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2022 and beyond: Where to now as an intermediary?

We are moving into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Life as we know it has changed. Well, what happens when only the fifth or sixth wave signal the end of this particular pandemic? Will life go back to the way it was?

We shall only know the answer when that happens.  The general belief, however, is that whilst we may still do some of the things that we have done in the past, some of the new ways of doing things have likely become habits, which are likely to continue and develop further into the future.

So, perhaps hybrid working – a mix between remote working and going to the office now and again – is likely to be the way to go? I mean, as much as we have complained initially about remote working, we are now used to new routines. I enjoy my early morning and late afternoon walks – something which I had no time for back in the day. I can now plan my day and my work much better and even schedule a little downtime in the day if need be, and mix a little administrative work in the evening if I should so choose. However, I do miss the social interaction and mask-to-mask contact, and I am an introvert, so I can only imagine how the extroverts amongst us feel!

Upon reflection, I believe the soft issues driven through interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and intelligence, go somewhat missing in a remote world – not totally, but somewhat – just enough to make a difference. I would think that an organisation could quite easily lose its soul over a period of time. So, here’s to hoping the hybrid workplace will allow us to continue to build company culture and relationships, which, after all, is what a lot of our practices are built upon.

Technology! Well, in the five or more years or so leading up to the pandemic, we had all the tools at our disposal to forego live meetings and incessant travelling around the country. We were equipped to do things the modern way – it’s a pity that only about five percent of people in our organisation used it about twenty percent of the time. Then, with one week to go, we had to convert our brick-and-mortar nationwide office network into a remote business or face the consequence of ceasing to exist! Hey presto – now everyone in the company uses it, all of the time!  

That first day of remote working was a little bit of a nightmare beginning for us. We had a major hail storm in Middleburg, Mpumalanga, and the glass suppliers must have all run out of replacement glass and now we had to manage this all remotely. If that was not bad enough, there was flooding in Kimberly the next day – a baptism of fire – scratch that – water!

Here we are two years down the track, and I am looking at my diary, which is predominantly filled with MS Teams and Zoom meetings and, thank goodness, the odd live meeting at our ‘museum-like’ head office. It was kitted out to suit our requirements at the time – there are training and meeting rooms galore, an in-house cafeteria and eating areas, patios and the like, which we managed to enjoy for just over 18 months. It has mostly stood empty ever since, with only a handful of employees coming to work each day. In retrospect, there was a lot of unnecessary space, and so we have reduced our brick-and-mortar footprint, replacing these spaces with virtual offices. Time will tell if the strategy pans out or whether we shall have to return to the old way of doing things.

We also proudly launched our first personal insurance advice app, BluPixl. The app takes the hassle out of obtaining insurance quotes. All it takes is uploading one’s insurance information and personal preferences, and one can receive up to seven different quotes. One can then play around with excess levels and use different combinations of insurers to insure different products – is this is likely to become the future of insurance, much like how banking migrated almost exclusively online?

What does the future hold? I believe online retail is going to continue to grow in leaps and bounds as we have realised the ease and convenience it brings to our lives. I have converted to booking flights online, arranging holiday accommodation without holding the line with a travel agent and switched banks after spending decades with one bank. I purchased a new car online and only met the salesperson at the dealership when I went to collect it.  Everything else, the financing, insurance etc. was done online. I can see the day when my profile will indicate that, should I purchase anything relatively expensive, such as new golf clubs, they will be automatically insured without my intervention. Technology companies have come into their own in this remote world.

When I read what is happening in the world today, I can sense that immense change is imminent. It is almost as though the pandemic was required to pave the way for this new socioeconomic order to take effect. Electric vehicles are on their way, part-time ownership of vehicles is coming, pay-what-you-use insurance is advancing, and even things like retirement funding or pensions are becoming outdated. These concepts need to be reimagined if they are to remain relevant as people adopt multiple jobs, take mid-life sabbaticals and end up living to 90 and beyond.  Imagine retiring at 60 and then still living for 30 plus years whilst sitting on the stoep! Not for me if I can help it.

So, for those who wish to change the world and the way things are done, your time has arrived. Now is the time to do so. Have fun, take time to laugh and enjoy building this new future! In most cases, the components of the technology we need already exist, perhaps in different applications. So, use your imagination in terms of what is ideally possible and then look for the organisations and people who can already make this a reality. This is the great part of our future, – we don’t necessarily need to make reference to the way things have been done up to now. Envisage how we believe it should be done in the future and then… make it happen!