Insurance companies have traditionally lagged adapting technology when it comes to modern customer requirements. Ganessan Soundiram, Chief Technology Officer at ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company Limited says that in order to stay competitive in this disruptive environment, traditional insurers need to see tech disruption as an opportunity and reinvent themselves with digital at their core.
With over two decades of experience in technology and a strong domain focus in BFSI, Soundiram explains the changing role of CIO/CTOs in the sector and how insurance companies can radically evolve the traditional pillars of insurance and leap into the future.
CXOToday: What are the recent tech trends you observe in the insurance industry?
Ganessan Soundiram: In recent years, application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the insurance sector has increased extensively, and it is now used in customer-facing, underwriting and claim management processes. Another prominent trend that is being witnessed is the broad-based usage of Analytics.
Based on data modeling and customer insights derived, insurers can provide a customized experience to customers, sales and operations. For instance, at ICICI Prudential Life, we are applying data analytics to offer pre-approved life cover instantaneously. This has eased the on-boarding process since customers are not required to submit any financial documents or undergo a medical test for certain limits.
Likewise, insurers are using robotic process automation (RPA) to provide error free processes related to claims-processing, underwriting and policy issuance. Implementation of RPA has resulted in the reduction in turnaround time for various processes, achieving operational efficiencies and improving customer experience.
CXOToday: What’s on the top of mind of an insurance CIO?
Ganessan Soundiram: While the insurance industry is getting disrupted by new and emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning, cloud and predictive analytics, it also stands to gain the most from the same technologies with the right approach and adoption. Since most insurers run on legacy technologies that are not designed to support the slew of new-age services, this is the first thing an insurance CIO needs to look into. They should realize that digital technology is helping industries find new and better ways of functioning that not only leverage the existing legacy infrastructure but also bring new capabilities.
The new-age customers are also tech savvy and they expect seamless delivery and hassle-free servicing. The most significant opportunity today is to further simplify and provide a smooth on-boarding and service experience to customers. Another area of opportunity for CIO/CTOs is to develop solutions and platforms for even better risk management and claim processing.
CXOToday: Are Insurtech companies posing a challenge to your business? How are you staying ahead?
Ganessan Soundiram: Over the past few years, there’s undoubtedly a flurry of Insurtech companies and that have emerged. These players are streamlining the insurance purchase process by providing convenience to customers.
Rather than seeing it as a threat as one may perceive owing to the disruptions new technologies often create, as a life insurance company, we consider this as an opportunity. I strongly believe that it is important to collaborate and integrate with these firms and develop an ecosystem that serves a broader base of potential customers.
CXOToday: In order to stay ahead in the race, what kind of technologies are you toying with or are keen to explore in the future?
Ganessan Soundiram: At ICICI Prudential Life, we are constantly leveraging new-age technologies and devising innovative customer engagement solutions. Over the years, we have seamlessly adopted Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation, Cloud and Voice technologies.
This has contributed towards enabling us to empower our customers and offer them a seamless experience throughout their journey from the time of buying the product until claim settlement. For instance, we recently introduced visual IVR, the first of its kind in the Indian life insurance industry, which enables customers to get their queries addressed instantly at their fingertips sans having to repeatedly speak to the customer service representative or navigating through menus.
At present, we are looking at leveraging distributed ledger technology, which enables insurers to record transactions and data with granular access controls to protect data security. Distributed ledger technology in insurance can create a collaborative environment for implementing better risk management processes.
CXOToday: Do you see a foreseeable change in the CTO role in the next 3-5 years from now? If so, what would be those changes?
Ganessan Soundiram: In the insurance industry, technology is playing a pivotal role in enabling insurance companies to determine new ways of engaging with customers, enhance operational efficiencies and increase service standards while providing customers with an immersive experience. The role of technology has metamorphosed from that of providing support to being a crucial business enabler.
The responsibilities of the CTO too has increased manifold, requiring to devise ways to bridge existing gaps and streamline internal and external processes. For example, at ICICI Prudential Life, our core focus has been to include technological innovations to facilitate reach and engage with our customers more effectively.
CXOToday: What are your suggestions to tech leaders in insurance companies?
Ganessan Soundiram: Digital revolution, which started in 2010, has, to a great extent, simplified the customer’s journey with an insurance company. Considerable improvements in terms of empowerment, cost and turnaround time (TAT) has been made in the area of onboarding, underwriting, claims and operations. We should continue exploring ecosystems and leading technologies in further simplifying processes and eventually enabling a single click buying and servicing experience for the entire suite of insurance products and services. Also, in order to stay competitive in the disruptive ecosystem traditional insurers need to see tech disruptions as an opportunity and reinvent themselves with digital at their core.