Society

Why many Kenya insurers fail the test of integrity

insurance (1)
scottbellows

Summary

  • Corruption means fraudulent behaviour by people in authority, often involving payoffs, financial gain, or bribery.
  • But perceptions about an organisation’s integrity encompasses far more than only feelings about corruption.
  • Ethical behaviour expectations also include the absence of stonewalling and blocking all while exhibiting transparency and following through on promises.

PART 3

Business Talk eagerly continues its four-part mini-series on trust in the insurance sector. Over the past previous two weeks, this column investigated the sector using social scientists Roger Mayer, James Davis, and David Schoorman’s research on organisational trust, focusing on Kenyan consumer perceptions on insurers’ ability to fulfil their responsibilities and benevolence to have their consumers’ best interests in mind.

PART 1: Insurance trust issues in Kenya

PART 2: Dwindling trust to hit insurance penetration

Today, let us dissect the most important pillar of the organisational trust framework: integrity. Many across the nation hear the word integrity and instantly think about the big “C” word: Corruption.

Corruption means fraudulent behaviour by people in authority, often involving payoffs, financial gain, or bribery. But perceptions about an organisation’s integrity encompasses far more than only feelings about corruption.

Ethical behaviour expectations also include the absence of stonewalling and blocking all while exhibiting transparency and following through on promises.

Ironically, the insurance sector’s core foundation is built on customers believing in promises of future protection.

Consumers of insurance products desire to access the benefits of their coverage without undue red tape, bureaucracy, or ridiculous steps sending people in circles for weeks, months, or years on end.

Senseless constraints that raise questions and concerns about an insurer’s integrity perceptions can include requiring physical signatures delivered in person at head offices in Nairobi instead of some simple virtual means, never providing a decision on a pre-authorisation request of a health procedure, delaying to process claims on a vehicle accident, a vehicle insurer limiting coverage based on a never-shared car valuation report, or a health insurer claiming that a new cancer diagnosis is pre-existing rather than a new chronic condition.

Delays and hindrances significantly affect consumer perceptions of integrity-based trust in insurers.

In preparation for this article, a team tried reaching out to multiple health, vehicle, and property insurers about purchasing new insurance coverage. Both head offices and captive and independent agents were contacted.

It proved exceedingly difficult to receive and review transparent policy documents before purchase. The most common phrase heard was “after you pay, we will send you documents.”

While this may be acceptable if policy details with full exclusions, terms, and conditions were easily viewable publicly on insurers’ websites, a review of insurance virtual information on official sites subsists as dismal.

If assigning letter grades, one insurer’s site would arguable receive a B+, a few others a B-, then most others C, D, and the majority would fall into the E/F grade.

This sad state of affairs highlights the difficulty consumers can experience making informed decisions about their contractual purchase of insurance coverage.

One of my students had difficulty obtaining contractual disclosures about coverage even after buying and paying.

An insurance cover is a contractual relationship and must be known and agreed to in advance by both parties.

The Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) must not only require but also enforce and audit the readability of insurance contracts, summary sections, dashboard-style graphics for consumers, and full pre-purchase disclosure of insurance terms and conditions for specific policies.

Kenyan consumers certainly hold beliefs to receive benefits from insurers if a shock negatively affects their lives.

When insurers fail to comply with their contractual obligations, many consumers do not know that they can reach out to the IRA to file a claim on the “Complaint Form September 2010”.

However, in a sector that desperately needs trustworthiness demonstrations and trust repair, the IRA’s website should allow virtual direct submissions instead of physical mailing or emailing.

Further, insurance firms should be required to disclose percentages of claims paid, average turnaround times on claims per business line, and proportion of official complaints against their integrity and payouts.

Next week, Business Talk wraps up the mini-series by overlaying trust repair solutions to violations identified pertaining to ability, benevolence, and integrity.

PART 4: How to rebuild trust in Kenya insurance sector

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