 together with our conference partner SAIA and FIA who is a content contributor. The theme for the conference is Reimagined to Reconnect. We have reimagined our world in order to reconnect as an industry, community and as a people, albeit in a unique convergence.