Pandemic accelerated the digital journey of the entire life insurance industry – Vighnesh Shahane

Vighnesh Shahane, MD & CEO, Ageas Federal Life Insurance

Understanding the need for speed in this digital age, initiatives were taken to bring down policy issuance to just a day in cases where documentation is in order and payment is made promptly. To know more about technology adoption in the insurance sector, Shruti Jain of Elets News Network (ENN), had a conversation with Vighnesh Shahane, MD & CEO, Ageas Federal Life Insurance.

Q. How has the pandemic accelerated awareness towards health & life insurance?

Ans: The pandemic has made people realise that uncertainty in life is a reality and not just a sales pitch. Given this greater understanding, we have seen a rise in the
demand for insurance, especially for term and health insurance.

However, India has one of the lowest penetration rates for insurance in terms of GDP among developing countries and there is a huge protection gap. So, while there has been a growth in awareness as a result of the pandemic, there is much more that needs to be done in terms of awareness creation and insurance penetration.

Q. How is your organisation strengthening the game in creating unique products for the younger generation?

Ans: Our research over the years has revealed several interesting insights regarding the financial decisions and investment habits of the younger generation, especially millennials.

We have realised that the younger generation are keen to live life in the moment and are not particularly interested in planning for the future in detail. Pursuing and fulfilling their life dreams such as travelling and seeing the world is of great importance to them. They are also ready to move cities or even countries to pursue better career opportunities and hence, do not believe in purchasing assets such as a house or a car.

To cater to the needs of this generation, we have introduced products with shorter premium paying term options as well as shorter investment horizons which help them to achieve their life goals.

Another observation is that the younger generation is still largely dependent on their parents or mentors for financial advice. Hence, they tend to prefer simple products with easy-to-understand features.

This generation is also extremely comfortable on digital platforms and so they prefer purchasing life insurance through the online route. We have
introduced many of our products on the digital platform for ease of purchase and quick issuance of the policy. We also use social media and the digital platform to build a stronger connect with our younger target group, educate them about life insurance, regularly engage with them, and ultimately, drive purchase.

Q. Pace of mobile technology adoption is increasing on a daily basis. What measures are being taken to reach out to the ‘empowered buyers’?

Ans: The pandemic accelerated the digital journey of the entire life insurance industry. With extended lockdowns and social distancing norms in place, we made effective use of technology to digitise our operations, ensure consistency in our service across different platforms, expedite processes, and effectively acquire new business. We also deployed rapidly evolving technology extensively to empower our employees, customers, and vendor partners. Additionally, we used next-generation technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and data analytics to enhance our offerings and operations.

We introduced online self-service tools on our customer portal and mobile app that have transformed the user experience for our customers. These platforms have self-service options for renewal premium payments, fund switching, updation of personal details and many other services.

We have introduced an AI-powered chatbot on our website named ‘Rehan’ which helps customers with frequently asked queries (FAQs) and ensures easy access to products and services. Our WhatsApp service also enables easy and convenient communication with customers.

Understanding the need for speed in this digital age, we have brought down policy issuance to just a day in cases where documentation is in order and payment is made promptly. We have also reduced our turnaround times (TATs) for resolving complaints, addressing queries and settling claims.

Q. How is the usage of insurtech companies in the market impacting the traditional insurance companies’ growth?

Ans: We believe that collaboration is the name of the game and tie-ups with insurtechs are invaluable in the current scenario. Insurers who proactively collaborate with insurtechs are bound to benefit from the data insights and new technologies which will help them to further drive customer centricity, target new customer segments, develop innovative solutions and overcome challenges.

Q. What are your future plans to create a road map for stronger insurance by year 2025?

Ans: Our aim over the next 3-4 years is on strengthening our distribution footprint. While Federal Bank is our dominant bancassurance distributor, we are seeking to further expand our bancassurance network. The regulator allows for open architecture and we hope to extend our distribution footprint through tie-ups with 1-2 mid-sized banks, RRB (Regional Rural Banks), PSUs or NBFCs.

In addition to bancassurance, we are also looking to grow our other distribution channels such as agency, online, DST, group and broking. With over 60 branches and more than 12,000 agents, agency is a key focus area for us, and we are looking to ramp up our agency business in a smart, calibrated manner. Digital distribution is another focus area as more people are purchasing life insurance online, especially after the pandemic.

We are also keen to focus on customer centricity by re-imagining the entire customer journey. Through tailored product offerings for different customer segments, best-in-class service across all our channels and platforms, a simplified claims process and an enhanced experience on our website, we hope to drive better engagement with our customers.

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