With the growing demand of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the future of the “sell” and “buy” of insurance is going to be purely AI- enabled, and persona driven backed by digital technologies, says Venkatesh Gurumurthy, Senior Vice-President – Engineering, ACKO in an exclusive interaction with Srajan Agarwal of Elets News Network (ENN)
Could you please provide an overview of your role and responsibilities within the organisation, particularly in driving innovation and technological advancements?
As a Senior Vice President Engineering, I lead the development of APIs and SaaS products at ACKO which is a driver and orchestrator of the business at ACKO. We are focussed on developing the partner ecosystem and key partners with cutting edge technologies using Machine Learning, Component Based Architecture, and Cloud Native services and SaaS. As part of my additional responsibilities, I lead the Cloud technology operations, SDET engineering and Cloud Security. Our investments in API Suite coupled with automation engineering, self-serve portals and cyber security have yielded efforts in onboarding partners to help sell digitised insurance in a matter of hours rather than days. Our technology operations follow the latest SRE standards and have self-healing mechanisms built into it to ensure high reliability and availability. We continue to invest in areas of Machine Learning to help us process our claims faster and provide exceptional customer service – A value proposition ACKO is known for!
ACKO General Insurance is known for its focus on leveraging technology to provide enhanced insurance services. Could you share some key initiatives or projects that your engineering team has recently undertaken to further enhance the customer experience and simplify insurance processes?
With the growing demand of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the future of the “sell” and “buy” of insurance is going to be purely AI- enabled, and persona driven backed by digital technologies. ACKO’s investment in this area has reaped multi-fold benefits. Enhanced multichannel customer interactions with an ecosystem of consumer and risk data from Data Providers, Sensors, IOT devices and unstructured data are available for the insurers to personalise coverage, provide sound customer-first service, reduce risks, and gain customer trust.
Distribution: Maturing AI algorithms creating risk profiles, Telematics, Integration with Internet of Things (IoT) devices help us identify risk in a much more granular and sophisticated way, and will lead to a new wave of mass-market instant issue insurance products. Blockchain will enhance the insurance processing and payment verification thereby reducing customer acquisition costs for insurers.
Underwriting and pricing: Majority of underwriting will be automated and supported by a combination of machine and deep learning models. These models are powered by internal data as well as a broad set of external data accessed through APIs (application programming interfaces) and outside data and analytics providers. These information sources enable insurers to make near-real-time decisions regarding underwriting and pricing tailored to the buyer’s risk profile and coverage needs.
Claims & customer service: More than half of the claims activities will be replaced by Automation and Artificial Intelligence algorithms will help in increasing efficiency and accuracy
With the rapid evolution of technology, how does ACKO General Insurance ensure that its engineering team stays up to date with the latest advancements and industry best practices? Are there any specific training programs or collaboration efforts in place to foster continuous learning and growth?
ACKO’s growing engineering team focuses on three dimensions – Technology, Process and People. Engineering teams in addition to the delivery of business needs, focus on working with newer technologies to pilot out technology solutions to address the buying, selling and processing part of the insurance industry. Continuous collaboration with industry teams, co-location with customer experience and claims teams, and investment in technology solutions to solve the daily operational issues through technology, are the key mantra for our success. Grooming architects, differentiated career models for engineering enthusiasts, Crowdsourcing through Hackathons and Bugathons and partnership with academia early on to groom engineering talent as part of an internship has yielded good results in the growth and continuous learning. Senior leaders participate in external eminence programs and showcase their depth and breadth.
Building robust and secure digital systems is crucial in the insurance industry, especially when handling sensitive customer information. How does your engineering team prioritise cybersecurity and ensure that ACKO’s systems are protected against potential threats?
As an insurtech company, we prioritise cyber security controls as a non-negotiable aspect of our system. Since we handle critical insurance systems containing customer PII and SPDI (Sensitive Personal Data) as well as businesscritical information, we require security measures to be implemented at the system design level. Our system design policies include key points such as adequate access management (especially for internal users with mandatory ZTA), pre/postprod security assessments, and encryption for data at rest/motion and a few more key controls as mandated. Additionally, we are highly vigilant about zero-day vulnerabilities and proactively patch our system to prevent any potential impact. Investments in devsecops and manual ethical hacking are also a few key initiatives to strengthen our cyber security posture.
According to you, what are the major challenges that insurance companies might face while embracing new technologies and innovations in the next few years?
As demand for insurance purchase continues to grow due to the growing population, a few challenges we foresee are:
Product and distribution reconfiguration – Increased growth of newer social digital channels, and distribution points via partnerships and embedded options are changing the way insurance products are sold. Flexible and creative products options and access are increasing, and barriers to entry are easing.
Operational disruption – The Insurer workforce must now adapt to the virtual world of serving customers and be open for unwelcoming changes in the workplace. Reinventing technology – Insurers are attempting to AI-enabled, mastering data and its many sources in order to quickly assess and price risk, as well as serve customers when they need and purchase insurance. Majority of underwriting will be automated and supported by a combination of machine and deep learning models. Automated customer service apps and chatbots will handle most policyholder interactions through voice and text, coupled with AI algorithms that interface with the IOT devices and systems thereby reducing the turnaround time for resolution of many claims to near real time.