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OPINION: Are Insurers COVID-19 Ready?

The world has suddenly woken up to the fact that our greatest strength – our interconnectedness is currently working against us. As of 15th April 2020, the number of confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus worldwide was approaching the 2 million mark and death toll tops 120,000.

Worldwide, the resources to combat this pandemic are limited; medical personnel, Personal Protective Equipment known as PPE, ventilators and testing kits. In Uganda, the number of reported cases is 55 and are likely to rise over the coming days.

As we continue to grapple with the effects and impact of this pandemic, the insurance industry needs to step up and provide the backbone for businesses and individuals to thrive.

With more than three quarters of the world currently on lockdown, organizations are being forced to leverage technology for remote working as well as cloud computing. The Cloud has suddenly become just another busy day at the virtual office with companies such as Microsoft reporting a 775% spike in cloud services demand from COVID-19. We should also see spikes in the demand for services like cyber insurance at the same time.

Now, more than ever, insurance companies need to adapt to these dynamics to better serve their customers, for example, by updating systems to deal with the barrage of claims and inquiries for remote working; collaborating with Fintechs and banks to disperse claims on time during this period of limitations in movement and physical access to services.

While traditional brick and mortar insurance companies still use channels like agent-based sales teams and banks, the current situation has shown that companies need to re-think product development, design and distribution. They may consider, for example, enhancing their customer relationship management (CRM) systems to go beyond the standard reporting and sales management to understand their customers, develop more relevant products and distribute through new and more innovative channels.

In addition to using these systems, companies that have been slow to embrace the power of digital tools such as social media, email and web marketing need to do so immediately. While social distancing is a very real precaution that we are all taking, the amount of time being spent online has increased.

How might the insurance industry present itself as responsive and in tune with what is going on now?

Global epidemics and outbreaks such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), H1N1 flu and Ebola are becoming more rampant and repetitive with increasing global movement. Therefore, insurers will need to consider updating policies and innovating products to account for future pandemics.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of this article is Evelyn Atim, InsurTech Lab Lead at The Innovation Village.

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