Leader Speak - Anup Seth, Chief Retail Officer, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance
India Infoline : 7 May 2020
Anup Seth, Chief Retail Officer, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance, his experience is over a 20-year track record of quarterbacking transformations and successfully managing diverse consumer businesses in India, as well as an entrepreneurial venture in an early stage of his career. Mr Seth expertise in start-up, turnaround, roll-ups and high-growth companies with demonstrated ability to enhance performance and increase productivity.
In an interaction with Mamta Maity, indiainfoline.com, Anup Seth, Chief Retail Officer, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance said, “in April, we have seen an improved new business acquisition, with a growth of nearly 60% in Individual APE. Our NPS has remained robust, reflecting our focus on customer experience. Also, employee attrition has gone down, as the digital medium has facilitated easy engagement and higher learning opportunities. “
How do you see this pandemic impacting the overall sector and the economy?
We are expecting Covid-19 to trigger a paradigm shift in the insurance industry. We are witnessing significant digital transformation already happening across the sector, to overcome the limitations posed by social distancing. Face-to-face advisory, until recently, was the preferred mode of communication and barring protection plans, customers were reluctant to buy investment, savings or health products online. This now has undergone a change.
With physical proximity now posing a challenge, digital has become a way of life. Customers have been compelled to experiment with online platforms. Keeping pace with this, insurers are digitizing their advisory and encouraging customers towards buying other product categories such as health, investment and savings, online.
The lockdown has also impacted the Indian economy, as health concerns have taken precedence. India, in fact, has imposed stricter containment measures to safeguard life, when compared to other global economies, as published by the Overseas Development Institute and the Oxford Government Response Tracker.
Fiscal measures announced so far, including RBI’s policy response to the situation, are focused on maintaining economic stability, which is the right response to this situation. We might see an immediate slowdown, but don’t believe there are any long-term concerns. History offers several key lessons, including the fact that a crisis has always been followed by an elongated economic boom. For instance, the Balance of Payment crisis in 1990-1991 made way for the liberalisation of the Indian economy.
How has been your Tech preparedness to tackle this situation?
We were among the first insurers to enforce a work-from-home policy, in the interest of employee safety. The current situation notwithstanding, work mobility has been a way of life, for us as an organisation. We already have robust processes facilitating easy and secure connectivity across our branches and haven’t needed any significant upgrades or changes, to manage the transition to remote working. With VPN base connectivity enabling 100% work-from-home, all employees have secure access to resources, requiring marginal upscaling of capacity.
While we have been migrating to Microsoft Office 365 in a staggered manner over the past couple of months, we fast-tracked this process to facilitate easy and secure connectivity, for our teams. Applications and solutions needed to handle customer requests or employee concerns, continue to be in force. We are also encouraging our employees to connect with each other on Yammer, to foster a sense of community despite geographical distances and self-isolation.
Our local offices and customer service teams have stayed in constant touch with customers via phone calls and emails, communicating alternate modes of communication available, encouraging them to reach out to us remotely.
The ongoing situation has led to a complete disruption in the way we have been working. What measures has Edelweiss Tokio Life taken to manage employees’ wellbeing?
This pandemic has required us to completely reinvent our employee experience to ensure the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of our employees.
As mentioned earlier, we enforced 100% work from home, early on, to ensure employee safety. To support their financial wellbeing, we are ensuring timely disbursement of salaries.
Safeguarding the mental wellbeing of our employees has been the focal point of all our employee engagement initiatives, since the start of this pandemic and ensuing transitions. We have instituted daily meditation sessions, led by a qualified professional. Along with several webinars on mental health, we have also set up virtual sessions with doctors, to assuage concerns and handle queries on safeguarding our employees and their families during this crisis. A constant concern we face is the barrage of misinformation available online. To provide access to authentic WHO/GOI verified information regarding this disease, we have set up a helpline with our doctors, both for employees and our customers.
Remote working has eliminated ‘office fun’, which is a natural by-product of working in proximity with team members. To keep that spirit of togetherness alive, we have set up weekly initiatives like musical jam sessions and talent shows, to engage with employees and their families.
For your feet on street, what kind of digital initiatives have you taken to ensure they can transition to this new normal?
Over the past couple of years, we have undertaken a journey of digital transformation. As an organisation, we aim to enable advanced technologies and upscale, thereby facilitating ease of business. This transformation has prepared us to navigate through the current phase of change, without having to resort to any extraordinary measures or additional resources.
We have re-designed and upgraded our existing training programmes into digital modules and also created a tool, to help our offline workforce adapt to the new normal of digital advisory. Within a short span of one week into the lockdown, we launched ‘Dial for Success’, our in-house platform to guide our salesforce to operate effectively during this disruption.
Face-to-face interactions provided valuable customer insights that formed the foundation of our product innovations and service excellence benchmarks. To tackle the absence of this intelligence, we are now using analytics to define customer persona, predict predisposition to financial products and deliver personalised customer experiences.
How are you communicating with your customers and helping them make sense of this pandemic situation?
Our contact centres are open, and our customers can reach us through emails or on our website. Additionally, our advisors are in constant touch with customers to ensure that there is no breach of service requests. Our doctor helpline, originally set up for our employees, has now been made available to our customers, as well.
Additionally, we kicked off an initiative called ‘Log-In Zindagi’ where we tackle a gamut of subjects relevant to financial planning, the economic impact of the ongoing crisis, mental health and more, for our customers. This is conducted via a live webinar on Facebook and we have seen heartening participation so far.
Has there been any operational impact?
We have faced no operational impact so far. While overall volumes are down, we are seeing a positive trend in online customer interest in buying protection products. We have recorded a 30% jump in March, in our online new business logins, when compared to February. During the year, we have been making efforts to scale up our digital onboarding. This stood at about 90%, until February. Post lockdown, we are at 100% digital onboarding and are now focused, on retaining this level. We have not experienced any breach in turnaround processes that have been followed even during business as usual.
Have you taken any initiatives to lend support during this pandemic situation?
Insurance is a noble profession in itself and we believe that protection is the most crucial element to safeguard your future goals and aspirations. In line with our brand positioning, Zindagi Unlimited, this is the opportune time for us to contribute back to the community.
We announced an initiative called ‘Mera Yogdan’ in April, wherein we decided on donating a certain amount against every new or renewed policy. Through this initiative, which saw active participation from our advisors and development managers, we have been able to shore up Rs8.36 lakhs in April. These funds will be contributed to the ‘PM CARES Fund’, to support those in need during this pandemic.
Additionally, the Edelweiss Group, has contributed Rs2cr to the ‘PM CARES Fund’ and Rs50 lakhs to the Maharashtra government, to support their efforts in light of current developments. EdelGive Foundation, the Group’s philanthropic arm, has also pledged Rs10cr to NGOs helping the needy across India, over the next 3-months.
How do you see RBI’s policy response helping the economy?
The first and second response by the RBI indicates one comforting fact – the regulator is closely monitoring the economic situation and that it will intervene when the time is appropriate. As mentioned before, I believe the focus currently is on controlling this health crisis, with the economic performance taking a back seat.
All the measures taken by the Government as well as the RBI will help ease shocks arising out of this lockdown situation. We are already seeing signs of liquidity easing and once the health situation is under control, I expect to see transmission happening in a quarter.