Old Mutual Insure’s COVID-19 response aims to strengthen South Africa’s long-term risk readiness

By Janice Roberts

Old Mutual Insure recognises that COVID19 has had a significant impact on our customers, service providers and communities. We have put together a comprehensive plan to support these stakeholders through the lockdown and the uncertain months to follow.

With an ongoing commitment to South Africa, the Old Mutual Group has weathered many storms over the past 175 years, including the devastation of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. “We recognise the long-term impact a disruption of this nature can have on personal finances and business operations,” says Garth Napier, Managing Director of Old Mutual Insure. “Beyond immediate survival, history has taught us that our COVID-19 response also needs to equip customers, service providers and communities to rebuild and prosper in the challenging – and changing – months and years that lie ahead,” explains Napier.

The Old Mutual Insure support plan has a few key elements, including:

  1. Ongoing customer relief of up to R300 million
  2. Establishment of R50 million fund to assist SME customers and service providers
  3. Leveraging buying power and financing to support service providers
  4. Collaborating to support communities.

Ongoing customer relief of up to R300 million

Throughout the lockdown Old Mutual Insure is open for business and we have built a complete off-site service solution able to support customers and partners. “Our customers can continue to register claims, as well as request essential plumbing, electrical and other emergency services throughout the lockdown,” says Napier.

There are several options available to customers in the short term (1 to 3 months):

  • A premium deferment option, with a delayed pay-back over a set period
  • Leniency on missed debit orders were customers have lost or have experienced reduced income because of COVID-19 and this has necessitated deferment of payments.
  • Reducing premiums by allowing customers to amend cover temporarily if, for example, a second car or a closed business won’t be used during lockdown.
  • An immediate relief program for our iWYZE motor insurance customers, who can register on the wyzeHUB before 30 April 2020 to activate a three-month 7.5% discount on motor premiums.

To support this, Old Mutual Insure has established a ‘Help U’-team of 50 employees with the sole purpose of reviewing premium relief requests across all commercial, agriculture and personal lines business. Pro-active monitoring will allow the team to focus on “providing guidance and interventions to assist customers to maintain and manage essential and relevant covers,” says Napier.  

In the longer term, COVID-19 is likely to result in a weak and most-likely recessionary post-lockdown economy and a weak exchange rate as a result, therefore “premiums are likely to increase in the coming months,” predicts Napier. In recognition of the additional pressure that this will place on customers struggling to manage the impact of COVID-19 in a weak economy, Old Mutual Insure has taken the decision to “keep premium increases low over the next twelve months.” We also believe we can even help our customers to reduce their premiums and are working on multiple strategies to make sure that our customers get the lowest possible renewal increases and there is an option for customers in good standing to freeze renewals or exchange it for more flexible excesses, if required,” adds Napier.

In addition, “Old Mutual Insure will also be giving doctors and nurses, who are selflessly serving in the frontline to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, premium discounts and excess waivers during the next three months,” says Napier. 

The above-mentioned customer relief options are expected to equate to an amount of approximately R300 million, over the next 12 months.

R50 million to assist SME customers and service providers

Old Mutual Insure has set aside R40 million to assist qualifying SMEs remain solvent in these difficult times. “These interest-free loans will be granted to qualifying businesses and will be administered by the Old Mutual Masisizane Fund in partnership with Old Mutual Insure,” says Napier.

In addition, Old Mutual Insure’s own suppliers and service providers experiencing difficulties over this time will be assisted to sustain operations. To this end, Old Mutual Insure has set aside R10 million. Business partners who are unable to operate will be directly supported to survive the impact of the COVID-19 disruption. For example, all micro-enterprises suppling or servicing Old Mutual Insure, like canteens, cleaning services and car wash teams, will be supported with provisional funding during the lockdown and in the weeks that follow. 

Old Mutual Insure’s payments process is also being accelerated to ensure outstanding payments are made within three working days after invoices are submitted. All previously scheduled payments will be released earlier than the scheduled date.

Leveraging buying power to support service providers

Old Mutual Insure also negotiated strategic deals in the motor parts supply chain. A parts payment programme is set up to enable partners to use Old Mutual Insure’s buying power to order parts from selected service providers, including original equipment manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers. “We remain open to adding more partners to this discount and service ecosystem as conditions evolve,” adds Napier.  

Collaborating to support communities

Old Mutual is working with the National Department of Education and local and international NGOs to provide nutrition to thousands of children no longer receiving food at school as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. “We are also providing hygiene awareness, e-learning and other materials to support continued learning while schools are closed,” says Napier.

The Old Mutual Insure COVID-19 Community Outreach programme will distribute R1.5 million in weekly grocery vouchers to 50 orphanages, homes for the elderly as well as institutions for those living with disabilities across South Africa during the lockdown and possibly thereafter.

Old Mutual employees can contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts through the Old Mutual Staff Payroll Giving Programme, one of the largest payroll-giving schemes in South Africa. “The business has already contributed R2 million to the programme with further support expected from thousands of employees in the coming weeks,” says Napier.

Old Mutual has identified properties in its portfolio across the country that can be utilised as depots or other emergency facilities and is engaging authorities to make these available as and when the need arises.

Old Mutual is also leveraging media, especially digital and radio, to provide financial education. “We are providing a continual stream of advice – in nearly all our languages – on managing the personal and financial impact of COVID-19 across all customer segments,” explained Napier.

Building a sustainable future, together

We believe our response to this crisis is comprehensive and we are doing our best to support all our stakeholders during this difficult time. We encourage our customers, partners and communities to actively engage with us for support. We acknowledge and echo our President’s call to action and agree that we are stronger together.

This longer-term approach is especially critical as South Africa will soon be recovering from COVID-19 in an extremely challenging economy. “This demands that every customer, SME, service provider and community be financially fit and able to do their part in supporting our President and Government to build a larger, more resilient and much more future-fit economy. This can be our COVID-19 legacy to future generations,” concludes Napier.

Stay calm. Stay focused. Stay insured.

Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za