Incoming single ombudsman for the short-term and long-term insurance industries, Judge Ron McLaren (left), and Deanne Wood (right), outgoing ombudsman for short-term insurance. Picture: SUPPLIED
Incoming single ombudsman for the short-term and long-term insurance industries, Judge Ron McLaren (left), and Deanne Wood (right), outgoing ombudsman for short-term insurance. Picture: SUPPLIED

The insurance industry will have a single ombudsman in the new year.

As from January 1 2020, retired Judge Ron McLaren will be the single watchdog for both the short-term (non-life) and long-term (life) insurance industries.

The two ombud offices will continue to operate separately within their current defined jurisdictions, but with a single port of entry for complainants who may be uncertain at which office to lodge a complaint. This will go live on February 1 2020.

Complainants of both life and non-life insurance can also continue to use the existing entry points. If a complaint needs to be transferred to the other office, it will be a seamless process, McLaren said in a statement.

The current ombudsman for short-term insurance (OSTI) Deanne Wood is leaving the office on December 31 2019. To fill the void, Edite Teixeira-Mckinon has been appointed CEO and will head up all operations in the OSTI office.

The OSTI board says the National Treasury has, for some time, advocated a self-rationalisation process for the four, statutorily recognised, voluntary financial services ombudsman schemes, namely long-term insurance, short-term insurance, banking and credit.

“Against the backdrop of changes in the policy and insurance environment, the boards of both insurance ombudsman schemes made an in-principle decision to enter into a shared services agreement and have a single ombudsman for the adjudication of both short-term and long-term insurance complaints,” the OSTI board said. 

McLaren has been the ombudsman for long-term insurance since 2013. He started his legal career in 1968 and after a decade as a practising attorney he joined the Pietermaritzburg Bar. He became a senior counsel in 1984 and left the Bar when he was appointed a judge in 1990.