By: Hollard Insurance Group
The Hollard Insurance Group, South Africa’s largest privately owned insurance group, reported that it has paid out the highest death benefit claims in its 41-year history in the period since March 2020. Hollard has reported that just over R3.6 billion in death benefit claims were made between April 2020 and January 2021, significantly higher than expected.
Hollard has conceded that the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed significantly to the increased mortality rate.
According to the most recent figures released by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on 2 March 2021, a cumulative total of 1 514 815 Covid-19 cases and 49 667 deaths have been reported as “Covid-19 related” deaths.
“The spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has resulted in loss of life across the globe that is unprecedented in recent times. Thousands of families have lost their loved ones and millions of people have lost their livelihoods, resulting from the pandemic and the consequent economic fallout. Though human lives cannot be replaced, insurance has provided some relief. Covid-19 has highlighted the cushioning impact of insurance, and its ability to enable families to weather the financial turmoil and meet their financial obligations in challenging times,” says Besa Ruele, CEO of Hollard Life Solutions.
Following the imposition of the nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing further transmission of the virus, the latest Statistics South Africa figures released in Q3 of 2020 shows that the number of unemployed people increased by 2.2 million, increasing the unemployment rate to 43.1%.
“We live in a time where sudden, unexpected changes in a consumer’s financial position are becoming a way of life. Having insurance to cover unexpected eventualities such as funeral costs or the loss of income due to critical illness is crucial in ensuring that people remain financially resilient in uncertain times,” adds Ruele.
She explains that, like the rest of the industry, Hollard is acutely aware of how Covid-19 has changed the operating environment and has introduced several interventions to support consumers in shouldering the load. Among these interventions are an extended grace period for unpaid policies and the introduction of additional Covid-19 benefits to existing policies at no extra cost.
According to Ruele, one of the biggest learnings for insurers is the need to be sufficiently agile to adapt quickly to changes.
“We have seen the devastating impact of this pandemic on families and businesses alike, and it is crucial that the industry is responsive to the immediate needs of consumers, providing accessible, practical and cost-effective solutions to address those needs,” she said.
“The insurance industry will undoubtedly face challenges of retention in the short-to medium-term as consumer spending comes under increasing pressure. Therefore, it is crucial that insurers accelerate financial inclusion and learn to satisfy the rapidly evolving needs of the market,” Ruele concludes.