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If ever proof were needed that necessity is the mother of invention, the current global pandemic offers plenty.
At the sharp end, researchers are already on the way to developing a vaccine for Covid-19, and those responsible for testing, trialling and manufacturing it will have to be equally inventive to get it mass-produced on an unprecedented scale and in record time.
But the wider social and economic impacts of the crisis have also sparked a wealth of innovation that will change the ways we live and work, forever.
Neither home working nor virtual meetings are particularly new, but businesses of all sizes have been forced to make use of them, and many other relatively recent innovations, on an unprecedented scale, creating new demands for both the technology and working methods that will inspire the next version of the commercial world we all inhabit.
Some sectors of the economy have obviously been affected more than others, and those businesses that survive will not do so without embracing huge transformation.
We often talk about “vulnerable customers” but, until now, the phrase has almost exclusively referred to personal clients rather than commercial ones.
It may not be the right term to use, but Covid-19 has shown that there are swathes of businesses and even entire sectors that are peculiarly vulnerable to an event like this, and it is incumbent upon us to help build the solutions that will protect them for the future.
None of us wants to live in a world without restaurants and pubs, for example.
As much as almost any other, the insurance industry was built on responding to crises, whether individual, commercial, national or even, like this one, global. Insurance businesses are already looking at ways our products can be more responsive to events like these, how the risks can be managed and the consequences mitigated.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has collided with our commercial world at a time when working practices and patterns were already undergoing huge transitions.
The growth of the gig economy, increases in home and flexible working, ageing workforces and AI have all been transforming the world of work and were looking to be gathering pace. Whether this global crisis will slow or accelerate each of those changes remains to be seen.
It seems perverse to use the word “opportunity” at a time like this, but there is an opportunity for us to support our customers and communities through this difficult period and to design the products, services and ways of working that will make us more resilient.
The legal world too was already being transformed by these global developments as well as national, technological and sector-specific ones. The trajectories of these changes will be radically reset in the wake of Covid-19.
ARAG has built a business and our place in the market out of being adaptable in the face of sometimes sweeping legislative changes, so there is something familiar about the rapidly and radically changing legal environment.
But the present challenges stretch far beyond anything any of us have experienced before. and will transform the commercial world in ways we’re not yet able to see.
Whatever the economic, legal and employment landscapes may look like once the pandemic tide has ebbed and a “new normal” has been reached, later this year solutions will be developed to protect individuals and companies against whatever legal and other risks they may face.
Our industry is not in the business of making vaccines, but we can help the global economy to build up greater resistance to the consequences of a pandemic, before the next one strikes.
David Haynes is underwriting and marketing director of ARAG