Digital technologies are bringing about sweeping changes across industries and life insurance is no exception. To become digital leaders, CIOs in the insurance sectors are adopting new work-styles and mindsets, so as to be able to create exceptional customer experience, faster time-to-market, reduce cost and improve delivery process. In an engaging conversation with CXOToday, Suhail Ghai, EVP & Head – Information Technology of Max Life Insurance, talks about many things, from the changing role of CIO, to tech challenges facing the life insurance industry and how the company is leveraging technology across various touch points to enhance customer journey, and much more. Excerpt.
CXOToday: Tell us something about your career journey
Suhail Ghai: I started my career with L’Oreal, where very early in my career I got an opportunity to work on ERP systems’ implementation, further which I moved to the Commercial & Finance Technology function. I led a large global SAP implementation program and my final stint with L’Oreal was as Head of Information Technology. Post that, in 2010, I joined PepsiCo as Enterprise solutions lead for India region, progressively undertaking multiple domestic and international roles in the area of GTM transformation, Enterprise planning and deployment for Asia & Middle East, and also leading India delivery center for Global SAP offshore Delivery services. My last role at PepsiCo was as CIO for India region where I was leading the GTM transformation. In March 2019, I joined Max Life Insurance as CTO where I am responsible for all facets of Technology.
CXOToday: What are some of the recent technology trends you see in the life insurance industry today?
Suhail Ghai: Life insurers have been latecomers to the digital era. However, today, these players are recognizing that digital is making life insurance firms more customer-centric. Most life insurance companies are using technology vehemently to drive growth and better business outcomes, a starting point is modernizing their legacy components to increase efficiency and agility.
The other trends include using open source cloud solutions to build modern, modular applications that are customer facing to enhance agility, scalability, improved customer experience as well as better integration with partners, hence improving seller enablement. Most companies are leveraging data to proactively service customers, improve cross sell opportunities and higher conversion.
Finally, there is an increase in the use of cognitive intelligence, automation, eco system integration, data mining and other similar technologies to ensure frictionless journey for customers.
CXOToday: As a CIO or IT leader at Max Life Insurance, how many hats do you wear today?
Suhail Ghai: Today a CIO naturally wears multiple hats to survive and grow. My key roles as the technology head in the organization include: First, I work as a business transformation leader, looking at opportunities to step change the business processes and closely work with business for leveraging technology. Second, I play the role as the ambassador for cultural transformation, whereby I lead the digitization of employee experience and digitalization of workforce, and finally, I work as a technology leader, finding the right technology for building a truly saleable, efficient and modern platform to support business growth.
CXOToday: Do you see a foreseeable change in the CIO role in the next 2-3 years and beyond?
Suhail Ghai: Over the next 2-3 years, the CIO role will be more focused on innovation where through Insurtech and Fintech partnerships he or she can create new business models and significantly enhance customer experience. Also going forward, the CIO will play a major role in modernization of back office and operations through use of intelligent automation.
CXOToday: Has the CIO finally secured a place in the boardroom? How do you explain that?
Suhail Ghai: While every company has a different organization structure and there are multiple ways in which technology is represented in the board room, however today, technology is a major conversation in the board room. We are seeing many CEO’s having digital as a key lever in the organization transformation and we see more and more board’s asking for digital roadmaps and challenging the leadership to leverage digital to drive superior customer outcomes.
CXOToday: What are some of the biggest challenges CIOs in the life insurance sectors are facing?
Suhail Ghai: One of the biggest challenges CIOs are facing in the life insurance industry is capability building of the seller and their short lifecycles. Sellers are mostly agents who are not full-time resources of the company or our bank employees who are also dealing in multiple portfolios. Hence there is a constant need to engage with the sellers. We need to constantly update them on new product features, train them to sell better and remove friction in the selling journey in order to solve these challenges.
CXOToday: What kind of digital transformation initiatives has Max Life Insurance undertaken? How are you leveraging technology across various touch points to enhance customer journey?
Suhail Ghai: Today, at Max Life, more than 51% of our customer transactions are digital and hence, we are leveraging digital to constantly improve the customer experience across the value chain – in terms of customer prospecting, on-boarding and servicing. On Customer onboarding, we have recently deployed a fully cloud native customer on-boarding asset – Mpro which has allowed us to significantly reduce the customer on-boarding time and help us reduce the friction in the journey for the seller. On Prospecting or client acquisition, we are leveraging intelligent lead allocation to improve the conversion, while on servicing we are leveraging digital assets like corporate website to increase self-service adoption
CXOToday: What would be your 2020 technology roadmap for Max Life Insurance?
Suhail Ghai: In 2020, we would like to continue on our journey of system modernization to move towards flexible, fluid architecture which enables frictionless customer journey, sharper risk selection and easier integration with new technologies and fintech ecosystems. Alongside, the focus will be on leveraging digital to drive more customer self-service and to create data lakes to analyze customer transactions and predict their next actions. We also strive to enable seller through mobile apps thereby helping him sell efficiently and build capability. Also, modernization of legacy systems in the areas of underwriting, customer communication and investment management to drive efficiency and scale will be a key focus area for Max Life in the next one year.
What are your tips to the CIO of the future?
Suhail Ghai: CIOs of the future will act as business partners and will have to influence the business to leverage digital. The posture has to change from an order taker to a trusted partner. They will have to become more business savvy and understand business levers better. They also need to be much more collaborative and would have to sponsor digital adoption and innovation.