COVID 19 impact | Early planning helped us to counter lockdown woes: Sumit Rai, Edelweiss Tokio Life CEO
Money Control : 21 May 2020
The life insurance industry has been reeling under the impact of a COVID-19-induced slowdown since March 2020 after a nation-wide lockdown was announced to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
However, a handful of companies managed a growth in new premium collection. Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance is one such company.
In an interaction with Moneycontrol, Sumit Rai, MD & CEO, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance, said the company started preparing for the lockdown much earlier and hence were able to manage the process better.
"Based on what was happening globally with respect to COVID-19, we could see the lockdown coming in and started preparing since March 8. The company started the first work-from-home trial on March 14 and 15. Hence we received a bit of a headstart on how to work from home," he said.
Data from Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India showed that Edelweiss Tokio Life saw a 47.5 percent year-on-year growth in first year premium in April 2020 at Rs 16.46 crore.
"We made a pivot and developed a digital suite of tools to train our sales force. This gave the sales force training on how to reach out to customers digitally and how to conduct meetings online," he said.
The company has a mandatory set of training modules held every day between 2:30-5pm across channels. This, said Rai, has also helped the company engage better with the customer.
“We saw a little bit of a slump in new premiums between March 24-31. But by April 14-15 we had seen a significant premium increase and by April 17-18, we were well ahead of last year numbers,” added Rai.
However, Rai explained that the policy ticket-sizes have seen a decrease since customers want to keep cashflows amidst COVID-19 uncertainty. The virus outbreak has led to job cuts and pay cuts across companies in India.
When it comes to cost optimisation, Rai said the company will not be downsizing.
“We will continue to grow our frontline field force because this is an opportune time to invest in talent. However, cost cut will be through real-estate (cost cuts) and by building efficiency in day-to-day processes,” he added.
On the product front, Edelweiss Tokio Life is seeing renewed interest for protection plans and guaranteed savings plans at a time when interest rates are falling.
Rai said that even though there is a new tax regime that offers lower tax rate in exchange for no tax exemptions under Section 80C, 80D, the impact will be minimal since millennials are keen to buy insurance covers.