Australia’s insurers mobilise Covid-19 responses

March 26 2020 by Yvonne Lau

Australia’s insurers – including majors IAG, QBE, Suncorp and Zurich- have mobilised responses to new government measures to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The country’s insurers have largely implemented remote working arrangements for employees that allow for internal company coordination, and customer engagement through digital platforms.

These moves follows the shuttering of Lloyd’s Sydney office on March 23, with all employees working from home until further notice. “All Lloyd’s staff remain accessible through the usual channels, being phone and email, with the only difference being that we are not physically located in 1 O’Connell Street,” said the (re)insurance marketplace.

For QBE, as of March 24, all employees based in Australia and New Zealand have been mandated to work from home. Standard customer engagement services have not been affected — QBE policyholders can still contact representatives online or through the phone. Employees are on-call to answer questions and to aid customers in purchasing policies or making payment.

IAG said in an official statement: “We intend to maintain a high level of business continuity during this uncertain period, [and] have taken a range of measures to protect our people, customers and wider community.” Employees that can work from home will do so until further notice, and call centre workers have been set up for remote handling.

Those at IAG performing essential face-to-face roles, such as in direct customer support, may still need to work on-site, said the insurer. “[IAG] has implemented health and safety screenings, stricter hygiene requirements and regular deep cleans.”

With 2,423 confirmed cases in Australia as of March 25, and a spike of 287 new cases in 24 hours, the national government has ordered a shutdown of non-essential services and intensified social distancing advice.

The whole sector in Australia has been affected by the outbreak and associated measures. Steadfast, the country’s largest broker network, announced they will not release earnings guidance for this fiscal year. “Given the events that have unfolded… and the implications for businesses and employees, the board of Steadfast considers it prudent to withdraw its guidance,” said the company.

Steadfast will continue to provide products and services that allow for business continuity; they will give a financial performance update “when practical.”

InsuranceAsia News (IAN) has reached out to Steadfast and several insurers for further details on their business continuity and resilience plans.

On a positive note, Australia’s regulators and professional associations are devoting resources and efforts to help the industry combat the difficult business times ahead.

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