IIG News

IIG Insights: A COVID-19 Induced Revolution, Our Roles as Architects

Darryl Grater, President of IIG, welcomed everyone and touched on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of South Africa going into Level 1 and reminded everyone to continue to practice safety and take all precautionary measures during this time. He thanked Bryte for sponsoring this webinar. Darryl also encourage the attendees to pay a visit to IIG’s social pages and make comments using the hashtag, #InsuringTomorrow.

The three speakers were introduced:

Sedick Isaacs: is the Head of Business Support Services at Bryte Insurance and joined the company in June 2012, when it was still known as Zurich Insurance Company. Sedick has been in the insurance industry for 36 years and in 2009 he was appointed as Executive General Manager for Claims.

Zain Hoosen: is a Senior Product Technical Underwriting Specialist in Bryte’s Engineering team, where he provides expert underwriting, broker, governance and risk management support across the suite of Engineering Insurance products

Liza Morris: is Bryte’s Regional Manager in Western Cape and the current President of the Insurance Institute of the Western Cape (IIWC). She is an experienced professional with more than 26 years in the insurance industry, having spent 18 years in the Claim’s arena and eight years in the Sales and Distribution space.

Sedick opened the discussion by introducing the topic and emphasised that the COVID-19 revolution has been induced as it was completely unexpected.

The unexpected entry into an unusual world of staying at home, tested everyone’s resolve, resilience and strength. “As an architect one designs for the present, with an awareness of the past for a future which is essentially unknown…” quote by Norman Foster.

A Covid induced revolution has certain characteristics that will require architects who are able to analyse the future post-Covid in order to design an effective strategy for the future. Human nature and human beings are agile and quite resilient to change.

Liza then went on to comment that human beings, although highly complex, prefer comfort as we are mainly creatures of habit. People in general went from their usual morning routines on the way to their places of work and thereafter the afternoon routines when back at home with weekends mainly being for R&R. The extraordinary event in March changed all of this and we suddenly learned about restrictions, masks and social distancing and yet we remain resilient and are adaptable. Now that we are in level 1, everyone seems to be celebrating. Although Level 1 brings us closer to normality, we need to know what is this new normal and is it still relevant. This impacts on a rapid change in risk as well as human behaviour.

Zain commented on how interesting it is that traditional based working has been turned on its head, and we suddenly had to experience an unexpected adaptation. This forced businesses to build trusted relationships and empower their staff accordingly as well as ensuring they have efficient technologies. Zain encouraged attendees to participate in a quick poll on how to stabilise during a pandemic and becoming risk ready. Many questions have been asked with very few answers available, during this unprecedented time with chaos at every level. Businesses need to be prepared for the known and unknown.

Sedick further noted that nobody had ever imagined the current situation we are all in now. Businesses, although are mostly sustainable, but not anticipating disasters and not being prepared, has resulted in closure and unemployment for many. We are now compelled to move forward and face challenges and build stronger businesses. There are advantages and opportunities that uncertainty often offers.

Liza added that in prepping ourselves, we need to analyse new risks and exposures. One’s biggest exposure is a business workforce. Customers have been affected due to many businesses operating with a skeleton staff. Generally, there seems to be a skills shortage but are we prepping staff with the relevant skills set? Are we prepared if there is another pandemic? Do we understand exposure and how to minimise them? Many people are currently dealing with mental stress and anxiety and also losing loved ones due to an alien disease and these people are still expected to show up at work and be fully present and functional. Floods and rains have been at a catastrophic level around the world resulting in a loss of power and inevitably digital connectivity. South Africa has been experiencing loadshedding for over a decade and older buildings cannot sustain the power surges resulting in destructive fires. More people are also installing generators which use petrol, a flammable risk which further increases risk and exposures.

Zain then added that with a reduced capacity in the workforce, this can result in reduced attention to checks & balances. Risks can go unnoticed due to complacency. An example being the Beirut explosion which was a result of the lack of precautions and ineffective storage practices. A sanitizer factory explosion in India also happen due to similar negligence. The Australian fires cost large losses in human and animal life. Vagrants & homeless people have turned construction sites into their homes creating illegal fires to keep warm and to cook food.

Cyber risk has increased with remote working. South Africans have seen exposure due to hacked cyber information. R40 million has been lost due to exposure but globally there has been approximately 5 trillion dollars in loss.

Business resilience strategies:

  • Reassess with urgency
  • Robust strategy – identifying risk, partnerships etc.
  • Honesty

Customers have pivoted and changed their business operations due to these unforeseen circumstances which insurers aren’t always aware of. For example, some businesses have gone from construction into manufacturing PPE materials. Brokers need to keep in touch with clients and reassess risks and work closely with specialists. Business resilience strategies need to occur in collaboration with partners.

Risk readiness involves stress testing, e.g. scenario planning to address gaps for improvement. Responsiveness is dependent on how we plan and prepare by being vigilant, being prepared and timeous execution.

Have businesses considered a second wave of a possible pandemic? Are response times affected by workforce changes?

We must empower our workforce of the future that challenges thinking, have levels of trust and eliminate unnecessary processes. We also need to clear the path of obstacles for teams taking processes forward to make easy and decisive decisions. We should not still be experiencing hierarchical limitations.

Businesses and societies experience a difficult balancing act as they need to be dextrous in enabling change with sustainable outcomes.

People are now facing a general life balance and there has been certain advantages with fewer people being sick with the common cold as there’s been an increase in good hygiene practices. People have become more compassionate and generous as well,  reaching out and helping the less privileged. Even competitors are collaborating where restaurants came together and shared a kitchen to keep overheads low. Brokers and Insurers need to reassess risks due to these unusual collaborations. People now shop online a lot more and are also able to work from home, which has been a great benefit to family life. Covid has forced people to change the way they work.

South Africa is a unique society and community whereby we find solutions readily and are able to do unique things in difficult circumstance. Profitability has taken a backseat and emphasis has been more on humanity surviving and succeeding together.

Ubuntu & “Gees” describe South African culture. Businesses need to test new approaches and be outward looking and redefine their approach for relevance and overall value proposition. They need to develop products to meet customer needs and not dictate this need. Businesses are acting on purpose and intent which is very encouraging which makes innovation imperative in our business. SA is a resilient society and we will stand together as our spirit thrives under monumental challenges.

A short video was played demonstrating the sacrifices South Africans have endured but have always survived.

Sedick concluded the session and thanked the IIG and hoped the insights shared will assist in determining how we become architects of the future.

The Q&A followed with a common theme being that remote working needs to be normalised. We need to leverage technology to be efficient as this should assist to cut down costs.

Darryl Grater thanked Bryte as well as the speakers and closed session.

By: Asiya Swaleh