Overall service increased by 30%

07 September 2023 Gareth Stokes

The excitement, glitz and glamour of the 2023 FIA Intermediary Experience Awards is already fading; but the winners of the prestigious advice-focused Awards will be basking in their achievements over the next 12-months. By now, most FAnews readers will have seen the 2023 FIA Awards winners broadcast over social media, or by their favourite online trade publication. But as a quick reminder, this writer would like to extend his personal congratulations to the eight category winners.

And the winners of the 2023 FIA Awards are

In the non-life insurance discipline: Santam, for the personal lines category; Western National, for the commercial category; and Hollard, for the corporate category. Allan Gray repeated its ‘double’ in the life insurance and investments discipline, winning both the investment product lump sum and savings categories, while Sanlam scooped the risk product award. Employee benefit product supplier of the year went to Momentum Corporate, and finally, Discovery Health received the healthcare provider of the year accolade. A heartfelt congratulations to all the brands that go the extra mile for South Africa’s hard-working financial and risk advisers. 

As all and sundry fawn over the post-awards marketing and social media ‘propaganda’, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of these awards from a South African intermediary perspective. To restore order, we spent a few minutes reviewing the speeches given by the women at the helm of the Financial Intermediaries Association of Southern Africa (FIA). First up, FIA President, Butši Tladi, who is also Executive Consulting at Alexforbes. Tladi opened the evening with a fast-paced scene-setter, reminding the audience of the FIA’s role in “shaping the future of intermediaries” over the 15-years since the association’s establishment. The FIA was formed 15-years ago from the merger of old advisers-focused associations, the IBC and SAFSIA, with LUASA joining later. 

“The mission of the FIA centres on constructive engagement [and] tirelessly seeking out the positives in our industry and our country at large; it is this approach, among others, that has given the World Federation of Insurance Intermediaries (WFII) the confidence to vote for South Africa to assume the Presidency of this global organisation in 2024,” Tladi said. PS, this writer felt this accolade could have featured more prominently on the 2023 FIA Awards programme, as the WFII is instrumental in developing solutions, engaging global regulatory bodies and promoting intermediaries on the international stage. The global association “ensures that we speak with one voice whenever we interact with institutions or regulators around the world,” she said. 

Rating South Africa’s top product suppliers

Lizelle van der Merwe, CEO of the FIA, took to the stage to share more about the intermediary experience survey, and how awards winners were decided. “It is an honour to stand before you tonight to discuss the significance and prestige of the FIA Intermediary Experience Awards; this event is a highlight on the industry calendar where we gather to recognise standards of excellence that empower advisory businesses to improve their offering to clients,” she said. For winners, the award symbolises the culmination of hard work, innovation and a relentless commitment to improving their service delivery to intermediaries within the financial services sector. 

The FIA Awards winners are chosen following a rigorous selection process. “Rigorous evaluation, impartial judging and comprehensive assessments are at the heart of our awards survey process; this guarantees that the recipients truly embody the values of integrity, innovation and client-centricity that FIA members hold dear,” Van der Merwe said. Winners are not only celebrated by their product supplier peers; but have deservedly earned the trust and respect of the entire FIA community. The 2023 FIA Awards process involved the rating of 5 000 insurer contracts across multiple advice disciplines. 

According to Van der Merwe, the overall industry score achieved across the 2023 ratings process was virtually indistinguishable from the prior year, at 77.93% versus 77.87%. She shared a handful of interesting survey findings with the FIA Awards audience, including that the best performing brand out of the eight category winners had increases its overall score by just 1.81% and that the best category improvement occurred in the investment lump sum category. “We calculate the importance of the eight excellence standards and the weighted importance of overall service increased by 30% compared to 2022,” she said. PS, the eight factors include overall satisfaction; service and product quality; regulatory and compliance; trust; complaint resolution; and business enablement. 

A twist for the UMA brands in attendance

A couple of ‘less than rosy’ admissions were shared too. Firstly, it emerged that the overall service levels in both the personal lines and commercial non-life insurance categories were in an established declining trend. Insurers were encouraged to investigate these shortcomings, and make improvements in this area or risk losing business to smaller niche competitors. A second point was that the survey, despite being comprehensive and exhaustive, was not able to rate a significant enough sample of underwriting manager agency (UMA) contracts, with the result an award was not issued in this category. 

Returning to the podium, we caught both presenters’ closing remarks. “The challenges that we face in our own businesses and across the financial services industry are significant, but they are not insurmountable,” Tladi concluded. “Through collaboration, innovation and a focus on continuous improvement we will not only overcome these challenges, but thrive in this ever-changing landscape”. She commended the FIA Awards for ensuring a brighter and more resilient future for the insurance sector as all stakeholders strive together for better client outcomes. 

The voice of advisory businesses

The intermediary experience survey is a reliable benchmark that serves as the voice of advisory businesses in South Africa. “But the FIA Awards serve a much deeper purpose; one that resonates with our shared mission to enhance the lives of FIA members and their clients, financial consumers,” Van der Merwe said. She commented that the awards shed light on the practices, strategies and solutions that achieve success and deliver lasting outcomes for consumers. “Improving outcomes for our clients is a paramount goal that we all strive to achieve,” she said. The idea is that by recognising and rewarding best practices the FIA facilitates knowledge exchange, encourages healthy competition and fosters an environment of continuous improvement. 

This, in turn, translates into enhanced products, services and strategies that ultimately benefit financial consumers, creating a financial services landscape that is safer, more efficient and more attuned to consumers’ needs. “I invite you to embrace the significance of the FIA Awards and to start viewing them as a catalyst for transformation rather than an annual event,” Van der Merwe concluded. “These awards celebrate the achievements that push our industry forward, all the while propelling us to raise the bar even higher”. 

Writer’s thoughts:

The FIA Awards have a long history of setting a benchmark for product suppliers’ interactions with financial and risk advisers, or intermediaries if you prefer. Did you attend the 2023 FIA Awards? And do you think that winning an award elevates a product suppliers’ standing among the advice community? Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email us your thoughts

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