Santam – a 98-year old insurance company that has traditionally sold policies through brokers – appears to be ramping up its direct insurance play by enhancing the availability and visibility of digital tools that allow customers to request insurance quotes, value their assets and submit accident reports.
Santam’s website, which it updated last year, now presents a very obvious quote request form on its home page, with car, building and home contents calculators also visible on the insurer’s landing page.
According to Edward Gibbens, executive head of commercial and personal lines at Santam, the company has always had a direct channel, which is managed through a contact centre.
“The direct channel has been in place to service consumers who wish to remain under the Santam brand but not use an intermediary,” Gibbens notes.
“Our goal is to achieve growth targets across multiple distribution channels and we know that in order to attract or retain customers, we need to provide products and services across a range of channels providing the customers with the right insurance product where and when they may need it,” he adds.
While it’s true that Santam has had large call centres in place for some time, the company is making its direct channel more visible than it has in the past, according to Chantel van den Heever, short-term insurance leader at PwC Africa.
Presenting to analysts in Cape Town last month, Santam CEO, Lizé Lambrechts stated that the direct channel would be one on which the insurer would place more emphasis, Van den Heever says.
For example, it launched an app towards the end of last year that enables policyholders to submit an accident report directly to Santam and locate Santam drive-in service centres anywhere in the country.
Gibbens is not worried that Santam’s renewed focus on doing direct business will do anything to hinder sales of MiWay, the group’s direct insurance arm. “We have seen very little overlap with Miway as the brands service distinct markets,” he said.
Similarly, MiWay, although primarily a direct player, offers insurance to brokers, handling the claims value chain and underwriting process in-house.
The extent to which Santam plans to take direct selling and policy management online, in the same way that MiWay has done, is unclear. For example, requesting a quote via Santam’s website simply results in a call from a contact centre agent who then asks the necessary questions to provide a quote.
This is very different from MiWay, which allows you to input extensive details about your assets (for example, your vehicle’s engine and VIN number) online in order to receive a quote. Not many direct insurers offer this, arguably because policy sales by call centre agents are high.
According to Kevin Wright, executive head of operations and IT at Santam, policyholders will soon be able to do more and more of their business online.
“A number of these digital features already sit in our broker portal and are now slowly being made available to the public,” he said.
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