Digital transformation operates in a binary. You could either make the journey to success or miss the bus and travel in the opposite direction to oblivion. The insurance arm of Exide Industries, Exide Life Insurance (erstwhile ING Vysya Life Insurance Company) perceives both a challenge and an opportunity that the digital journey has brought with it.
In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Bharat Krishnamurthy, Chief Technology Officer at Exide Life Insurance says, insurance companies need to embrace the digital revolution or risk becoming obsolete. He also explains how the company is leveraging digital capabilities to transform itself into an IT company that sells insurance.
Being a Digital insurer
“Today, it is essential for any insurance firm to become a digital insurer as the implications for insurance are so extensive,” says Krishnamurthy, adding that paper-based transactions and long forms are becoming a thing of the past, with consumers now relying on smartphones for every bit of information and feedback.
“In fact, agents, brokers, policyholders and every other stakeholder interacting with insurance companies expect their interactions to be mobile, accurate, real-time and personalized. This is also just the beginning. Perhaps the greater potential in insurance is leveraging digital capabilities to improve the customer experience and extend it into building operational efficiencies, changing risk landscape and products innovation,” he says.
Surfacing New Risks
Krishnamurthy believes that some of the recent data breaches in insurance companies demonstrate cyber security is one of the biggest concerns and area of focus for insurance CIOs.
“Faced with new consumer data privacy laws, including the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, it’s mandatory for insurers to follow prudent practices in protecting customer data. At the same time, advancements in digital and emerging technology-based solutions are changing the landscape of risk for customers and every industry sector.”
While the potential to significantly reduce risk is on the horizon, Krishnamurthy believes that there are new risks surfacing that insurers must be aware of. “The changes in risk present both opportunities and threats for insurers,” he says.
From Enabler to Driver
The right use of technology can ward off most of today’s challenges faced by insurance companies. In this regard, Krishnamurthy believes that today, technology is not just an enabler, but a key driver for organizational strategy. “At Exide Life, we see technology powering our three core pillars – one that empowers customers, another that augments the sales force and the third one is where technology enables our employees. And this requires a massive business transformation. Hence, the need of the hour is to actually reinvent systems and processes to digital from grounds up,” says Krishnamurthy.
Exide Life Insurance employs more than 5000 people of which 160 work for the IT department, each of them experts in areas such as design, architecture and software development. Under Krishnamurthy’s leadership, the company took less than six months to digitize its sales force – from large-scale paperwork to an automated model – empowering the sales force with mobile apps that leverage facial recognition technology to help prevent missed sales. This is something he considers an ‘Aha’ moment in his career, considering 95% business today comes through the company’s digital channel.
Krishnamurthy reveals that now Exide Life is a completely data driven company. “We have also embarked on a complete revamp of our customer servicing platform, by leveraging a more agile and flexible one. This helped the company break down siloed applications to containerized micro-services. A datalake at the heart of this platform has further orchestrated data from multiple disparate sources, thereby providing predictions in real-time.”
Tech Roadmap 2020
According to Krishnamurthy, 2020 is going to be a year of large-scale technology-led transformations for Exide Life. “We are investing heavily in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), hybrid cloud and automation of certain key processes to make better and faster decisions in order to improve customer experience (CX).
“We believe that IT needs to be continuously modernized to be able to deliver faster and better and making a heavy investment in IT modernization and automation. To this effect, we will be focusing towards DevOps to shorten the systems development life cycle that meets our business objectives,” he says.
As a piece of advice to IT leaders in the insurance domain, Krishnamurthy suggests that on the one hand, it is important to invest time and energy to understand the nuances of business, especially the key levers that drive sales while on the other, depth of understanding of technology, especially new applications and platforms is essential.
“And most importantly, a competent CIO focuses on the team and works on building it up,” he concludes.