Vipin Anand, Managing Director of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), the largest Indian insurer felt new technologies, capable of offering differential pricing-based personalised options to customers, would revolutionise the insurance industry.
Delivering the keynote address at Outlook Money Insurance Summit on “New Normal: New Realignment”, Anand said, “We (LIC) are digitally transforming ourselves continuously to serve our policyholders’ better and fulfil the expectations of all stakeholders.”
The mega Summit, held by Outlook Money, was attended by a galaxy of industry doyens, brokers,agents, customers and other stakeholders.
“We need to understand the current technological opportunities available and adopt them selectively to improve services to customers,” said Anand.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more and more industries to adopt technology in a big way. Massive adoption of new technology is the new normal and has brought increased awareness about the importance of insurance. Amidst the current pandemic, there are requirements for contactless completely digital insurance solution. The current situation has significantly accelerated the opportunities for digital engagement.
Anand expects technology adoption to fuel a significant jump in customer migration from physical to digital platforms as users get accustomed to digital interactions. He foresees a substantial increase in digital deployments. These, he believes, would be used for onboarding, underwriting, KYC (Know your Customers) processing, claims settlement and re-imagining employee engagement. Online customers and the sales force will also benefit.
“Today, insurers and distributors are reinventing themselves by leveraging technology. Video conferences, social media and attention-seeking methods have disrupted traditional communication methods. Technology has vastly improved process efficiency and value-driven decision making, benefiting both consumers and insurance companies,” said Anand.
With increased digital focus, data security has emerged a primary concern. Customers are also facing challenges due to low digital literacy levels. However, LIC has witnessed the ability of customers to switch to online services quickly during the lockdown.
A new vital factor that has recently emerged is the experience customers expect from insurers during the pandemic. Apart from individual outlooks, expectations are also driven by the availability of digital facilities across markets. The primary and the most challenging aspect of designing a proper customer experience strategy is understanding customers’ expectations.
Because LIC has a mixed group of customers with varying aspirations, building a proper technological infrastructure requires a careful evaluation of its adaptability and its early adoption by customers.
“We should also keep in mind that while technology can help to a great extent in building a better customer experience, human-touch remains the most important factor in selecting a proper strategy,” Anand said. It is crucial and requires careful analysis.
Use of technology in insurance has two major dimensions. Use of the latest technologies to enhance the customer experience is one. The other being a change in dimensions due to recent changes in technologies in improving customer experience. These are achieved mainly in the form of online transactions, mobile-first approach and self-service portals.
The goal of every insurer will be to make use of the latest technologies for client servicing while establishing a better emotional connect with customers by active engagement. Insurers also need to be careful about regulatory and statutory aspects when adopting technologies like data analytics as personal data is the base of our techniques.
Plenary Session 1
For A Resilient Ecosystem
“Blueprint for a Resilient insurance eco-system”, the first session of Outlook Money Insurance Summit, moderated by N Mahalakshmi, Editor, Outlook Business, focused on technological developments transforming the sector.
Vibha Padalkar, Managing Director, HDFC Life, said: “We are in an exciting phase of the digital journey, and customers have realised it is not complex. We are at an inflexion point and need to do as much as we can with extensive data protection.”
Kamlesh Rao, Managing Director, Aditya Birla Sun Life, said that the old and new needs to be imbibed together in the post-COVID world.
According to Kshitij Jain, Managing Director, Exide Life, the life insurance industry is reasonably efficient when it comes to managing policies and existing customers.
“The pandemic has made our agency learn fast. I hope it continues and does not go back to the old ways,” said G Murlidhar, Managing Director, Kotak Life.
Plenary Session 2
New Strategies For Consumers
Will insurers win customers’ expectation with improved engagement strategies? Moderator N Mahalakshmi, Editor, Outlook Business said that the insurance penetration remains low in India despite being a populated country.
Panellist Rajiv Gupta, Executive Director, Life Insurance Corporation of India, said: “Some of LIC’s products are very simple and available online.”
“We have provided an entire self-service portal to meet customers’ needs. With digital signatures on proposal forms, customers can buy a policy without any hassle. All medical tests can be conducted electronically,” he said.
Joining the discussions Tapan Singhel, Managing Director, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance said that their ambition was to meet customers’ expectations seamlessly through a rapid procedure. Singhel said that within 20 minutes of uploading his or her picture for motor insurance claims, his customers receive money.
Yashish Dahiya, Founder, Policybazaar.com, said: “I believe consumer awareness is growing. Hence, we need to address customers’ problems to meet demand.”
Fireside Chat 1
Embracing The Digital Era
Customers are increasingly using online facilities to buy covers
The COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to a new era in customer experience in the insurance industry. In a fireside chat, Abhijit Gulanikar, President - Business Strategy, SBI Life Insurance, discussed the developments with Debjoy Sengupta, Editor, Outlook Money.
Gulanikar said, “The first quarter was slow for insurance sales, but a speedy recovery followed. I believe uncertain times have increased demand for covers, especially protection products.”
