Ashwin B, COO, Exide Life Insurance

Our self-service portal, launched a few years ago, is an extensive platform to enable any policy servicing request on the go. Similarly, our online payment portal has been a crucial factor in enabling premium collection.

Jun 22, 2020 01:06 IST India Infoline News Service

Ashwin B, Chief Operating Officer at Exide Life Insurance, joined Exide Life Insurance in August 2008 as the Chief Operating Officer. He is responsible for managing the entire Operations, Customer Services, IT, Business analyst and business transformation at Exide Life Insurance. Ashwin joined Exide Life Insurance with over 20 years of experience in Sales, Customer services and Operations across Life Insurance, Retail Banking and Consumer Durables industries. He is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Roorkee and has completed his Masters in Management Studies from NMIMS (Mumbai). He is an enthusiastic golfer and enjoys going on driving holidays in his free time.

In an interaction with Shweta Papriwal, Editor, IIFL, Mr. Ashwin B, COO, Exide Life Insurance said, "At Exide Life we recognize that technology is the core of our business and a key differentiator in the highly competitive Life Insurance market. We are fast evolving as a digital-first organization and the key pillars of our digital strategy include, serving existing Customers Digitally, Sales Force Automation including Selling Online and providing the best in class user experience".

How is the short term versus long term business priorities impacting innovation? Will interest in innovation be impacted?

Constant innovation is crucial for any business to survive. The COVID19 pandemic has definitely impacted the trajectory of innovation in the short term horizon. However in the long term, it will help in realigning priorities with a heightened focus on automation and remote processing to enable a new way of working.

In the short term, there is definitely a pressure on revenues and costs need to be managed very tightly. At this point of time, the focus is on ensuring business continuity, and hence most innovation efforts are directed towards ensuring seamless delivery of customer service and reinventing the sales processes from a physical to digital/virtual meetings and to enable non face-to-face selling.

While we have been quick to adapt to the new ways of working, we do see a lot of scope for innovation in both the sales-enablement as well as customer self-service. There will also be opportunities for innovation in enabling employees for remote working in the medium to long term.

In addition, we also expect to see an upsurge in product related innovations, especially around health and protection specific products - which is being fast tracked by companies.

At Exide Life, we are fully supportive of, and are constantly engaged in innovations, that can positively impact customers’ experience as well as enable our sales force to function effectively. Going forward, innovations, specifically in the field of digital transformation are the only way to stay ahead.

How does the digital transformation impact a company’s business and overall performance, especially during this time of crisis?

Digital transformation has a significant impact on the business outcomes. ‘Digital’ is no longer the future - it is very much our present. Companies that have, over the past few years, consciously digitized their sales and customer service channels and are today much better prepared to sail this storm.

This crisis has brought forth the importance and criticality of being digitally enabled on all fronts. With the outbreak of the pandemic, as a company, we put the safety of our employees and customers first. While the physical offices had to be shut down initially due to the lockdown, we were available 24X7 for attending to customers’ requests through on-line self-service options, supplemented with email and call support through remote working. To ensure business continuity even during the lockdown period, we promoted electronic and online payment options to customers to enable them to make the renewal premium payments. 

We also ensured that our entire Sales Force is connected digitally with our customers and help them 24X7 not only for financial planning but also more specifically to ensure that they have adequate risk cover, besides assisting existing customers in renewal of their existing policies. As a result we saw a growth of ~100% in protection policies in the month of Apr & May’20 vs last year.

How will investment in innovation help life insurance companies and what are some of the innovations Exide Life has done/ is planning to invest in?

While life insurance traditionally has had a brick and mortar approach, over the years we have seen the category becoming increasingly digital. Our organization’s strategy encompasses an overarching philosophy of ‘digital-cum-mobile first’ approach. In addition, every quarter as part of the ‘skunk-works’, the IT team proposes an innovative product/solution aimed at solving a business problem or creating new business opportunities. This is done by leveraging the latest technologies available in the market. We have been doing this over the past three to four years, and I am happy to see that most of these innovations have moved to production and has become a part of a large technology landscape at Exide Life.

