Money & Banking

How ICICI Pru Life’s early digital move paid dividends during pandemic

KR Srivats New Delhi | Updated on December 25, 2020

Ganessan Soundiram, Chief Technology Officer, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance

The insurer could serve its customers safely and securely, and its staff could move to WFH seamlessly, says CTO Ganessan Soundiram

ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, which completed its 20th anniversary earlier this month, had embarked on its digitalisation journey in 2011 to gain a strategic competitive advantage. The private life insurer adopted various technological advancements such as AI, ML and RPA to ease customer service. BusinessLine interacted with Ganessan Soundiram, Chief Technology Officer, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, who elaborated on the key technology advancements and how they are benefiting the company. Excerpts:

Have your digitisation initiatives paid off measurably?

Yes, we could see phenomenal traction on our digital initiatives. To mention just a few, self-service is currently at 90 per cent and more than 75 per cent of our customers are completing video-based verification. Similarly, more than 3.6 million meetings are being done using our collaboration platform and 99 per cent robotic issuance is being done using a robotic arm with a cover note being created within five minutes. Besides, 99 per cent of customer-initiated payouts are being completed through electronic transfer.

How have the processes evolved over time and what has been the contribution of technology to this?

Twenty years back, when the insurance industry opened up for private players, it required a salesperson meeting a customer multiple times to understand their needs, share a proposition and conclude the sale. Similarly, the issuance process too would take many days.

Over a period, due to technological advancements, our processes evolved from being physical and paper-based to being digital and contactless. From multiple hand-offs, iterations and disparate systems and processes earlier, today a policy can be issued in hours. Technology has helped us simplify and provide a seamless and meaningful experience to customers and distributors. It has also simplified and improved the claim settlement process, bringing it down to a day for all eligible claims.

We are the first life insurance company in India to have a verified business account on WhatsApp. The company has leveraged this popular messaging platform to enable customers to access information on their policies easily.

What has been the level of investments in technology? What is the RoI on this?

We have been investing heavily in technology since inception and almost 100 per cent of our processes are available online, be it for customers or for distributors, meeting their onboarding and servicing needs. We have a bouquet of digital enablers to address every requirement of the policy lifecycle. The absence of any business disruption during the pandemic was a testimony to our resilient architecture and a strong technology framework.

How has technology helped the company transition its systems and processes online with no disruption virtually?

Our digital transformation started in 2011 and, over three years, we digitised the majority of our new business, issuance and service processes. We also invested heavily in the integration framework for a plug-and-play integration model to empower partners and leverage technology advancements and dynamic ecosystems. We also have been early adopters of AI, ML and analytics and have fully empowered our customers, distributors and employees in conducting digital transactions in a seamless and effective way.

When Covid-19 hit us, given our investment in technology, we could seamlessly shift to the work-from-home model without any major disruptions. Though onboarding and servicing were fully digitised, sales engagement was ‘phygital’ in the pre-Covid era. We rolled out a pre-approved solutions and collaboration platform to overcome the phygital challenges and reduce any disruption.

How have you prepared the company for the post-pandemic world?

During the lockdown, the appreciation for digital platforms increased multifold. Leveraging this trend, we rolled out an enterprise-wide collaboration platform and offered pre-approved solutions for a seamless and rich experience while onboarding customers. Similarly, we enhanced our communication mechanism for customers and distributors on self-service options for transacting in a safe and secure way.

We have also designed a differentiated mobile app, keeping in mind the needs of our customers. It is equipped with face ID, PIN and fingerprint login. Besides, it’s equipped to assist customers with a host of services such as information on new plans, buying the plan and submitting documents. The mobile app can also be used by a nominee at the time of filing a claim.

How are AI applications assisting you?

AI is being used for underwriting, claims assessment, propensity for sale/renew and personalisation through pre-approved offers (PASA). We have employed multiple bots and OCR (optical character recognition) engines, while our email bot does auto-classification. We have voice bot on IVR (1,500-2,000 hits; 40 per cent calls get transferred to an agent) and humanoid calling for renewals.

Considering the company’s cloud strategy, what kind of improvisation took place post adopting various cloud models?

In addition to the digital reach and mobile-first strategy, we also intend to adopt the cloud-first route. We are deploying state-of-art tools that would help in leveraging resources across clouds as well as on premise. This will help us scale up and leverage the ecosystems across various partners.

Published on December 25, 2020

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