Kenny Siu reviews the recent pandemic in Asia and reflects on how the profession has reacted
With the coronavirus pandemic taking hold across the world and already having a negative effect on the global economy, every nation is doing its best to stabilise the spread of the virus, keep the public safe and prepare for the process of recovery.
Asia was the first region to bear the brunt of Covid-19 and virtually all businesses have been impacted by the virus. However, important lessons were learned from the SARS epidemic that hit Asia in 2003. Many small businesses seemed to understand the situation, were ready to adjust and were determined to survive.
Dreadful memories of that last outbreak meant people did not take precautionary measures lightly and reacted quickly to reduce the chances of the disease spreading.
One key factor has been to have in place a robust business continuity plan to protect business, employees and customers. These plans should come with both short-term and longer-term strategies for companies to continue to operate during a virus outbreak, as we ultimately have no idea how long a pandemic will last.
In Hong Kong, at the time of writing this article in April, we expect that a normal way of life may return near the beginning of quarter three.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, many insurance and financial services companies in Asia successfully implemented business continuity plans swiftly, arranging staff to work from home, stopping non-essential travel and applying flexible working hours to minimise the risk of virus infection.
Many companies also cancelled scheduled public and customer events to avoid gathering large groups of people. To sustain business in the longer term, many companies have switched their distribution and communications to online digital platforms to cope with the change in customer behaviour during the coming months.
In Hong Kong, at the time of writing this article in April, we expect that a normal way of life may return near the beginning of quarter three
Despite best efforts, however, economic recession is threatening many businesses in the Asia-Pacific region and we fully understand that all professions are facing uncertainty and increased risks.
It is important that the insurance profession shows strength and prepares for the possible business rebound. For example, some insurance companies in Asia have taken positive action to offer extended products' medical coverage for existing policyholders, as well as launching new insurance policies specifically to cover the Covid-19 virus. These are good examples of how we can turn crisis into opportunity.
CII HONG KONG
At the CII Hong Kong, our top priority is to ensure the health and safety of our CII staff and members. We encouraged our staff to work from home with flexible hours, as well as supplying masks and hand sanitiser where required.
We rescheduled our CII paper-based examinations to later dates to avoid group gatherings. No action was required from members for this as the CII automatically transferred candidates across to the October sitting. We are also organising online continuing professional development (CPD) webinars and have produced new digital content for the wider profession.
We will continue to offer more learning and knowledge content such as online webinars to cope with the demand from our members and the wider profession
I expect there may be ways in which we adapt and update working methods that stay with us after the pandemic is over. I think the profession will continue to further utilise digital platforms to operate its business and work towards a more efficient underwriting and claims process; it will further enhance business continuity plans in more detail; and digitalisation development will remain one of the top priorities for insurance companies.
As for CII Hong Kong, we will continue to offer more learning and knowledge content such as online webinars to cope with the demand from our members and the wider profession.
Of course, this is a difficult time for all of us, but we must continue to serve our customers with openness and honesty during a period when they need us the most. This will be a critical time in showing the standards and professionalism of our sector and building trust with the public.
Kenny Siu is regional director of CII Hong Kong and Asia Pacific