Industry experts weigh in on STI’s digital revolution

The migration from traditional forms of operations and engagement to a digital-first reality within the Short-Term Insurance (STI) space is not just critical for organisations with a future-fit mindset. Instead, embracing a digitally infused operating environment also opens new avenues for industry innovation and agility.

Corporate Athletes who have blazed trails within South Africa’s Short-Term Insurance industry, and who are mentoring young tech experts in the IST Graduate Programme 2021, a pioneering education initiative powered by The Graduate Institute of Financial Sciences (GIFS), the Insurance Institute of Gauteng (IIG) and SASRIA, have weighed in on the pressing issue of fast-tracking the industry’s digital makeover.

“Technology is disruptive in and of itself. Companies can either embrace the disruption and incorporate technology into their business strategy or choose to remain stagnant and become irrelevant,” says Vidhu Maharaj, Divisional Manager: Business Architecture at Discovery Insure. “The pandemic has accelerated technology adoption, so the industry needs to relook its products and services to ensure digital sustainability.”

For Christelle Colman, Managing Director at Elite Risk, and one three Corporate Athletes in the IST Graduate Programme, tech advancement is critical for ramping up customer service. “We all know that insurance is a grudge purchase; people really don’t like dealing with insurance companies and often that’s justified. It’s difficult to get hold of us, and it’s difficult to communicate with us. I think the better we get at using digital tools across the value chain, the more people will like working with us for help with the grudge purchase issue.”

Fellow Corporate Athlete, Micky Maharaj, the Chief Operating Officer at OUTsurance Shared Services and, agrees that while change is critical, digital transformation must primarily benefit the end-user. “The current trends show that Short-Term Insurance on personal assets is becoming a commodity where product offerings and service expectations are similar. Regulation and consumerism are driving this movement. The advances in technology in this space are enabling this movement. Ease of use and benefit to user should remain at the forefront of adoption of technology. The benefit to business should be derived from client satisfaction which should lead to customer loyalty, reduced acquisition and maintenance costs.”

This sentiment is echoed by the third Corporate Athlete in the programme: Simon Colman, Business Head of Digital and Financial lines at SHA Risk Specialists within the specialist business unit at Santam. “We need to have ease of use, that great customer experience that people have outside of the industry. So, if we can start focusing on that right now, we can start building tech that makes for a great customer experience and of course delivers an awesome service.”

While enhancing customer engagement and experience are two obvious spin-offs, Christopher Appanah, Litigation and CVU Manager, Bryte Insurance Company, points out that accelerating digitisation will also introduce boundless opportunities for innovation. “The STI industry will definitely see a shift toward competitive, exciting, customer-centric and value driven products. Insurance is set to accelerate economic transformation and financial inclusion by reaching markets that it hasn’t yet penetrated in SA. It is definitely an exciting and disruptive time for the industry.” Appanah is among the specialist subject matter experts who are sharing their insider knowledge with IST Graduate Programme participants.

Gerald van Wyk, Head of Strategic Business Development at Santam draws attention to the changes in customer behaviour in favour more digitized experiences, noting that STI organisations are well-positioned to leverage technology to innovatively pivot their business. “Our industry has always been one that is centred around data and partnerships, and I believe this will be the foundation on which we can innovate and add significant value to our customers. Technology will make insurance tangible by delivering on more than just insurance through the use of ecosystems and applications to provide clients with ease of interactions, rewards for being loyal and convenient ways to buy or manage their insurance needs.”

The IST Graduate Programme 2021 is the first of its kind education initiative in Africa. It aims to fast-track digital conversion to bring the Short-Term Insurance space in line with the seismic digital shifts taking place around the world to improve customer experience and engagement. STI corporate leaders and subject matter specialists are guiding 25 IST graduates, recently employed in the Financial Services Sector, helping them understand the ins and outs of the industry so they can quickly effect significant digital change.

The programme kicked off in May and will end in December this year.

18 August 2021