Money & Banking

Max Life to focus on driving proprietary channel growth: Prashant Tripathy

KR Srivats New Delhi | Updated on June 10, 2019

 

It has been just six months since Prashant Tripathy assumed charge as the MD and CEO of Max Life Insurance, the country’s largest non-bank-promoted private life insurer, and he is on a new mission to usher in “growth mindset” within the company. He has brought focus on “customer obsession”, a value attribute not seen in the nearly two decades of the insurer’s existence. In an interaction with BusinessLine, Tripathy said he sees Axis Bank, an existing strategic partner, playing a critical role in realising its growth aspirations. Excerpts:

Has there been a big strategic shift at Max Life since you took charge on January 1 this year?

Yes, to some extent. There is now sharp prioritisation and certainly a bias for action. Mere planning alone is not enough; there has to be no faltering on execution, which has to come with a ‘growth mindset’. I have now brought ‘customer obsession’ and ‘growth mindset’ to the centrestage by including them as part of the four values that the company will focus on in the coming days. The four core values are ‘caring’, ‘collaboration’, ‘customer obsession’, and ‘growth mindset’. Earlier, it was a bit different. Customer centricity is now finding a place in the company’s values.

So, have you upped the business goals of the company?

We have definitely bumped up our ambitions. In next five years, I want Max Life to be the ‘most admired’ life insurer in India. We have charted out a game plan, where we will achieve 25 per cent growth in value of new business, 25 per cent margins, and 25 per cent return (on embedded value) by 2021-22. We were at 20-20-20 in this matrix as of March-end 2018. Now, we have reached 22-22-22 by end-March this year, which is already 40 per cent of the goal that we are aiming at by March 2022.

What about Axis Bank? Is it aiming to become a strategic investor or a controlling investor

in Max Life?

Axis Bank is a strategic partner to us and a very important one, too. There is strong relationship across all levels. Whether they become a strategic equity investor or not, this relationship has to remain of top order, and that is a key area of focus for me in my current role. It will be a desire to create a win-win structure, going forward. Axis owns less than 5 per cent stake in Max Life right now.

What about the focus on proprietary channels?

Within the channels there is a big drive to increase the share of our own proprietary channels, including agency network.

While agency brings 30 per cent, bancassurance and others account for 70 per cent. We need to de-risk ourselves in terms of business model.

Any business should have good share of your own channel so that you are not hugely dependent on other channels.

In next four years, I am hoping this 30 per cent (proprietary channels accounting for overall new business revenues) will grow closer to 35-40 per cent. We have the best agency network in the country. We want to double this network strength from the current level of 50,000 agents. Last year, our proprietary channel grew faster than third-party channels.

We want to build a quality agency network that is productive and where the proportion of top-performing agents is high.

We have now roped in retired people from New York Life (erstwhile JV partner) to create co-branded content for Max Life’s agency network to uplift the quality of conversations that agents have with customers.

What about newer areas of diversification? Will you enter health insurance?

We will certainly start offering health insurance if the IRDAI allows life insurers to provide indemnity products in the health space. We also want to focus more on retirement products and are awaiting the new product guidelines from the regulator.

What is the aspiration on protection side of the business?

Protection is a core thing for us. Last year, protection business grew 66 per cent. Protection accounted for 6 per cent of new business in value terms. In five years, we want to take this to 13-15 per cent.

So, have you radically changed the working structure of the organisation?

The entire change has been very smooth. I have not hired anyone from outside. Sharpening the responsibilities and aligning it better is what I did. Most of the leaders saw their portfolios change, but they have not left the organisation.

Although the role of several people were changed, we don’t have a situation of complete restructuring, getting rid of people, or hiring new people. The entire change is very smooth. If we shake too many things, we will lose one or two years. I just felt we are in good space, and need to just take it forward.

Published on June 10, 2019

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