Business Profiles

SAIA: Insuring the future

The insurance industry intrinsically offers peace of mind, but in South Africa, protection comes with an extra side of assurance, in the form of the South African Insurance Association. Endeavour Magazine took a closer look at what makes this representative body such a linchpin of the sector.

The insurance industry might not immediately seem like a sector that enjoys a good deal of heritage, but in the case of the South African Insurance Association (SAIA), there is a legacy of stewardship that spans over 100 years.

Originally founded in 1907 as the Council of Fire Insurance Companies, the representative body has evolved and adapted over the years, transforming into the SAIA of today in 1973 – but what exactly does it seek to do?

“The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) is the representative body of the short-term insurance industry. It represents the industry to all relevant stakeholders, to ensure a sustainable and dynamic short-term insurance industry.”

Given the vital importance of fair and reliable insurance premiums, it makes sense that a body has been set-up in order to oversee all relevant companies and parties involved, but there’s so much more to it than that. Consumers and stakeholders alike can take comfort in the knowledge that the SAIA is fully operational, as it seeks to promote a fair and sustainable ethos that leads to competitive practices and a long-term viable market.

Representing the lion’s share of short-term insurance providers in South Africa, the SAIA has full authority to negotiate on their behalf while also playing an active role in both the set-up and continuation of external organisations that seek to improve the general landscape of South Africa:

“In its quest to fight insurance crime, and especially also insurance fraud, the SAIA was instrumental in establishing the South African Insurance Crime Bureau (SAICB) at the end of 2008. The SAICB is an independent organisation with its own members and close links to the SAIA. The SAIA also supports the South African Police Services (SAPS) in combating crime, through participation in various Business Against Crime South Africa (BACSA) initiatives. The SAIA donates a significant amount of money to BACSA on an annual basis to further specifically identified relevant initiatives.”

Putting aside archaic jokes about insurance being daylight robbery, it’s impressive to observe such a commitment to best and legal practices, but the inherent community responsibility doesn’t end with these allegiances. Recognising the importance of better road safety in the country, the SAIA, in partnership with BACSA, is constantly looking to improve initiatives that drive better awareness.

It’s a reassuring notion that an insurance body operates under a strict mandate of not only maintaining a fair and legitimate industry, but also improving the landscape and safety of a country as a whole, but there is an underlying sense of responsibility in every endeavor undertaken by the SAIA, as the vision of the body aptly demonstrates, by stating that it aims:

“To promote and represent the interests of the short-term insurance industry, while leading and enhancing the efforts of the industry to become recognised and trusted as an important contributor to the South African economy and society.”

This overarching stewardship is tailored and focused in the everyday operations of the governing body, to hone in on the people that matter most; the companies that are members of the association, as well as the customers of said organisations. The mission statement of the SAIA states that it is determined to:

“Encourage fair and ethical treatment of short-term insurance customers, favourably represent the short-term insurance industry in such a way that all stakeholders have trust and confidence in the industry and to create an environment in which industry members can share information, debate important and relevant issues, and create a common vision for the short-term insurance industry.”

Aiming to also keep any and all stakeholders fully informed of developments and initiatives that might arise, while also promoting awareness of the industry and the impact that it has on the landscape of the South African economy, it’s clear that the SAIA has willingly taken up a mantle of intense responsibility, but with such aplomb.

Insurance companies have a significant impact on every facet of life, so it makes sense that a comprehensive code of conduct was introduced. With some of the most respected regional providers enjoying membership with the SAIA, proper regulation and behavioural guidelines are absolutely essential, to ensure that everyone is representing the interests of the association and the insurance industry as a whole, in the most positive way possible:

“The SAIA and its members are committed to actively contribute to the principles of sustainable insurance practices. This is to ensure that the South African short-term insurance industry remains relevant, inspires confidence amongst its stakeholders and offers products and solutions that are beneficial to both the economy and society at large. To support these goals, the SAIA Code of Conduct was introduced in 2010 with the purpose of promoting high ethical standards and good business practices in the industry, as well as to give a clear indication of the self-regulatory guidelines followed by members.”

It takes a knowledgeable and committed board to not only govern high standards within a commercial industry but also offer consumers peace of mind, but that’s exactly what the SAIA manages to balance. Providing an easy way of verifying legitimate insurers, while always keeping member companies informed of any relevant legislation and operational developments, there’s no sense of prioritising the needs of one faction above the other, which makes this an association that neatly accounts for the need of the many, not the few and that’s not easy to do.

Given that almost everybody needs short-term insurance policies of some description, from vehicle and home cover through to personal accident and travel insurance premiums, the importance of an association such as the SAIA cannot be ignored. As a growth industry, the South African insurance sector needs proper support and governance and the SAIA will always be on hand to promote best practices and new initiatives, for the benefit of everybody. If that’s not a promise of a lucrative future, what is?