Ron McLaren and Deanne Wood. Photography by Jeremy Glyn for OSTI in November 2019

The insurance industry will have a single Ombudsman from 1 January 2020. He is retired Judge, Mr Justice Ron McLaren, who brings with him a wealth of judicial experience and knowledge in dealing with and resolving insurance disputes. 

As from 1 January 2020, the short-term (non-life) and long-term (life) insurance industries will have a single Ombudsman when retired Judge McLaren, the current Ombudsman for Long-term Insurance, in addition takes over the adjudicative role in the office of the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance.  Deanne Wood, the current Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance, will be leaving the office on 31 December 2019. Edite Teixeira-Mckinon has been appointed by the Board of the office of the Short-term Insurance Ombudsman as Chief Executive Officer of the office of the Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance and will head up all operations. 

For some time, National Treasury has 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 office of the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance and the office of the Ombudsman for Long-Term Insurance will remain in existence and continue to operate separately within their current defined jurisdictions. 

Judge McLaren said there will be a single port of entry for complainants who are uncertain at which office to lodge a complaint. This will go live on 1 February 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. 

Judge McLaren was admitted as an attorney in 1968 and practised until 1978 when he joined the Pietermaritzburg Bar. He became a Senior Counsel in 1984 and left the Bar in 1990 when he was appointed as a Judge, which position he held for more than 20 years.  

On 1 June 2013 he was appointed as Ombudsman for Long-term Insurance, which position he will continue to hold as the joint Ombudsman.

BUSINESS REPORTER