New ways to take up life insurance with CEO of BrightRock – Schalk Malan

Schalk Malan, CEO of BrightRock, told the BizNews Power Hour that they now have 25 distribution hubs and two administration offices around SA, making a real difference in the life insurance industry. He shared his thoughts on the highs and lows of being in the insurance space during a global pandemic.

Schalk Malan on BrightRock’s journey:

It’s been an amazing journey. We often get asked – especially these last few months getting to that 10 year anniversary – what some of the highlights [are]. One of the key things that stands out, [is] not just the real impact that we’ve made in the market from a product innovation, but having the privilege to be able to cover more than 2.8 million lives and the responsibility that comes with it. But really giving us that sense that we’re making a real impact and difference.

On the life insurance focus:

BrightRock stated from the get-go that we believed in what we were doing in the life insurance space. We also believe that our future does lie in a multi-product, even potentially, multi-market financial services organisation. If you look at the needs of a client, we’ve really focused now on the risk side – life insurance side – which is really protecting that balance sheet from volatility, if something unplanned happens.

Covid is a great example, but it really goes hand in hand with building the balance sheet – the asset side of things. So absolutely, that would be lying in future thinking. But at the moment, our big focus is really making sure that we capitalise on the opportunities [and] the impact that we’ve made in the risk market – and we’ve made a massive impact. 

On the impact of Covid-19 on life insurance providers:

It’s been extremely tough for all insurers. You would have seen the claims experience from many insurers, even BrightRock. We paid out more than R880m in claims – just in the Covid year – which is a significant increase. Not just because of business that’s grown, but also the actual claims experience. It’s been a tough period for all insurers. 

On the activity around funeral policies:

I understand the impact on the opinions being raised around it being ‘not so serious’. I’ve personally been out to funeral parlours just after the first wave of Covid. Talking and experiencing what they’ve experienced and also just looking at the stats that have come through. Some of these parlours – especially in rural areas – I’ve seen an increase in claims 100%. Covid wave two was slightly less impactful on that, with regards to our lower LSM (living standards measure) communities. But it’s been very, very serious. I can tell you from our experience – during some of those spike periods – we saw claims doubling and and the numbers have been very impactful on those businesses.

On growing BrightRock:

I’ll just talk about last year because I think that’s quite topical in terms of growing market share. We’ve been asked that question a few times as well. If you look at that significant growth – from a 10% to 14% market share – when the market was contracting, I can ascribe it to one easy answer: we actually had no choice.

A big part of our business is designed to grow [and] to make sure that we can really have solutions for clients and protect them. It’s an attitudinal thing. We just had to find positive solutions and not just say ‘okay, how do we just protect our existing book?’ Because as we know, a lot of solutions were out there in terms of premium holidays. Yes, we had that as well, but that was a small part of what we had in mind. We actually said, ‘let’s actually get out there quicker and engage with our brokers; let’s engage with our clients proactively’. Finding solutions to still grow the business and have that mindset. I think that played a big part.

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