Managing a crisis

COVER Magazine interviewed Steyn McDowall, Strategic Account Manager, Aon Global Risk Consulting, about Aon’s new Crisis Management Operations Centre. With more and more South African companies operating or investing in countries with hostile or politically unstable environments, Aon believes there is a growing need for this type of executive and employee cover.

COVER: What was the motivation for the creation of this Centre? Where did the idea come from?

STEYN: As we lookafter number of clients in Africa, it emerged that the ex-pats who are employees of those companies might need protection in these countries. Ex-pats can become complacent, but political instability and shifts in government can cause things to happen quickly, and AON would like to be in a position to help those people. Aon wants to provide a support-system via this Crisis Management Operations Centre – the voice at the end of the line becomes the life-line, especially when the client is experiencing fear. It is reassuring to have someone who can and does take charge.

COVER: Have you drawn on expertise in order to set up this Crisis Management Centre?

STEYN: Aon has access to a number of resources: we have employed an experienced crisis manager, in order to lend expertise to the initiative. The people manning the call centre are well-skilled as they have come from a crisis management background.

COVER: Is this linked to a kidnap-and-ransom insurance platform?

STEYN: Most insurance companies who provide this kind of insurance have resources like security guards who respond to incidents reactively. This is not Aon’s approach – we would rather proactively have a plan in place if something happens. An example illustrates this is when a risk engineer accompanying me in African country became ill. His company had a policy but it was difficult to implement in a country without the necessary infrastructure: little English was spoken so communication at the hospital was very difficult. Aon wants to take that stress away from the client by having a well-established communications centre here.

COVER: Does it not leave you more exposed if you have kidnap and ransom insurance?

STEYN: It would, so we ensure thatvery few people within a client’s company know about the cover. The fewer people who know about it, the less the risk.

COVER: What is the geographical spread of this product? Where are you rolling it out?

STEYN: Aon has capabilities worldwide, but we are rolling out in Africa and the Middle East. But, for example, if a client were going to Brazil, we would recommend that the company sets up an internal system that interfaces with our centre here. There are secondary methodologies if our client is going to an environment where the communication is not optimum – there are ways and means of taking care of people wherever they are.

COVER: Do you use South African service providers?

STEYN: Yes; however we would not do an exclusive deal with one service provider. Each service provider offers different strengths. Our aim is to have a network of excellent service providers so that we can offer optimum service depending on need and location.

COVER: What is the origin of the technology that you are utilising?

STEYN: The monitoring technology is from South Africa. Much of the developing technology is from India. We also make use of platforms like Google Earth.

COVER: How is this product going to be made available?

STEYN: Our product is available toanybody and everybody who wishes to be a client.

COVER: Any final words with regards to this new initiative?

STEYN: Just this: I hope that companies that look after individuals realise how valuable their human capital is and that looking after them is of greatest importance. It should not just be members of top management who get the attention; it is very often middle managers who go through the difficult circumstances.

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