Deanne Wood

Report by the Ombudsman

Deanne Wood

Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance

Despite the major challenge of this increase in dispute numbers, from 9 779 received in 2018 to 10 367 in 2019, we managed to maintain our time-frames without compromising the quality of our recommendations.

During 2019 OSTI handled a record number of disputes. Despite the major challenge of this increase in dispute numbers, from 9 779 received in 2018 to 10 367 in 2019, we managed to maintain our time-frames without compromising the quality of our recommendations. This despite the introduction of a new complaints handling process. We also continued developing a better understanding of our relationship with our customers – both insurers and complainants – to make our service more open and accessible.

We continued developing a better understanding of our relationship with our customers – both insurers and complainants – to make our service more open and accessible.
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One of the key tenets of OSTI’s role is to ensure that the complaints it receives are resolved as expeditiously as possible. However, as is so often the case with efficiency enhancements, rapid resolution can come at the cost of quality decision-making. Over the past few years OSTI has focused on improving the quality of its decision-making processes. Regrettably, but perhaps inevitably, this has meant that its rate of resolutions has decreased.

As is so often the case with efficiency enhancements, rapid resolution can come at the cost of quality decision-making.
It is my firm belief that OSTI will, in the ensuing years, find the appropriate balance between efficiency and quality.

During 2019 OSTI gave considerable focus to streamlining its operational processes, re-examining how it uses its contractors and reviewing many of its suppliers.

With the changes to the resolution process now firmly embedded within the organisation’s infrastructure, it is my firm belief that OSTI will, in the ensuing years, find the appropriate balance between efficiency and quality.

As OSTI works to improve its own service, it will continue to engage with stakeholders and complainants through mediation and conciliation to help them resolve issues themselves without resorting to decision-based dispute resolution.

Single Entry Portal

In addition to the significant operational changes that OSTI embarked on in 2019, OSTI spent much of 2019 engaged in discussions with the Ombudsman for Long-Term Insurance in the hope that it would be able to register in 2019 a single insurance ombudsman scheme for the resolution of all insurance-related complaints. The aspiration to create a single scheme arose in response to National Treasury’s call to all financial ombudsman schemes to self-determine a rationalisation process.

Due to delays in the commencement of chapter 14 of the Financial Services Regulation Act, the registration of a single scheme was not possible. Instead the two schemes resolved to enter into a shared services agreement and appoint one Ombudsman for the adjudication of both short-term and long-term insurance complaints.

The aspiration to create a single scheme arose in response to National Treasury’s call to all financial ombudsman schemes to self-determine a rationalisation process.

This decision means that my time as OSTI’s Ombudsman came to an end with effect from 31 December 2019. Retired Judge McLaren, the current Ombudsman for Long-term Insurance, in addition to his current role, took over the adjudicative role of OSTI’s ombudsman functions with effect from 1 January 2020.

I wish him every success in his new role. I am confident that the insurance industry will benefit enormously from the cohesiveness and consistency that his appointment will bring to insurance complaints lodged with either of the two schemes.

As a second leg to the plan to create a single scheme, the operational elements of my role as the Chief Executive Officer of OSTI were taken over by my able deputy, Edite Teixeira-Mckinon, from 1 October 2019. In the few months of my remaining term I was able to observe her settle into her new role with confidence and ease. I have no doubt that OSTI will flourish under her measured and thoughtful leadership.

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It has been both a privilege and responsibility to be the custodian of such an important organisation.

A Note of Thanks

I would like to thank the OSTI Board, under its Chair Haroon Laher, for giving me the opportunities to implement radical changes to OSTI and for its support for the improvements that I believe we have made to our service offering. It has been both a privilege and responsibility to be the custodian of such an important organisation.

I am proud of all that OSTI’s staff have achieved over the past three and a half years and am particularly proud of the way in which they have overcome the significant challenges that accompany any major overhaul.

I would like to thank my executive and management teams for their persistent support, wise counsel and invaluable input. I thank everyone at OSTI for their commitment and willingness to embrace new challenges, and for working together to deliver a fair and efficient dispute resolution service for the benefit of the South African insurance community.

All the best,

Deanne Wood

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