If the New Zealand insurance industry needed to prove itself, the earthquakes in Canterbury provided the perfect opportunity. It may not have been the biggest disaster financially the world has seen but it certainly ranked up there in terms of the degree to which insurance contributed to the recovery.
Covering in the order of 75% of the losses, insurance has played an enormous part in securing the future economy of not only Canterbury but the whole of New Zealand.
Differentiating this disaster from others has been its complexity. Unlike other natural disasters such as flood or fire, there was not a singular event but rather a series occurring over an extended period of time. Each even compounded the problems faced by insurance industry.
With the heart of the city being gradually destroyed, attempts to fix damage were frustratingly negated by successive shakes. Traditional insurance policies struggled to cope with issues never before encountered by the industry. Even the most seasoned professionals found their vast experience had not prepared them for the issues this disaster threw up.
The size and complexity of the losses presented a real challenge but one that brokers and insurers were willing to take on. It was never going to be easy and inevitably when working in unknown territory not everything will go right. It was a hard way to learn but there was no choice.
Unfortunately whenever something did go wrong there always seemed to be someone quick to point the finger. This greatly added to the burden of those who were already carrying more than their fair share of the load. Many at the front line of insurance in Christchurch had themselves suffered as much or more than the clients they were attempting to help.
If your home and your business have suffered immense damage it is hard to cope, as many in Christchurch can testify. when you also have hundreds of clients wanting you to help them with their problems the stress can become extreme. add to this the pressure from media and other and it is a wonder any brokers remain in Canterbury.
we may not have got it right every time but we got the vast majority of it right. The insurance professionals on the ground, fronting up day after day, month after month, year after year, deserve to be acknowledged. the few have helped the many to survive, to the on with rebuilding there homes, their businesses, their lives.
One thing is for sure, having a broker to prepare you for a disaster and then be there to assist when the worst happens is invaluable. An experienced advocate working alongside you will ultimately produce a quicker and better outcome. The results for those who had the assistance of a professional broker have proven their worth.
It is not over yet, it will take time and there are still numerous challenges to overcome, but our members are in for the long haul. The end result may not be all we would want in an ideal world but it is infinitely better than one without support of an insurance broking professional.
By Gary Young