By: Anton Ossip, CEO, Discovery Insure
Since the first COVID 19 case was reported in South Africa, life for South Africans has changed drastically. The economy has been significantly impacted and this will be felt for the foreseeable future. Short-term insurers face the risk of reduced affordability for their clients, potential lapses, and those insurers with exposure to the stock market will be impacted by volatile earnings and solvency levels.
For me the 3 key leadership lessons that have come through clearly during this time have been:
• The need to remain true to our core purpose
• Innovation and the increased relevance of our shared value model
• The importance of communication while embracing new technology
A focus on core purpose
The commitment to our clients and the need to assist them in this time comes from our core purpose, to make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives. This started with ensuring the well being of our staff.
A week before the President announced the initial 21 day national lockdown, Discovery had already started implementing a work from home policy to ensure the safety of our staff. Staff without cars who needed to be at the office were provided with rental cars to prevent them using public transport. We provided the rest of the team with the equipment to allow for full functionality while working from home, ensuring that 93% of our staff could operate seamlessly from home.
This has enabled us to protect our employees while ensuring that the quality of services delivered to our clients and financial advisers continue to be of the highest quality.
Innovation to help clients through our Shared-value Insurance model
Innovation is part of Discovery’s DNA and this year is no different. Within weeks of the commencement of the national lockdown, in April 2020, we launched a number of innovations to ensure our product offering, designed to encourage better driving, would remain relevant in an environment of little to no driving. By using three-month averages of fuel purchases, we guaranteed to our clients that their fuel cash backs would remain payable during April.
The pandemic led to many clients’ facing affordability challenges and as a result we provided mechanisms to assist clients in paying their premiums, including using their future fuel cashbacks to fund April and May premiums, and allowing them to use balances held in their Insure Funder Accounts (IFA). For Commercial clients, so significantly affected by the lockdown, we allowed them to defer their premiums and pay them off over six months.
Innovation culminated in our virtual Discovery Day launch in May, a perfect manifestation of who we are at our best. We launched a world-first benefit – the “Dynamic Distance Cashback” – whereby for the entire future period of lockdown (regardless of how many months or years it takes) we will provide a cashback benefit of 15-25% for clients driving less than 500km as people adjust to a change in their working habits. This is a true reflection of shared value as we compensate our clients for their lower risk.
Communication during this time
The need to be visible and ensure regular communication has never been as relevant as it is now and through the use of technologies such as MS Teams and Zoom, our employee and adviser-base has been kept up to date with constant developments. Weekly webinars with advisers and continual communication with staff through daily team “stand-ups”, weekly leadership insight webinars and periodic “All staff” Zooms, we have been able to keep people together.
We are all going through the most challenging time in our lives and it is through this adversity that we need to grow, we need to innovate and as leaders provide hope for a better future.
I am convinced through the lessons learnt over the past few months, we will continue to fulfil our core purpose for our clients, our staff and for society.