AI-Powered Revolution: Unveiling the Future of Digital Underwriting and Personalised Insurance

Srinidhi Shama Rao

Srinidhi Shama Rao, the Chief Strategy Officer at Aegon Life Insurance delved deep into the company’s commitment to redefining the insurance landscape through innovation and customercentricity, in an exclusive interaction with Srajan Agarwal of Elets News Network (ENN).

Aegon Life prides itself on a best-in-class customer experience, with a remarkable 99.37 per cent claims settlement rate and a truly digitised process. How do you ensure that this customer-centric approach remains a core tenet of Aegon Life’s strategic decisions?

Three years ago, we made a bold decision to go completely digital from an operations perspective. The company opted to transform into a digital-only life insurer, eliminating the need for physical touchpoints, including any physical or PDF documents, once the customer decides to purchase our product. The idea was to remove or reduce any friction in the customer journey and make insurance more accessible than ever.

Three years on, we have made significant progress in realising this goal, although there is still some distance to cover. Our KYC process is now 100 per cent digital, with customers typing in only their PAN/AADHAR/DL numbers. The check is done digitally on government databases. Income verification is carried out digitally through Account Aggregator/Income Tax portal/Provident Fund Portal, among other means. The customer simply needs to provide consent to securely procure the information from these sites and doesn’t have to upload any documents whatsoever. Similar progress is being made on digital health verification.

All these developments were implemented with the customer at the center of experience design, evolving based on customer feedback and partner input. Our strategy is to continue in this direction. While the act of providing information and creating intent in the customer can take any form—physical, digital, or phygital—based on the distribution partner’s business model, once the customer decides to purchase, the journey should be digital and frictionless. We will continuously gather feedback on what is working and what is not and keep improving the experience with the intent of eventually eliminating all friction in the purchase journey, making the insurance purchase as smooth as buying your next phone on Amazon or ordering your favorite Biryani on Swiggy.

Could you shed light on the technical intricacies of Aegon Life’s DIY digital life insurance model? How does the API-driven, cloud-native model and service-oriented architecture contribute to the fastest partner onboarding in the industry?

Aegon Life’s DIY digital life insurance model is a testament to our unwavering commitment to innovation and efficiency in the insurance industry. This model, which relies on advanced technologies, data-driven algorithms, and a customer-centric approach, sets a new standard for insurance services. At the heart of our model are API-driven architecture and a cloud-native infrastructure. These technical intricacies offer several critical advantages and serve as the backbone of our ability to provide the fastest partner onboarding in the industry.

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First and foremost, our cloud-native architecture ensures scalability and flexibility. As our business grows, our cloud infrastructure seamlessly accommodates increased workloads, guaranteeing a seamless experience for our partners and customers. We have stress-tested our system to underwrite one policy per second, theoretically capable of handling much more. The flexibility of our service-oriented architecture allows us to create and deploy customised microservices, swiftly adapting to changing market conditions and partner requirements.

The real game-changer is the speed of partner onboarding. The architecture has been built in such a way that any partner onboarding requires only configuration that business teams can handle independently. No developer needs to be involved whatsoever. The average partner onboarding time now is two weeks, including end-to-end testing.

Our cloud-native infrastructure also enables real-time data sharing, providing partners and customers with access to the most up-todate information. Our partners see the same dashboards that our teams see, showing the status of the policy in real-time. This not only enhances the customer experience but also plays a pivotal role in fraud detection and underwriting decisions.

Aegon Life has adopted a 100 per cent Work from Anywhere model. How do you think this approach has impacted the company’s efficiency, productivity, and overall organisational culture?

Our adoption of the 100 per cent work from anywhere model has not only enhanced efficiency and productivity but has also fortified our organisational culture. It has positioned Aegon Life as an innovative and forwardthinking company in the life insurance industry, redefining conventional norms and embracing the possibilities of digital transformation. This approach has been pivotal in our journey toward creating a more agile, engaged, and efficient organisation.

