‘Technology making insurance sector more customers friendly’

Sanjay Karnatak

Insurance companies have been pretty low on customer engagement for years together. Constant efforts are being made for more engagement by Insurers through tech innovations in value-added services areas, says Sanjay Karnatak, Chief Technology & Digital Officer, Star Union Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. Ltd in conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).

Sanjay Karnatak

 How significant is the role of technology in Indian Insurance institutions?

The technology is now actually evangelising some of the key business initiatives in Indian Insurance companies. Some of the main reasons for this renewed impetus are:

a) The scale of Insurance is gaining a critical mass, beyond which it’s no longer economical and business savvy, to ignore technology interventions.

b) The integrated ecosystem has digitally evolved partners like banks and aggregators. Now the insurance companies have to integrate with these partners for real-time data exchange and transaction closures, thus forcing them to uplift their tech platforms to match with the partners.

c) Disruptors in the insurance markets especially in the general insurance side are coming up with innovative use of technology, thus challenging the incumbents to follow them and be equally competitive in providing an enhanced experience to their customers through technology.

d) Insurance companies have been pretty low on customer engagement for years together. Constant efforts are being made for more engagement by Insurers through tech innovations in value-added services areas.

 What are your expectations from the current government?

 The Government should push for the investment side of growth, instead of relying primarily on the consumption side of growth. Then only a sustained long term high economic growth can be achieved.  Governance in the public offices has to be scaled up to bring them as close as possible to private organisations. Then only we will be able to derive the benefits of a high growth society.

 I am a big supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative of developing 100 Smart cities across states. This will decongest the Metros and would drive growth across the country. Not much could be achieved in his first term on the same but I expect in his second term the government would be able to make substantial progress on the same.

Another thing that we expect from the present government is to give momentum to relevant education and skill development, especially in rural areas to reduce reliance on agriculture for India’s economy.

 What are the major threats faced by insurance companies in terms of tech-deployment? How do you overcome these challenges?

More the digital initiatives are taken, the more we have to be aware of the Information security risks and be prepared for the mitigation of the same. Insurance companies have been working hard to secure their environment from external and internal threats, this should be a manageable risk.

Not every digital intervention would lead to assured business returns. Each technology project should be assessed thoroughly for its business benefit instead of implementing it because it’s an industry standard. If this is not done there is a clear risk of not getting a Return on Investment (ROI) on the technology investments.

The life insurance technology landscape is a good example of maintaining a balance between legacy and digital domains of technology. Each CTO has to plan well to create an equilibrium to implement and support the same in a measured way. Technologies are changing much faster than an enterprise can ever catch up. CTOs have to keep a close watch on the same and set up a continuous process of new technology assessments and upgrades.

Fast-changing consumer behavior also forces Insurers to change their digital capabilities regularly. Consumer behavior is impacted in a big way due to non-insurance digital experiences like Amazon, Google, etc. This is a big challenge for insurance companies to ensure that the consumer experience is not left behind when the world has moved on to the next level.

 How do you rate India’s readiness as far as implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) or Blockchain in the Insurance sector is concerned?

 In Indian enterprises so far AI/ML is being used primarily in the area of data analytics. Supervised as well as unsupervised statistical models are being worked upon in a big way.  I think the adoption of AI/ML is also picking up especially in the areas where some of the business problems were unresolved for a long period, like Image analytics, ML-powered OCR & RPA, etc.

Deep learning is at a nascent stage in India especially in enterprises and is being explored only by technology companies. This has to get broad-based in the coming years in insurance companies too. Blockchain is a great solution for which the problem statements have yet to be identified in the Insurance sector. The cross-industry consortiums have taken some lead but no substantial progress has been made so far on the same.

What innovations have you planned for the rest of 2019?

 We are working on some use cases around AI/ML in analytics and image processing. Also, we plan to work upon the health diagnostics area as there are some use cases that can help reduce early claims.

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