Insurance stakeholders collaborate

Collaboration, community and coming together are three key pillars for the South African financial services sector’s ongoing fight against crime and fraud. In his opening remarks to the two-day Insurance Crime Bureau (ICB) Annual Conference, Garth De Klerk, CEO of the institution, emphasised the need for industry stakeholders to work together to tackle the numerous challenges facing South Africa, particularly in the realms of combating crime and fraud, and political apathy.

Reflecting on the past

“We cannot operate in isolation, and we have to work together to ensure our existence,” De Klerk said, reminding attendees of the key talking points from the ICB’s 2023 conference. He then commented on the stark political realities facing citizens following the country’s 29 May 2024 National Elections. Just days after the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) confirmed the outcome of the national, regional and provincial vote, citizens were realising that the anticipated coalition government solution would likely make way for a government of national unity, with or without certain political parties.

De Klerk sensibly admitted that political upheaval was beyond his expertise, choosing instead to focus on combating financial crime and fraud. He noted that the ICB faced an ongoing challenge of uniting people with diverse backgrounds in the fight against crime, before pleading with attendees to set aside their personal and corporate agendas to focus on the greater good. “We are all here to make our country a better place,” he said, adding that the people assembled in the room had a massive impact in combating crime and fraud, whether from an industry, legislative or law enforcement point of view.

The recent election served as a useful backdrop for a discussion on apathy, allowing the presenter to draw similarities between citizens’ lacklustre approach to voting and the slow progress in tackling certain crimes. De Klerk lamented how few South Africans had participated in the voting process despite many having strong political opinions, before drawing attention to an informal LinkedIn poll he had conducted in the run-up to the election. Although many respondents were positive, over half indicated they were either confused or apathetic about voting. His leading question: “How can we solve South Africa’s myriad challenges if so many of us hold negative views?”

Crime statistics: a grim reality

Crime is a massive problem domestically. The presentation shone the spotlight on some of the numbers that are trotted out each quarter by the Commissioner of the South African Police Services (SAPS). Over the three months covered in the latest crime stats, some 7,700 people were murdered at the staggering rate of 85 murders per day. Other violent crimes, such as hijacking and sexual assaults, were on the rise too. “We need to remind ourselves of why we are in the room; the country has an incredibly high crime rate,” De Klerk said, emphasising the need for the financial services sector to do its part in combating this issue.

The argument goes that contact crime and financial crime are inextricably linked, meaning they cannot be tackled in isolation. More importantly, to address financial crime requires government enforcement agencies to perform optimally. “We need to find ways of holding government accountable for improving the environment in which we work and live,” De Klerk said. Delegates were encouraged to find ways to break down the barriers between role players in government, the private sector and various law enforcement agencies. A win would be for all concerned to set aside their differences, address shortfalls in areas like funding and technology, and come out swinging in a united fight against crime.

The triple threat: Crime, Poverty and Unemployment

There has been a significant uptick in all manner of crime and fraud in recent years. De Klerk shared an example of people stealing lithium batteries from a train while the driver looked on, discouraged from intervening by the occasional well-aimed rock tossed in his direction. PS, this is not a South Africa only thing; this writer recalls seeing documentary footage out of the United States showing perps tossing Amazon goods from a moving train. The bottom line is that unless South Africa addresses systemic joblessness and poverty it will struggle to make inroads into these types of crimes.

The ICB’s primary focus is on tackling syndicated crime, which De Klerk described as impactful and continuously evolving. One of his observations was that domestic crime syndicates were often unsophisticated, and that when one syndicate was taken down, there was always another waiting in the wings to take over. He called for a combined agenda to identify, mitigate, arrest, prosecute and convict those involved in syndicated crime. “We need to change from our learned experience to looking for new methodologies to combat crime,” he said. The discussion turned to the ICB’s three key focuses for the period 2024-2028.

The first focus is growth, under the tagline ‘expanded imminence’. “We are looking at ways of expanding our presence within the financial services sector and increasing our relevance and footprint within the environments in which we work,” De Klerk said. The argument here is that tackling crime requires vigilance and action across the entire financial services sector, not just among banks and insurers. Your writer managed a wry smile as he listened to yet another jibe about a certain higher-up’s ‘cash in the couch’ faux pas; this was, after all, no laughing matter. That said just imagine the crime fighting impact of all citizens being equally equal before the law.

Encouraging human-level interactions

The second focus is on elevated stakeholder management. The idea, it seems, is for the ICB to play a central role in encouraging human-level interactions between the myriad cogs in the broad financial services ecosystem. And the third focus is digital modernisation. “We want to be future-fit focused; easily accessible; and able to provide accurate and digestible intelligence in real-time,” De Klerk said. He emphasised ‘intelligence’ over ‘data’ to distinguish the role of a crime fighting outfit versus a credit bureau.

De Klerk’s closing challenge to the delegates was to make a difference together, encouraging attendees to use #MakingADifference and #Together to drive LinkedIn discussions during and immediately following the two-day event. “Let us really make some noise within our industry and be proud of the organisation and industry that we have created and are part of,” he concluded.

Source: FANews