At Oakhurst we like to salute the superheroes amongst us. Those who fulfil our mantra of really caring and really delivering. We would therefore like to introduce you to a real superhero from our company, Gerhard Sonnekus. Gerhard’s role is multi-dimensional, complex, exciting and absolutely vital to our business.
The other night I was at a typical South African “braai”. You know the sort where everybody knows at least one other person there, but no more than that. Within 20 minutes of everyone arriving, the women were clucking in the kitchen about men, children and fashion and the men had gathered around the fire with a “B & C” or a frosty lager in the hand. It was the time and place to discuss important “men stuff” like cars, sport and fishing, with the occasional and appropriate agreeing and disagreeing also taking place. Time flew by as we discussed these important matters and before I knew it there was an uncomfortable lull in the conversation and the topic turned to life’s more mundane matters. The guy next to me, whom I had just disagreed with on the obvious choice for the position of full-back in the Springbok team, turned to me and said, “So what do you do for living?”
A multitude of evasive answers flashed through my head in quick succession, from “vital supply chain analyst” to “precious possession restorer” and even “supreme guardian of all that is precious and valuable”, but these were all quickly discarded.
“I manage the claims department for an insurance company.” I said.
“Oh, you’re an insurance claims manager, I suppose that keeps you up at night?” was the reply.
“Why would that be?” I answered with a question of my own.
“You guys get to decide whether to pay someone’s claim or not, and you always have reasons not to pay.” was the quick retort.
“That’s a very one-sided point of view”, I said, “probably from someone who has had a bad experience with an insurer. In fact, being an insurance claims manager is very satisfying. It is much more than having a good job, even a well-paying one. It is, in fact, a very personal job. You may think it is just about facts and figures, but most often, I am able to help someone lift themselves back up, rather than putting them down. I get to see the inner workings of someone else’s home and I’m exposed to their social practices, the places they visit, the friends they keep and their daily activities. I suppose that makes people feel slightly uncomfortable – because they have to expose themselves a bit. But through it all I always have to remind myself that I am not there to judge or to punish. I am there to do the right thing.”
“What is the right thing?” my new friend asked.
“The right thing is to be consistent; to apply the correct rule, consistently. It may produce one result today and a different one tomorrow. Sometimes it leads to the kind of unhappiness that you talked about just now. I live with that. I accept it. I trust the process. Being an insurance claims manager requires integrity, honesty and a belief in the process. I live it. Maybe next time we meet, I’ll tell you a few stories. But for now, let’s braai!”
Oakhurst Insurance Company Limited (Registration Number 2006/000723/06) is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (FSP39925)