Aegon strengthens its commitment to digital: Naveen Bachwani, COO, Aegon Life

Naveen Bachwani

Industries across the world are affected by the continual menace of the Covid-19 pandemic. The insurance sector, in particular, observed a lot of changes amid the outbreak and in sync with the situation the sector is emancipating the need to embrace the digital delivery.To understand, how multiple organizations, vendors and regulatory bodies currently working to build the ecosystem needed for the average citizen to establish his/her identity, Elets News Network (ENN) spoke to Naveen Bachwani, Chief Operating Officer at Aegon Life.

Excerpts of the Conversation:

1. The outbreak of the pandemic boosted the digital drive of several insurance companies. How did Aegon handle the sudden digitization push?

The industry at-large has, indeed, seen a push toward Digital, over the past couple of years. The broad consensus is that the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns played a significant role in it. However, the fact is that Aegon Life was well on its way to adopt a digital-first model, some years before the Covid19 crisis took a foothold.

As some of you may already know, our efforts to focus on digital began in 2016, when we first adopted the Direct to Customer (D2C) model for Insurance sales. At the time, Aegon Life was the first ‘Life Insurance’ enterprise in India to move away from traditional channels of distribution, and establish strategic partnerships with online brands like PayTM, Flipkart and many others.

Over the past year or two, we have only strengthened our commitment to Digital, by taking a bottom-up approach to creating simplified product offerings that are well-suited for an online purchase journey.

On the process side, we have also spent considerable energy and resources on two major fronts: 1. Empowering the Underwriting function with Automation & Analytics to enable Straight Through Processing, to the extent possible, and 2. Building critical Self-Service capabilities to address maximum number of customer queries and requests, across multiple modes of interaction.

This has enabled us to create a Digital-First framework that spans product to purchase to servicing, improving relevance and accelerating the time involved in every stage of the journey. Aegon Life will, of course, continue to improve on this in the months to come, to address the needs of technology-aware customers that are increasingly choosing simplicity and efficiency.

Also Read: Aegon Life Insurance appoints Sunita Rath as new Chief People Officer

2. Your company introduced the ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy in March this year. How is the response to this development?

The ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy was, in fact, designed in response to the “flexibility” that was echoed in employee surveys, as well as seen in anecdotal observations across ranks. When the Leadership Team of Aegon India reviewed these findings, it was unanimously decided to expand the ambit of Work from Home (WFH) to Work from Anywhere (WFA), so that our employees can benefit from remote work arrangements, as well as access to office infrastructure, indefinitely.

The WFA policy has been very well-received among our employees, and as much as 25%+ of our team members are already working out of non-Mumbai locations, having relocated to their home towns or other cities of their choosing. As and when the lockdown situation in Mumbai changes, they will also have on-demand access to the Mumbai office infrastructure.

We believe this approach offers maximum flexibility to all our employees, given their varying circumstances and needs.

3. You hold two decades of experience in the sector. Which technologies, in your view, would lead the space in the next few years?

I’m not a big fan of buzzwords that seem to cure all ills. So, I’m not going to say AI, ML or CX is going to take over everything, though each of these will play a key role in the days to come. That said, I do believe we are at the cusp of a number of interesting convergences…

1. We now have access to almost infinite data sources (structured as well as unstructured), combined with the ability to mine it for actionable insights. If we do this right, the next wave of products, services and solutions are likely to be driven by a very high degree of relevance-based on real customer insights that most organizations could have only dreamed of in the past.

2. We have also seen tremendous progress in terms of bridging digital divides, while we have not yet fully solved for it. Thanks to the proliferation of cheap phones and access to inexpensive dataplans, hundreds of millions across the globe are now able to access the Internet, even if it is via a handheld device.

Multiple organizations, vendors and regulatory bodies are currently hard at work to build the ecosystem needed for the average citizen to establish his/her identity, access a plethora of online services, and have the ability to pay for them digitally. This is bound to open-up many new avenues of services for both organizations and customers. When you combine that with a rich source of insights backed by a storehouse of data, it can add up to a new world order!

4. Do you think the Phygital approach will continue to stay amid the pandemic?

Given the obvious cost and reach advantages that Digital modes offer, it is getting increasingly harder for folks to stick to physical modes of service.

There will always be a set of customers who will prefer going back to their old ways when ‘normalcy’ returns. However, there will also be others who – once they have tried a faster, more efficient and hassle-free way of interacting with their preferred products and services – will no longer want to return to the physical way of doing things. Of course, it will ultimately depend on the category of consumption and the industry in question.

In my view, organizations need to define their target audience clearly, and figure out what they want from the enterprise. If more Technology and self-service is indeed what they are looking for, it makes sense to focus on it. For others, it may just be a hybrid, phygital approach that works best.

Naveen Bachwani is an expert in Strategy, Digital Transformation & Customer Engagement, and is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Aegon Life. Views expressed in this article are personal. You can follow him on Twitter @NaveenBachwani.

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