At Aegon Life, we’ve built a thriving remote work culture that fosters engagement. With a unique remote onboarding process, new employees feel welcome from day one. We facilitate informal chats in our virtual meetings, encouraging camaraderie.

Our digital-first training approach nurtures professional growth, with interactive courses and a robust learning assistance program. We keep motivation high through a variety of virtual events, ensuring a balance of work and fun.

We strengthen connections with meetups for remote employees and their families and foster a performance-driven culture through two-way communication and recognition programs. Our transformed office serves as a collaboration hub for milestone celebrations and brainstorming sessions. Employee success stories are showcased frequently, reinforcing a sense of pride and belonging. With high engagement scores, our remote work culture is thriving. Our high engagement scores and thriving culture have proven that it’s truly possible to Win from Anywhere!

Aegon Life have established some golden rules that must be followed. We have designated ‘no meeting hours’ that allow time for planning and personal reflection. One workday a month is set aside as a ‘no meeting day’ so employees can catch up on projects or invest in training. No one feels pressured to check/respond to emails sent over the weekend or during late evening unless flagged as urgent. Our people have the flexibility to decide what their switch-off time is. The work-from-anywhere model offers a lot of flexibility, so people can plan their days accordingly.

How is Aegon Life leveraging transformative AI, especially in the realm of fully functional digital underwriting capabilities? How do these capabilities set the company apart in the highly competitive insurance industry?

At Aegon Life, we have accelerated the underwriting process through a data-driven approach, making the process quicker and eliminating the need for any documentation.

Our AI-powered ‘Authentication Engine’ validates customers’ identity in seconds, pulling data directly from government sources. The customer only needs to enter either their Aadhaar, PAN, or driver’s license number—no scanning, no uploading.

Some eligible consumers face challenges of denial or delay in obtaining covers due to a lack of required documentation, as per the general industry practice. For example, the need for standard financial documents to determine eligibility. So, we decided to focus on this untapped segment by leveraging the Account Aggregator (AA) network. Now, customers just enter the mobile number connected to their bank account, and upon consent, AI models can verify their income and lifestyle via their online bank statements. It is that easy!

Our ‘Data Enrichment Engine’ pulls from various digitally authenticated sources—like social media, device and location data, website behavior, etc.—to enrich customer profiles. This real-time data sourcing allows us to provide products that are a perfect fit for our customer’s needs.

Working with that data, our ‘Pricing Engine’ offers dynamic and personalised pricing to customers based on their profiles and needs, within a matter of seconds.

Predicting if a person is in good health is always challenging due to continually changing environmental and individual factors. Traditionally, underwriters have looked at health, lifestyle, occupation, finances, and some indicators to determine risks. However, modern lifestyles, emerging risks, the complexity of new diseases, medical advancements, and their variable outcomes have made underwriting more challenging than ever before. These challenges are forcing life insurance companies to rethink the way they underwrite life insurance policies.

Aegon Life’s ‘Health Engine’ enables automated medical underwriting using a dynamic, reflexive questionnaire to understand an applicant’s health status. It also identifies specific risk triggers to decide if the applicant needs further medical tests.

Being at the helm of strategy for Aegon Life, how do you envision the future of India’s only digital life insurance company, especially given its legacy of digital innovation and being a pioneer of online term plans?

We firmly believe that personalisation and customisation are the future of customer experience and product design. As the Indian market matures and customers become more demanding, a one-size-fits-all approach to product and experience design is not going to work.

Our strategy is based on the above belief. We will continue to focus on specific microsegments of customers and make the product and process super-relevant for them. For example, we designed the iTerm Prime product and process with the self-employed customer in mind. Later, we realised that among the selfemployed, the needs of owners of small factories are different from the owners of Kirana stores. So, we are customising the product and process for each of these groups.

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Given our B2B2C strategy, the super-custom approach works well for us. The distribution partner engages the customer and understands their needs, recommends the appropriate custom product from the many choices, and once the customer agrees to buy, it is just a matter of a few clicks. Think of us as the “Intel Inside” of the insurance world.

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