Advisers face challenges as Auckland businesses struggle

Advisers face challenges as Auckland businesses struggle | Insurance Business New Zealand

Advisers face challenges as Auckland businesses struggle

Auckland is staying in lockdown until at least November 02, and restrictions are highly likely to stay in place for a longer period of time.

Auckland businesses have been venting their frustrations about the difficulties they have faced as the lockdown drags on and uncertainty rises, and as COVID-19 cases continue to trend upwards - however, insurance advisers say that optimism has still been higher throughout this lockdown compared to April 2020.

The government had paid out over $876 million in wage subsidies as of September. The majority of the subsidy was paid out to small businesses, with only 2.1% of subsidy recipients belonging to firms with over 500 staff members.

It comes as no surprise that hospitality and tourism businesses have been hit the hardest, with cafe owners and restaurant managers saying that the ongoing outbreak is “disappointing,” and that business is suffering.

Commenting on the impact of the lockdown, Insurance People director and adviser Katrina Church said that there was definitely more fear and uncertainty last year, when the pandemic first broke out. However, she said that the ongoing restrictions have nonetheless been tough, and advisers have had to focus on ensuring that clients are keeping their cover updated and active.

Read more: Small businesses need certainty amid lockdown

“During the first lockdown, there was certainly a lot of fear,” Church said.

“People didn’t know when it was going to end and what things were going to look like, so there were a lot of incoming calls and emails, and we had to connect with people and calm them down a great deal. This lockdown, I have to say that it certainly isn’t like that.”

“We know that there’s an end date, even though we don’t know what that date is, and a lot of people are just getting on with it,” she explained.

“That said, we’ve certainly seen people hit the wall, and we’ve seen them suffer with a lot more stress and anxiety.”

Church noted that one of the challenges of being an insurance adviser in a tough time is dealing with emotionally stressed clients, particularly when that stress comes out during conversations. She said that making sure clients don’t drop vital cover is also a key challenge, and that, ultimately, the best way to manage these situations is to find a genuine connection with clients.

“I try to always remind my team that it’s actually not about them, it’s about how that other person is feeling,” Church said.

“It’s really important for us to connect, to not take that to heart and to try and help those clients.”

Read more: Government offers further relief for small businesses

“Anyone who’s been in an industry that’s been affected by COVID, whether that’s hospitality, tourism or small businesses - they have struggled, and not being able to move forward has been a challenge,” she said.

“But we’ve still had all the things that we were dealing with before, and it’s not a bit more complicated to get things done. I don’t see that changing.

“I think it’s going to be an ever-increasing world of us needing to get people to keep their cover, and to get them to adjust to seeing specialists outside of the public system. All of those things are going to become more challenging for advisers.”

Auckland’s small businesses have been heavily relying on the wage subsidy to get by so far, and Small Business Voice chief executive Max Whitehead said that this financial support has at least given them some time in relative security.

“That’s something that they’ve really got to lean on,” Whitehead said.

“It certainly still won’t be a lifesaver, most of them will still be struggling, but it may hold them together for a period of time to cope in the short term.”

“They want to expand their business and grow it and of course that’s what they do - they grow their business, they put their money back into the business, invest in more equipment, more employees, those sort of factors,” he said.

“And of course, when it all comes crumbling down like it does at Level 4, they just hold their breath and just hope that we’re going to get out of this very, very soon.”