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Leading in a sea of uncertainty

Posted on 2 Sep 2020

Thousands of businesses have had to settle into operating in a ‘new normal’ after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the decision to enforce a national lockdown. This environment brings new needs and concerns for clients, employees and business owners. It’s important to identify and anticipate these needs and proactively manage them.

Your clients and employees are the key stakeholders in your business. Clients are the source of your new and ongoing income, while employees are often the glue that keeps clients connected to the business daily. As clients and employees are key to your business’ profitability, it’s important to know where they are currently and what they are feeling.

So how do you identify new needs or concerns your clients or employees may have and lead your business in this sea of uncertainty? How can you send a positive message that you are here to help them get through this time? Can you let them know you are adjusting and putting actions in place to ensure your business prevails? How do you communicate things will improve because new skills are being learnt and their interests remain at the heart of your business?

Feedback surveys

A survey is a useful tool to gain direct insight into people’s current needs and concerns. Your response to the feedback you receive should translate into a value-adding experience for the group surveyed.

Feedback from clients should help you to get them through this difficult time. It should also contribute to client loyalty and retention, as well as provide useful management information for you to adapt your business plan.

You are welcome to download our example client survey, tailor it to suit your situation and circumstances, and send it out by e-mail. Or you could use it during a client review or a general ‘check in’ phone call. Consider starting this exercise with 20 clients, or the top 20% of your client base.

As the happiness of employees has an 89% impact on their productivity, it may be worthwhile to perform a similar survey exercise with your staff. They are often the direct communication channel with clients and can provide valuable insight into daily business operations. They may also want a platform to be heard and to know you support them as they face their own concerns during this time. A short survey will give you this insight and help you to make more informed strategic business decisions. Click to download our example employees survey, which you can also tailor for your use.

Product supplier actions

Once you understand clients’ immediate needs and concerns, it is important to address these. Several product suppliers have adapted their business processes to continue to provide administrative and product support during the lockdown period. To be aware of all their changes and how these could possibly meet clients’ needs, contact the product suppliers you regularly deal with and ask for the specific details.

Some key changes to be aware of are:

  1. Adjustments to rules and procedures in response to lockdown regarding the documentation required from clients for life cover without medical evidence or deferred medical evidence. For example, product suppliers could continue to offer ‘limited underwriting’ or ‘simplified underwriting’ on risk cover to provide life cover protection for clients.
  2. Premium payment relief for a few months. Certain insurers are allowing premium relief for a few months, and the FSCA Communication 19 of 2020 provides exemptions to certain insurers that wish to offer premium relief to policyholders in good standing.

As premium relief impacts intermediary commissions, the FSCA has also provided exemptions relating to the associated commission. This is important information if you offer long and short-term insurance, particularly where the insurers you are dealing with offer premium relief, subject to the conditions set out in the notice. Make sure you understand the conditions, as it may impact your advice to clients.

  1. Revival of life cover without a declaration of health.
  2. Adjusted or added new exclusions and charges to policies, such as the addition of a COVID-19 exclusion on new risk contracts. Here is an example of such a change:

Travel and territorial:

“… will not pay a claim resulting from the COVID-19 infection, symptoms or complications, where the diagnosis of the COVID-19 infection was made while travelling outside the borders of South Africa, or within 30 days of your return to South Africa. Where the diagnosis of the COVID-19 infection has been made 30 days or more after your return to South Africa, the claim will be considered on its merit.” 

 Please be aware of any exclusions that could negatively impact a client, should any replacements be made.

Adapting your business

These changes also raise an opportunity to discuss with clients the importance of retaining their cover and the types of protection it provides. Our example client survey could be used as a conversation starter. Consider your segmentation model and start with the top 20% of clients, from which 80% of your profit is obtained.

Your employees should also be made aware of the changes product suppliers have made, and your procedures should be brought in line with the adjustments. The example employee survey could also test your staff’s product knowledge, identify gaps and measure implementation progress.

Regardless of any changes made or advice rendered, you are still responsible for proving the authenticity and/or accuracy of information obtained from clients. Be sure to keep appropriate records of verbal and written communications regarding any financial advice rendered to clients.

Finally, in light of all the recent changes, ask yourself what you are doing differently now. What will you continue to do to ensure your business evolves? Then update your strategies and action plans accordingly. Your strategies and action plans should be flexible enough to adapt in response to major changes and trends, such as a pandemic.

Taking actions such as these to meet your stakeholders’ needs demonstrates your ongoing commitment and a solid client value proposition. By staying in touch with clients and employees, they will feel more secure and you will be able to successfully steer your business through these unprecedented times.

If you would like assistance with setting out a detailed action plan or taking stock of your business’ current position in the market under the ‘new normal’, register for our How to create a Business Plan that works webinar or contact the nearest Masthead Regional Office.


A national supplier of risk management services to independent financial advisors and other licensed financial service providers (FSPs). Established in 2004, we help our clients overcome their risk management challenges so they can grow and thrive in an increasingly regulated industry. Providing professional guidance and practical support, our team of specialists is passionately committed to delivering tangible solutions.

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