This too shall pass
The insurance industry went into the COVID-19 lockdown with no holds barred. Within days almost everyone was working from home and it was business as usual, from a delivery perspective anyway.
However, if you are an even remotely extroverted person or a serial networker, you would have had some serious withdrawal symptoms because all personal contact came to an abrupt halt.
Now, I am just a border line extrovert but you could consider me a serial networker, so, even though I loved the break from commuting between Johannesburg and Cape Town, I missed the people. ZOOM or TEAMS are just not the same. One can get creative, with lunches share online or a snack parcel delivered to your client before the meeting, as some companies did with great success. However, when I received my first invitation for a live, real, person to person, event, I sent that rsvp within seconds.
The flying experience was not too much of a hassle, if you can manage wearing a mask for four hours nonstop. The most worrying part of the trip was the eeriness of vast open, rather quiet, airports and, victims of COVID-19, multiple closed shops and kiosks.
My first invitation came from the FPI, for a small gathering to celebrate the Financial Planner of the Year and Financial Planning Practice of the Year plus a few other awards. It normally can be a bit of a challenge to recognize people that I usually see only once or twice a year, but with masks and social distancing it happened a few times that I am talking to someone other than I thought for a few minutes before recognizing my error. However, all in all it was wonderful to get out there again and to share space with industry friends and colleagues. Hester van der Merwe was crowned Financial Planner of the Year 2020 and BDO Wealth Managers took the honors as FPI Financial Planning practice of the Year.
My second invitation came from CIB Insurance, who invited me to their annual broker awards. A stunning gathering, obviously with the needed COVID protocols and limited numbers, was held at The Roof in Fourways. These were the serial networkers and extroverted brokers who made sure that even 1.5 meter mandatory distancing was not too much to have great conversations. We celebrated not only the winners in the various broker categories, but we also celebrated our new found, though limited freedom to gather and enjoy the social aspect of our industry.
If there is one thing I learnt from these two trips, then it is that technology is fantastic to make us more productive, streamline processes and help us get through difficult times, but it can never replace face to face, in the flesh, human interaction. The atmosphere when people gather, the hum of conversations and experiences being shared, fills the room and sooths the sole.
People make up our industry relationships hold it together. That, will never change.