We have invested significantly towards empowering our sales force by creating the MyConnect application, which enables the sales persons to perform a variety of functions on their mobile device. Through this application we have virtually eliminated the need for any front line sales personnel to be physically present in our offices. With the MyeSales app, we have digitally empowered the field agents to complete the prospecting and sales process digitally (including premium payment) in front of the customer without having to physically be present at the branch. Additionally, as the proposal is channelized directly to the Underwriting work flow, the time taken from logging in the proposal to accepting the risk and issuing the insurance policy has been cut down drastically, thereby improving the overall efficiency of the agents.

Furthermore, our virtual & app based remote training ‘M-learning’ application was launched just before the lockdown and it couldn’t have been better timed. This has immensely helped in engaging directly with the entire sales teams, to increase awareness of our products, propositions and revised sales processes.

Our self-service portal, launched a few years ago, is an extensive platform to enable any policy servicing request on the go. Similarly, our online payment portal has been a crucial factor in enabling premium collection.

Most recently in May this year, we launched an integrated CRM (OneExideLife), which brought multiple systems/applications together on a common platform, to provide a single view of the customer, to service staff across all our branches, contact centers and head office. This is helping us generate customer delight with much faster processing and quicker resolution to queries. This platform is extremely user-friendly and 90% of all customer service transactions have already moved to this platform within the first month of its launch.

Where does Exide life stands, in this challenging time? What is the company’s approach to online selling keeping in view the ongoing pandemic?

At Exide Life we recognize that technology is the core of our business and a key differentiator in the highly competitive Life Insurance market. We are fast evolving as a digital-first organization and the key pillars of our digital strategy include, serving existing Customers Digitally, Sales Force Automation including Selling Online and providing the best in class user experience.

There have been significant investments in online platforms resulting in growth in online sales over the last couple of years. However despite this, the majority of the life insurance industry sales continue to come from face-to-face selling. The lockdown has had a significant impact on the ability of sales personnel to conduct face-to-face meetings with potential customers. However the industry has adapted pretty quickly and enabled assisted online sales. At Exide Life, our ‘MyeSales’ mobile-based technology coupled with the ‘M-learning’ platform that we invested in recently, has helped us sail through this trying period.

What is Exide Life’s claims settlement ratio? What steps has the company taken to improve the claims experience?

Claims remain our key focus area and is the moment-of-truth for the life insurance industry. We have constantly strived to improve our Turn Around Times (TAT) as well as claims settlement processes for better customer experience. Our efforts towards improving the same have resulted in an all-time high claim settlement ratio of 98.15% in FY 19-20.

We are achieved this by adopting First Time Right (FTR) - by educating our sales staff and customers about the importance of submitting all the required documents together, at one go. We have also proactively leveraged on analytics to build data models which helps identify and categorize all proposals into various risk deciles. In addition, we have developed a very robust onboarding and underwriting process, including conducting enhanced due-diligence to weed out any potential high risk cases or fraudulent cases before issuance.

The rapidly changing consumer behavior is reshaping the insurance industry.  How does Exide Life plan to seize this opportunity?

While it is still early days, we are seeing a clear shift in customers’ purchase behavior. While all existing life insurance policies already cover any eventuality from COVID-19, the pandemic has led to a heightened awareness about protection and health policies. Owing to this, there has been a surge in demand for protection plans. Further given the current situation, the industry as well as we, are also exploring opportunities in the health insurance space.

We already have Exide Life Sanjeevani, a fixed benefit health insurance plan designed to specifically cover cancer and heart related conditions and we would be keen to expand our presence in this segment.

We have been actively reaching out to and engaging with our existing customers, as well as new customers, to understand their current requirements and advise them accordingly to enhance their life cover. We have further simplified the documentation and onboarding processes for new business logins as well as for resolving any outstanding requirements.

We have also constantly strived to enhance the customer experience with us and have put in place multiple self-service options, including introducing a WhatsApp touchpoint, as well as offering multiple online/automated payment modes for all existing customers.

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