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Anticipation builds as FIA gears up for 2015 industry awards

04 June 2015 Myra Rego

The financial services industry is gearing up for the annual Financial Intermediaries Association of Southern Africa (FIA) Awards Gala Dinner, which is one of the most prestigious and anticipated events on the insurance industry’s calendar.

The awards, taking place today, 4 June, will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Now in its 17th year, the FIA Awards are acknowledged as a leading measure of product supplier excellence based on an independent survey of practicing finance and risk advisers who are all members of the FIA.

Recognising industry excellence

The awards survey process is an opportunity for intermediaries to rate the insurers, underwriters and investment companies they interact with as they provide advice and ongoing service to their clients. It is also an opportunity for financial services firms that favour the intermediated distribution model to rate their performance against that of their peers.

“The FIA Awards is a platform for our members to recognise the insurers and investment houses that give them the best overall support in servicing the public,” said Justus van Pletzen, Chief Executive Officer of the FIA.

“Consumers will benefit by choosing from the brands that feature in the FIA Awards because these firms not only favour professional brokers and advisers to sell their product, but also offer these brokers and advisers the optimal level of product, service and relationship to do the job right,” he continued.

“The combination of good product and good advice ensures that intermediaries, product suppliers, regulators and consumers come out winners over the long-term,”said Van Pletzen.

Core disciplines

An award is issued in each of the nine industry categories to include the four ‘core’ disciplines in the financial advice space, namely employee benefits, financial planning (including risk and investment advice), healthcare and short-term insurance.

Ahead of the awards ceremony, Gareth Stokes, Communications Manager at the FIA said that the awards survey is conducted by an independent research company, Bluestream Research, on behalf of the FIA.

Each year Bluestream is given a complete list of current FIA members from which it conducts the survey. Those contacted provide a fair reflection of the FIA membership and in turn the broader broker and adviser market.

“The FIA membership is dynamic and we have new members joining the organisation each year. We provide Bluestream with our updated member list at the beginning of each survey cycle and they select a random subset from this list. Due to the size of the survey it is likely that some members will be contacted in successive years,” continued Stokes. 

“The brokers who make up our membership place a high value in professionalism and the fair treatment of consumers and we believe they offer the best reflection of the market,” Stokes said.

Survey participants are asked to rate suppliers based on their experiences of product quality, service quality, relationship quality and their overall satisfaction. Suppliers are then assessed and ranked under each of these ‘headings’ before a final score is computed.

Pieter Aucamp, Chief Executive Officer of Bluestream Research, said that the FIA Awards survey is among the most comprehensive whole-of-industry broker satisfaction benchmarks produced locally. It is unique in that winners are chosen according to a consistent methodology that has been applied, improved upon and perfected over the past decade.

“The main objective of the annual FIA benchmark survey is to determine and recognise South Africa’s top performing product providers, independently rated on intermediary satisfaction,” he said.

This year’s survey was conducted over an 11-week period during which time 7 000 product provider contracts were evaluated by way of more than 24 000 telephone calls. An average of 13 minutes was spent to complete each interview.

“One of the requirements of a benchmark survey is that the results are comparable from one year to the next. The Awards process has been conducted consistently since the appointment of Bluestream 10 years ago,” continued Stokes.

A competitive landscape

According to Stokes, every product supplier has a chance to win dependent on how they are rated by brokers. “Product suppliers that offer the best overall value proposition to FIA members will come out tops and we believe this to have been the case over the past 17 years. A supplier that does not feature should reflect on its interactions with brokers and advisers and consider ways to improve on its existing processes and methodologies,” he said.

“Product suppliers take their performance in the Awards extremely seriously and the survey results are useful to them in measuring their performance against that of their peers,” he said.

When asked if there would be any surprises in store at this year’s Awards, Stokes mentioned that the FIA have one or two surprises every year. “Surprises can be explained by changes in the marketplace; but when all is said and done they reflect the changes in the perceptions of FIA members based on their interactions with suppliers. Competition is fierce and finalists are often separated by only a few points, so it is not uncommon for the ‘top three’ in a category to change place from year to year,” he continued.

“The Awards benchmark survey is mid-lifecycle and there are no intentions to change the methodology at this time, though an improved delineation of categories in the investment space may give rise to a new category for the 2016 FIA Awards,” concluded Stokes.

Editor’s thoughts:
Tonight’s FIA Awards Gala Dinner promises to live up to expectations as industry excellence is recognised. FAnews will announce the results as soon as they are received. With the competitive landscape to acknowledge the product providers, do you think this contributes to an improved industry standard? Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts myra@fanews.co.za.

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