As we near the end of 2020, I reflect on a remarkable year. What has occurred this year, has turned out to be vastly different from the expectations I had on New Year’s Day. As I’m sure is the case for all of us.
It’s been a year of great financial and emotional difficulty for many, but also a year where great compassion, camaraderie and a triumph of the human spirit was evident. In the EthiQal team, I’m proud to have witnessed a group of individuals become more aligned and focused to deliver the EthiQal promise, even though they were physically separated more than ever before.
And it is the EthiQal promise that pulled me to take on the leadership position earlier in the year, rather than just being the chief actuary – the promise to support our healthcare practitioners as national assets by providing sustainable and stable professional indemnity cover and premiums.
The pandemic meant that we paused many initiatives to focus mainly on two areas: (1) supporting our doctors during COVID-19 and (2) improving client services by consolidating to build a stronger foundation. We have been re-mapping processes, identifying IT system improvements and employing more people to ensure we build towards a best-in-class insurer, with a personal touch. The journey is not over – more investment and hard work over the next six months are expected to significantly progress the offering from EthiQal.
In terms of COVID-19, we delivered the highest premium relief in the market at 240% of monthly premium, for those practices worst affected but continue to practise. Full premium holidays were provided to practices that closed completely, but fortunately, these were not too many. Our approach focused on supporting those practitioners that were worst affected, rather than applying a one-size-fits-all method. This ensured a personalised and responsible approach, and I thank all the practitioners who provided the requested information.
Of course, the COVID-19 support was not only financial. To assist our clients, our medico-legal advisors worked around the clock to provide relevant guidance, with a dedicated COVID-19 healthcare specialist allocated to facilitate such support. We confirmed our commitment to cover essential non-elective services, irrespective of their usual scope of work, remote consultations (telehealth) and care for state patients in private facilities. Fortunately, the pandemic proved to be less severe than initially expected on the public health system.
Financially, EthiQal continues to do well, with a cautious approach resulting in all income not deployed to cover expenses and claims allocated into reserves. At group level, due to the market impact of COVID-19 on investment portfolios, the Constantia Insurance balance sheet has come under some pressure. However, this is being addressed via two significant transactions, with the first R1 billion in new capital already having been announced. Once the necessary approvals have been obtained, Constantia Insurance will become part of a diversified financial services group with approximately R9.5 billion in assets, providing peace of mind to our valued policyholders who have entrusted us with their long-term insurance needs. Our reinsurance arrangement with Lloyds was also successfully renewed with extended cover, but at lower premiums – a sign of positive support from our international reinsurers.
I’m also personally pleased with the initiatives EthiQal has managed to support and sponsor at professional societies. From participating in joint webinars to sponsoring the development of the South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ (SASOG’s) successfully launched app, amongst others. Our aim is to continue to support the societies in their risk management and quality care initiatives. Being able to help the non-profit organisation Operation Healing Hands has been uplifting for us all.
Finally, in November EthiQal celebrates its fourth birthday but also Doctors’ Day. Whilst we have already expressed our gratitude in various events during the month, it is worth re-iterating our thanks to you, our doctors and other healthcare workers, for the dedication you have shown to care for the citizens of our country, especially in 2020.
From the EthiQal team and I, we wish you a calm end to 2020 and a return to only the best parts of the so-called new normal in 2021.