IIG News

Professional Standards in the face of Global Chaos: IIG

The third decade of the twenty first century is proving to be every bit as challenging as anything we have seen in our lifetimes. Recovering from a deadly pandemic, at the same time as we are facing existential threats to the very planet we call home, is indeed sobering. The inter-connectedness of the global economy means that no nation can escape its consequences. If we are to survive to the next century, we all need to work together in recognition of our common humanity and develop common agendas for action. We do indeed live in interesting times. Life today is complicated at all levels of society, and seeking a way to a sustainable tomorrow is even more complex. Against such a background, it is understandable that emotional distress and anxiety has become commonplace. There are no easy solutions; no quick fixes to grab on to. History no longer seems to offer the lessons it once did. The past seems not to point to reliable future outcomes.
The immediate human and economic cost of COVID-19 is severe that will take many years to overcome. Globally, the pandemic has set back much progress on the reduction of poverty and disparities in healthcare, education, financial stability and technology. Further weakening of social cohesion and global cooperation is likely as a result. The ramifications—in the form of social unrest, political fragmentation and geopolitical tensions—will shape the effectiveness of our responses to the other key threats of the decade: cybercrime, regional conflict and, most notably, climate change. However the myriad of challenges is no reason to become despondent or hopeless. Given the extreme nature and scale of the threats we face, there is a clear need for all members of society to play a positive role to develop and nurture the changes we need to bring about. Now more than ever, we must, as individuals, take up the responsibility to put our collective shoulder to the wheel and to quite literally become the change we need to be. The Insurance Industry lies at the heart of the modern day economy. For South Africa with its struggling and sluggish economy, we need an especially well-regulated and optimally capitalised insurance market sector run by competent and well trained professionals class to be effective. It is our job to identify, evaluate and quantify risk in all its guises so that it may be better understood, mitigated, managed or transferred appropriately. Our people resources comprise a veritable quilt of scientists, technicians, technologists and other professionals across all human endeavours to tease out, interpret and identify the risk factors that require our attention. Never has it been more important that the skills we harness in our industry are of the highest quality. The people we employ, confer and consult with must be at the highest levels of education and
expertise. This is the big challenge for our sector. The IISA (and by inference the IIG) has an undoubted responsibility as a custodian of professional standards in our industry to ensure that its membership live up to its codes of professional standards and ethics. This aspect potentially needs to be more appropriately enforced if necessary. CPD points is a relevant way to ensure that standards are maintained but we must ensure that the ideal of continuous professional development is enshrined in our programs. South Africa is the most sophisticated economy on our continent and is closely tied in to the World economy. Through the lived experience of our many challenges, we also have many lessons to teach the world and that bring home the inter-connectedness of societal issues. South Africans having long had to deal with economic and social migrants filtering into our society through porous borders. This is one example that societies in Europe and the US can learn from us to cope with legal and illegal immigration. Inflation and currency exchange rate challenges, new to so much of the advanced world, have been a standard feature of our economic life for many decades. Indeed, we have been managing political dislocation and poor political leadership since at least the last decade.
This is not to say we should not strive to do things better ourselves. The debacle that is Eskom is an example of our own naiveté and mistakes as a young democracy. But, like all societies, it is only through the harnessing of our people talent that we can improve. This is the critical lesson of social diversity in action. Our economic and social realities simply force us to be holistic in our approach to our challenges. We cannot afford that anyone is left behind. In particular, we must ensure that our youth, already under severe distress, have adequate pathways to future opportunities. They must not lose faith in the existing socio-economic and political institutions.
So, it is vital that technical and support staff in our organisations are academically and practically qualified, submitting to the highest standards of ethical behaviour and professional standards at all times. The confluence of local and global challenges demand that our professional staff understand their role as agents for change. Whether we are dealing with the challenges of climate, infrastructure, or supply chain disruption; these are little different whether we are located in Soweto or New York. Education must be the highest priority for the Industry. Multiskilling is the new global mantra. To be successful, we need much more proactive interaction between industry bodies and government agencies. Industry voices need to be louder and the consultations must focus on common objectives, inclusive of social goals. Our businesses have shared responsibilities for the needs of our stakeholders and the communities in which they live. The very nature of ESG reporting standards mean that no single entity owns the space. Business has a vital role to play, together with government agencies, to
nurture social cohesion and ensure our societies remain viable and intact through a dynamic interplay that leads to visible improvement in the quality of our existence. Society demands that we develop a more sophisticated understanding of the challenges that face us locally, but also globally. In rededicating ourselves to uphold our professional and industry standards in our chosen field we can make a much needed difference in the quality of service delivery to our communities on a more holistic basis. In an industry that employs more than 300,000 people in South Africa, the statistic of having fewer than 1,0% individuals who are professionally qualified should be an anathema. Sadly our industry is overwhelmingly staffed by inadequately qualified people with all the negative consequences that carries. This must change and we all have an individual responsibility to ensure that it does.

Article written by: MA Samie Executive Chairman: Charter Risk Underwriting Managers