The advent of COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on life as we know it. There have been millions of cases reported worldwide, thousands of regrettable deaths and a total change in the lifestyle of entire populations emerged, in ways never envisaged. This global pandemic forced the shutdown of many businesses, causing several people to lose their jobs, albeit some temporary. This impact on businesses has had major implications for the global economy. Governments were rolling out stimulus packages, a move that will have a significant impact on national finances. In Barbados, we have not escaped the effects of this pandemic. However, amidst all the negative news, there are opportunities. Already, we have seen a number of them across the spectrum of industries, many of which are likely to exist in a post-COVID-19 environment.
The insurance industry is an interesting case to consider, as in some ways, its services are essential. Insurance is put in place to protect risks in circumstances where individuals and businesses cannot do it by themselves. Notwithstanding the crisis, people and companies need protection, a reality that becomes more evident as the hurricane season approaches.
There are technological opportunities that arise for both company and client. As a result of the forced closure of businesses, many companies moved parts of their operations online. In the industry, ICBL was first to react, and through its proactive approach, migrated its entire workforce, of over 180 people, to remote operations in record time. It took one week from the decision to its execution. Through an ecosystem of cross-functional teams across its lines of business, including a bank of telephone operators, clients and company remained connected as information was routed to designated teams, ready to assist the clients with their needs. This system passed the test of functionality and efficiency. One can imagine that going forward, an element of this structure is likely to be retained. It certainly can be implemented in other national emergencies, like in the case of a hurricane. Another aspect of this is that it allows employees who are working from home, the opportunity to achieve a more equitable, work-life balance.
Another opportunity, still in the realm of technology, refers to digital transformation. At ICBL, customers can access their accounts using online channels, a feature that offers considerable convenience for them. Since transitioning to remote operations, the company recorded a significant increase in the use of its online platform, both from people using the easyINSURE platform to get free quotations on home or motor insurance, and those who are using the client portal to manage their accounts and pay premiums conveniently. In effect, the digital transformation of many insurance companies has been enhanced because there was no other choice. When customers get a taste of how easy it is to use these systems, they normally continue to do so.
Yes, COVID -19 has ushered in new challenges for the industry, but accompanying these challenges, are many opportunities. While the solutions to these challenges may have been born out of pure necessity, many of these enhanced operations have thrust us forward into the new normal. When there is no option but to change, then change you must.
Senior Manager, Sales and Business Development