“The world is not prepared,” warned a September 2019 report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), co-convened by the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO). “For too long, we have allowed a cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to pandemics: we ramp up efforts when there is a serious threat, then quickly forget about them when the threat subsides. It is well past time to act.”
Now, six months later, the reality of a pandemic is sweeping across the globe in the form of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This massive contagion impacts every family, community, and economy worldwide. We are in unprecedented times with countries on lockdown, borders closed, and every facet of society being rapidly affected to a degree never expected by authorities, social and medical services, and business ecosystems.
For the insurance industry, Reuters identifies the prevailing challenge in this way: “global insurers are waking up to the prospect of a double whammy – a sharp rise in payouts at a time of big investment losses.”
As we all come to grips with this crisis and invoke business continuity programs, there is much to consider when it comes to insurance operations — both for clients and stakeholders, as well as for internal functions.
- People – Many businesses have some or all employees working from home, so does every employee have the right equipment and support to work remotely? Are the right channels set up for communication among a virtual workforce? Many people don’t typically work from home, and not everyone is versed in how best to be well-connected (in every sense) and productive.
- Process – Are current processes working with a predominantly remote workforce? Are the structures and access in place with suppliers, partners, and clients? Is everyone able to access essential information remotely? Is company and client or stakeholder data secure in much more dispersed network and cloud environments?
- Technology – Are the right technologies in place for internal teams and external stakeholders? Are all constituents able to meet the sudden and extended demands placed on IT systems and teams?
The readiness list goes on and on, and we have not even begun to consider and address myriad issues and downstream challenges related to the markets we serve. In any case, no matter how prepared we assume we are, times like this are unprecedented — where business and societal infrastructures, (not to mention our communities and personal lives), are vastly disrupted and fluctuating daily. Initiatives by analyst organizations is just one example of coping and information-sharing mechanisms in the industry: Novarica is holding weekly town halls on insurance strategy and tactics. Celent has a website resource page, in conjunction with Oliver Wyman and Marsh & McLennan, to provide information and updates to the industry.
The current situation accentuates the need to be thoughtful and measured in our industry’s business continuity actions. It also emphasizes how much we all rely on each other, in both business and personal interrelationships. And, it’s always important to remember that as responsible citizens in turbulent times, we must all consider the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable among us.
While it’s natural to feel doom and gloom in present times, here’s a beam of light. In the book “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think,” Hans Rosling provides some uplifting comparative information about human developments. One recurring theme in Rosling’s analysis is the notion that the world is getting better. Among the proof points:
- The average life expectancy today is 72 years; as recently as 1950 it was 48 years, and in 1900 it was 31 years
- More than 80 percent of people across the globe now have access to electricity
- In the last 100 years, the number of worldwide deaths from natural disasters has decreased by 50 percent
Those milestones and many more have occurred steadily, and with a focus on incremental development and change, as humanity strives to innovate and advance.
While the damage and sacrifice will be significant, our world will turn the corner and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Once our communities begin to recover, then the insurance industry too must take the time to review lessons learned, prepare better for unforeseen events, and re-evaluate the safeguarding of our people, operational resilience, and business continuity methods — so we can be as prepared as possible to serve the needs of policyholders and society.
At Xceedance, we believe the planet and the insurance industry will emerge stronger than ever after this global health emergency. We echo the perspective in a recent message from SMA, which emphasizes the fortitude of the insurance industry: “Insurance is a financially strong, resilient industry. We serve as a safety net for society, mitigating risks for all types of disasters – man-made or natural. This is who we are and what we do. And this is our moment of truth.”
Meanwhile, in compliance with health and hygiene guidelines from international and local authorities, and in accordance with Xceedance business continuity procedures, our company’s key priorities are the safety and wellbeing of our teams, and the continuation of full support and services for our clients worldwide.
Amit Tiwari is chief technology officer at Xceedance.