He highlighted that customers were willing to participate in video calls to understand product features before making a final decision. They have been adopting the digital way of buying insurance policies.
“Customers’ behaviours are not fully known. It is the first underlying bottleneck. The biggest challenge, however, is to convince customers, and to provide tailored solutions at the right time,” he added.
He further added that it was up to the insurers to use online capabilities to improve customer experience.
“From the regulator’s point of view, there could be some tweaks around how products can be modified quickly. But, I believe there are more than enough products or solutions available. These need to reach customers appropriately,” concluded Gulanikar.
Plenary Session 3
Cloud Drives Customer Engagement
Innovations based on cloud technologies are improving business models
Cloud-based insurance solutions are helping in improving business efficacy, thus enhancing customer satisfaction and strengthening the company’s foothold.
Sivakumar Kunithapatham, Chief Technology Officer, Gradatim IT Ventures, said, “Having a cloud strategy in place helps in better customer engagement. I think it is the need of the hour. Having personalised portals for claim settlement allows you to handle processes end-to-end on the cloud.”
Adding Tarun Mathur, Head of Strategy and Innovation at Edelweiss General Insurance, said cloud-based innovation is happening across the industry in backend processes and business models. It is not just at the product level.
“Insurers are competing on levels of customer experience across the industry. It has become a vital differentiator.” Mathur added.
Cloud offers flexibility to work from anywhere. “Algorithms give you decision-making engines to predict engagement strategies,” said Dr Puneet Kaur Kohli, Chief Technology Officer at Universal Sompo. “It involves the entire customer relationship management.”
Chief Technology Officer at Max Bupa Health Insurance, Ashish Gupta, said that they are building a new customer relationship management. It would provide a 360-degree view of a customer.
Plenary Session 4
Best Practices In Claim Settlement
Claims are one of the essential parts of the insurance value chain and maintaining a healthy claim settlement ratio leads to building trust among customers. Moderator N Mahalakshmi, Editor, Outlook Business, however, said that mistrust is a smaller issue in the industry.
Mayank Bathwal, Chief Executive Officer, Aditya Birla Health Insurance, highlighted the fact that consumers often face delays in claim settlement while getting discharged from hospitals.
“Automated, paperless and machine-to-machine claim settlement technology can help create an infrastructure that can improve customer experience,” he said.
Bhargav Dasgupta, Managing Director at ICICI Lombard, informed that the insurance sector has been adopting an array of technologies including machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is facilitating speedy claim settlement without any physical intervention.
“Digital platforms are helping us make customers’ life journeys even simpler. PNB Metlife is now looking at settling claims within three to four hours”, added Ashish Srivastava, Managing Director, PNB Metlife.
Dr S Prakash, Managing Directors, Star Health and Allied Insurance, said, “The power of insurance is in claims settlement. Both hospital and health insurance providers should work together to bridge the gap.”
Fireside Chat 2
Enhancing Efficiency Through Digitisation
New strategies are fulfiling ever-changing customers’ demands
Technology has played a significant role in insurance, and players are relying on digital advancements to enhance overall operational efficiency. In a fireside chat, Satish Babu Potaraju, Head of Business Development and Strategy, Gradatim, a company providing cloud solutions, discussed the aspect with Debjoy Sengupta, Editor Outlook Money.
“Most private insurers started investing large sums of money in frontline technologies. But choices and customers’ requirements have been consistently changing with times. Currently, insurers are looking at instantly offering customised products based on needs,” said Potaraju.
He added that Gardatim works closely to understand clients’ requirements and designs products for them within a week. “Since Garadatim offers cloud-based solutions, deployments are fast. Maintenance costs are low too,” he said.
“The insurance business has a seasonality factor. Insures can opt for higher bandwidth in case of a rise in demand. During off-seasons or low seasonality effects, they can switch back to lower load,” said Potaraju.
Plenary Session 5
Revolutionising Distribution Landscape
With the pandemic, the insurance ecosystem promptly transformed, adopting new technolgies
The country witnessed a series of fascinating events post liberalisation of the insurance sector. Various new distribution channels emerged according to Amit Roy, Director, PWC and the moderator for the session.
The insurance industry has been adopting technology at a steady pace over the last several years. However, technology adoption received a boost as the pandemic hit the country. Individuals realised the importance of health covers, while insurers realised the criticality of offering contactless covers.
Rashmi Ravi Iyer, Principal Officer, Director, Global Insurance Brokers, stated that insurance is a very eco-system driven industry. It promptly reacted to whatever the eco-system demanded in terms of new technologies and product developments.
“Of course, it requires a proactive push,” Iyer said.
Sumit Bohra, Chief Executive Officer at Globe Secure Insurance Brokers, said, “Our firm does not have an online distribution model. We have an offline model with our team. We had a marvellous 22 per cent growth in the first six months of the current fiscal compared to last year. Penetration levels increased over time, and people realised insurance is a necessity.”
“The regulator asked insurers to design products first and then receive permission as soon the pandemic broke out. Insurers sold a lot of COVID covers, and it helped their distribution channel,” added Venkateswara Rao, Managing Director, Anand Jeevan.