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Creativity during the pandemic

By Herminia S. Jacinto

IF there was something good that resulted from the pandemic, it must've been our ability and capacity to respond to fortuitous events like what we had gone through or, shall I say, have been going through. It didn't take very long for people to come up with solutions to serious problems we had to face. Forced to good — a favorite move in card games — we were quick to think of various ways to address problems that came with the pandemic.

This was very true of the insurance industry. The lockdowns, which virtually closed our offices, meant that servicing the needs of our clients would be greatly hampered. The companies had to install systems and procedures to continue to deliver the commitment to its policyholders. Although almost all companies were in varying stages of computerization of their business processes, these were still not enough to replace the existing procedures. Computerization went so much into full gear that before 2020 ended, the industry could sell policies, conduct examinations and briefings of its intermediaries, settle claims and deliver almost all the clients' services.

Companies reviewed their products and services to determine what more they could offer. Creativity was at its best. New products to cover both life and property were developed and offered to the buying public. Coverages were adjusted to include the loss related to Covid-19 at prices which can be afforded by the insurance buyers. But this is not a short process. There should be enough data to support the pricing vis-à-vis the cover but they had to start from scratch and make a lot of assumptions. These new products had to be approved by the Insurance Commission, which needed time to study those products as well. In the property sector, an improved or a similar business interruption cover occurring after a pandemic may have to be considered after the lockdowns halted business operations resulting in huge losses.

Issues concerning this policy provision have been referred to as ambiguous and disadvantageous to the client.

Selling insurance and collecting the premiums are now being done electronically, with the banks and other payment outlets as partners. Payment of claims, commissions to agents, salaries and benefits to employees and other expenses were being done through banks even before the pandemic happened. What we are missing is the personal interaction between the office personnel and the claimants. Since the process is done virtually, the human touch, which is very important in the claims process is missing. Not all clients are computer-savvy so they complain about submitting documents electronically. Not to worry! There is Lalamove, Grab and other delivery services, which can handle the movement of documents.

This ingenuity has carried the industry through the rough roads created by the pandemic. Insurance companies are back to "normal" operations because of digitalization. Investing in automated systems will result in long-term benefits for the companies. Servicing of clients' needs is not hampered or delayed whether the employees are in the office or working from home.

The much-awaited events in the industry are the various conferences held either here or abroad, mostly in the insurance centers in the world like London, Germany and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries. Rewards to qualified producers or intermediaries are trips to various interesting places all over the world. Sadly, these events have been put on hold because of the pandemic although some conferences have been held virtually. The organizers simulate the real conference with all the features like a conference hall, breakout sessions, plenary meetings, among others, but these still cannot achieve the main purpose of these conferences. We miss the face-to-face encounters and meetings among business partners and friends. We miss the camaraderie, which is so present in these events. Awarding ceremonies are "dress-up" events for the producers, especially the ladies. There is a lot of joy receiving the award in an elegant ballroom of a five-star hotel and listening to the thunderous applause from their friends and colleagues.

The industry now looks forward to 2022 with great optimism. We know more now than what we knew in 2019 and the pre-pandemic years. We are better insurance providers and practitioners after two years of hard work.

I will not say we are back, because we never left!


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