A key mark of distinction between insurance businesses remains their ability to go the extra mile when it comes to a raft of considerations – from customer service, to coverage, to innovative practices, to security. It is a demarcation that existed long before COVID-19 shone a spotlight on both the capabilities and the shortcomings of insurance services in a time of global upheaval, but the crisis has further fortified the status of those companies willing and able to act proactively.
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An example of this was recently demonstrated by the legal protection and assistance provider ARAG which extended its accreditation under ISO standards, by adding 22301:2019 to its certifications. Providing insight into what this means, Simon Barrett (pictured), chief financial officer at ARAG noted that many organisations are familiar with the ISO 9000 series of quality management systems which provide global standards that are met by more than a million certified businesses around the world.
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However, he added, there are hundreds of different ISO certifications that cover everything from food safety to energy management. In the case of ISO 22301, this certification is all about preparing a business for the worst.
“It’s rarely possible to predict what form a disaster will take, when it might happen or how long its effects might last,” he said. “The global pandemic has been the perfect example. What businesses can do is make sure they have the business continuity systems in place that will make the company more resilient and adaptable, allowing them to minimise the impact of often unforeseeable disruption. ISO 22301 specifies the requirements of such systems to ensure they are robust and up to the task, whenever it might arise and whatever form it may take.”
Examining how ARAG’s decision to undergo this ISO certification first came about, Barrett highlighted that the provider achieved the ISO 27001:2013 certification, the standard for information security, in 2015 and already had robust business continuity management systems in place. While the decision to pursue ISO 22301 certification was not entirely motivated by the pandemic, he said, its experiences in 2020 certainly provided the impetus to do it now.
“The massive organisational shift that ARAG, like all businesses, had to make in 2020 was remarkably smooth, but it underlined the importance of our business continuity management systems,” he said. “Partly because the systems worked so well under such testing circumstances, we had both the time and the experiences to reflect on the process. Rather than pat ourselves on the back for being prepared, we looked at how we could document what we had learned and where we could improve. ISO certification provides the perfect mechanism for doing that.”
ARAG initiated the company-wide project in February of 2021, he said, and achieved ISO 22301:2019 certification in June.
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Barrett highlighted the importance of firms documenting their learning and experiences when it comes to the subject of resilience and adaptability. Whatever systems or processes might already be in place, he said, there is always room for improvement. It’s impossible to predict every possible scenario when preparing a business for such events, but failing to learn from experiences and adapt plans to increase resilience could be the difference between survival and organisational failure.
“It’s vital to have a solid and tested framework, in which experiences can be documented, improvements planned and changes implemented,” he continued. “The cost of failing to do so could literally be the end of the business.”
The question of whether or not the COVID pandemic has increased the importance of this has been one raised across several industries. Offering his perspective, Barrett stated he does not believe that the pandemic has actually made business continuity planning any more important but rather that it has accelerated how important it really is. Many businesses that may not have been well-prepared will have survived the past 18 months, he said, but they will have incurred much higher costs or lost more business than they might have otherwise.
“The business world has already been transformed but the COVID crisis is far from over and who knows what other events or challenges may emerge,” he said. “Businesses that have robust, up-to-date plans are the most likely to survive, but also the most likely to thrive on the other side of a crisis.”