THE FULCRUM GROUP Q&A:
WITH CHARLENE Van Doorn

- Managing Director Insurance Gateway

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Q: Tell us a little about yourself, and how you became a journalist specialising in insurance.

A: Insurance Gateway was founded by Michael E. Stoker in 2005. Originally established as an independent, online, insurance and financial services information portal. When Michael sadly passed away, I was committed to continuing his work. With the continued support from all our clients, we are growing rapidly with almost 3 million hits per month. Being part of a family that has worked in the insurance industry for the last 28 years, I found the foundations and inner workings intriguing and insightful. Recently completing my Marketing Diploma, I find myself well equipped to bring the Insurance Gateway into the future.

Q: Similarly, please give us the rundown on your title. What do you cover, who is your audience, how can they access your content and why should they consume it?

A: As Managing Director of Insurance Gateway from the start have found our online portal to not only provide up-to-date news and events, but the Gateway also offers an extensive directory for all companies working with or within the financial services industry. Our Knowledge Base and Glossary pages provide a vast amount of information to consumers and scholars. Our audience includes Financial Service Providers as well as consumers.

Q: Covid-19 knocked the insurance industry hard in 2020 – but it was not the only big thing to happen. What were the biggest impacts you observed, locally and globally?

A: I personally think that Allianz said it best in their industry address last year when they stated, “no one had any idea what was about to happen when the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2019.  Just like any other year 2020 had begun, full of hopes and cheer”.

They go on to say that if “the insurance industry were a person; it would reflect the feelings of the world population”.   The article was by Lorenz Weimann Allianz SE.

From our perspective, global premium shrinkage was expected as economic activity slowed in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. Although I don’t think that anyone could have accurately predicted all that transpired as a result.

From business interruption sagas, to accelerated digitalization, 2020 was certainly a busy year.

To top everything; Insurance industry losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters globally amounted to USD 83 billion in 2020, according to Swiss Re Institute’s preliminary sigma estimates. Indicating that 2020 was at least the fifth-costliest year for the industry, globally since 1970.

Q: What are the most exciting developments – business, technological, regulatory, product or otherwise – that you see happening in insurance in 2021?

A: With the advent of cutting-edge technologies, various product innovations, and the acceleration of digitalization brought about by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

We believe that 2021 will continue and possibly become a record-breaker in terms of digital disruption. 

We have already seen several ground-breaking emerging technologies that are set to make an appearance in 2021 and we are very much looking forward to the synergy, “when product innovation meets technology”.

In our backyard, this is also where we have invested our efforts. For instance, all of our Professional members now receive a completely cost-free virtual office which includes, instant online video conferencing, virtual assistant, online pdf signing. The initiative formed part of our efforts to assist our members to connect with technology and customers in a changing landscape.

Q: Every industry has its movers and shakers, disruptors and game-changers. Who or what do you think are the “people/developments” to watch in the South African insurance industry?

A: There has been so much that has happened in recent times, especially in terms of product innovation and technology. We have had the spotlight on Insurtech start-ups like Naked and Pineapple for quite some time now and I believe that companies like these will continue to be a hot topic going forward.

With that said I also believe that we can confidently predict that the Top 5 trending technologies for 2021 will almost certainly include:

  • Predictive Analytics
  • Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots
  • Machine Learning
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Telematics

Digital disruption has had an undeniable fascinating effect on the industry, and it might come as somewhat of a surprise when we say that our focus in 2021 is going to be on the top PAS vendors such a Cardinal, Genesis, and Tial Technologies.

The ever-increasing demand for cutting-edge technologies coupled with integrated compliance solutions within the intermediary sector is bound to initiate some serious movement.

Q: What do you think are the best things about the insurance industry, and what could be done better?

A: At the top of my list, I would have to say the generosity, corporate social responsibility, and integrity displayed by all major stakeholders.

Another aspect is also how the industry is embracing rapidly advancing technology.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enable the creation of offerings as they integrate data from multiple sources. A deeper understanding of customer behaviours has led to more accurate risk assessments, personalised premiums, and value on a sustainable basis for better customer experience and brand loyalty, plus reduced false claims.

Q: All journalists get to cover stories that are unforgettable because they’re important, shocking, tragic or funny. Briefly, what is your favourite insurance story ever?

A: In the short time, I have been actively working with the industry I have read many articles that still linger in my mind. Specifically, while answering these questions an article written by Indwe comes to mind “Indwe embraces drone technology to help improve risk management and optimise insurance.”

If we all embrace new technology and development, we create new opportunities.

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