Insurers in India are struggling to scale profitably amid the economic slowdown, but a handful are able to innovate and thrive. These few Insurance companies are capitalizing their technology DNA to unveil better customer experience and revenue channels. One such firm is HDFC Life which has demonstrated 18% growth while processing over 21,000 annuity payouts and 95,000 transactions in the first 15 days of lockdown.
In an exclusive interview with ETCIO, Parvez Mulla, COO of HDFC Life spoke about a paperless operation and how the company is leveraging new age technologies to boost revenues.
What is the business impact of Covid-19 on HDFC Life? How are you planning to resume IT operations?
In FY 20, despite witnessing a disruption in the initial days of this pandemic, we have been able to exhibit steady performance and deliver across all key metrics with a growth of 18% based on individual and overall APE, covering over 6 Cr lives.
Covid-19 is an unforeseen development. The impact of the outbreak has been seen across both new business and renewal collections, with customers wanting to conserve cash till clarity emerges. While it might take some more time for things to settle down and a new normal to emerge, we believe that the structural story for insurance remains intact and we expect business to emerge stronger at the end of this pandemic, as has also been the experience in the region in the past.
Going forward, all IT projects will be aligned to the business forecast. The ideal strategy is to build a variable cost model which means the infrastructure cost can scale up or down easily
As digital is overruling traditional methods of services in this pandemic. Have you observed any growth in claim payouts and overall business?
We have reported a significant growth. For claims payouts, we have a digital platform known as LifeEasy that ensures customer documents are taken for immediate claim management. Customers can reach us and initiate the entire process in a paperless manner without any face to face interaction.
From a growth perspective, HDFC Life has settled over 3,000 maturity claims, about 300 death/health claims, made about 21,000 annuity payouts, and processed nearly 95k transactions in the first 15 days of lockdown. There has been a 73 percent increase in adoption of web and app users after lockdown. 70 percent increase in the usage of WhatsApp bot ‘Etty’, chatbot ‘Elle’, Twitter bot (Neo). About 70 percent of the customer servicing team is enabled to work from home. 1.76 million+ monthly queries handled by InstA (virtual assistant), InstaServ (Mobile app enabled to service customers).
About 85 percent of renewal payments made digitally via Website, Mobile app, Quick Pay, PayZapp, PayTm, Bharat Bill. We have tied up with Insure Pay – a platform that facilitates payments of insurance premiums. We have developed and implemented SVAR (voice bot for renewal calling).
What is your going digital strategy to offer better service and experience to customers?
We are experimenting with some ideas from a digital strategy perspective as well as for the mainstream business. Today, traditional lines of business are also applying the digital capabilities to their sourcing methods as well.
As customer needs are varied, we have adopted an omni-channel approach that all coexist and get used interchangeably. This ensures that every type of customer needs can get serviced as per their convenience and comfort. With the lockdown, we have witnessed an instant rise in the use of the digital services or self service. We do come across customers using these services for the first time and we take time to explain and onboard them. Our technology teams continuously monitor the continuity of the services and the usage so that we can offer uninterrupted services for all our digital touch-points.
We are closely working with our distribution partners by enabling them with digital content for new business sourcing. Our unique digital tools are being used to provide personalized benefit illustration to the prospects. The prospect funnel in our proprietary channel is managed through lead management tools.
Which digital technologies are supporting your business during this Covid-19 crisis?
Our new business login process is digital. The form filling, document submission, customer consent and payments can be secured digitally. We have recently launched our unique and user friendly chat based Verification tool, where the customer can verify the details of the application before policy conversion. A higher quantum of automated underwriting and tele medical cases ensure smoother policy issuance. With eIA tool, the policy documents can be stored digitally and in parallel we are also emailing a copy of the policy document to the policy holder.
To support existing policy holders in the lockdown, we have just launched an Alexa-based smart service voice assistant – Elsa bot to answer 200+ queries. We have a host of options available to make payments such as the HDFC Life app, net banking, credit cards, Payzapp, UPI, Bharat Bill pay services, Insurepay.in etc. Customers can also make payments directly into our account through debit mandates
The focus on training and development continues on our mLearn digital platform. We have also launched a new application in the month of March to help the Field force in agency channel to digitally onboard the prospective financial consultants/agents. On the servicing side, InstaServ tool enables employees to service a customer from anywhere. On self-serve, we have chat facilities, WhatsApp, customer app, customer portal that provide a host of facilities and information required.
What further impact do you see on the business as the impact of Covid-19 will be seen for months to come?
We remain enthused with the long-term prospects of the Life Insurance market in India as the protection gap in India is wide. As a percentage of GDP, the insurance premium is in single digits. Though the percentage of sum assured is going up, it is low compared to that of developed countries. Therefore, the opportunity and scope for growth in life insurance remain immense. The need for insurance across mortality, morbidity, and longevity coverage remain high. We are going to leverage technology for our future initiatives and for the recovery plan we already have things at the right place.
Life insurance is a long-term-oriented industry and we need not look at the impact on a weekly or a monthly basis. As a company, we will continue to focus on employee safety and customer convenience and provide them with the best-in-class products and services.
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