India's insurance market is poised to emerge as one of the fastest-growing markets globally, according to the Economic Survey 2022-23. Tarun Chugh, MD and CEO of Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance believes with the ever-evolving landscape, as well as customers’ needs, several factors at play are driving current trends and will shape the future as well.
IRDA’s “Insurance for all” by 2047, for instance, sparked the expansion of distribution networks to remote corners. “Products providing security during uncertainties gained traction,” Tarun said. Enabled by progressive guidelines, insurers could swiftly innovate to meet specific customer needs.
Digital transformation, believes Tarun, holds exponential potential. As early tech adopters, the company continues to enhance the integration of AI/ML across the insurance value chain. Tarun argues that automated decision-support systems, relying on patterns rather than subjective human biases, will prove differentiating.
With 20,000+ employees and 100,000+ agents already on board, the company's multi-pronged approach focuses on motivation, upskilling and vision alignment.
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In this exclusive interview, Tarun, a member in the Insurance Information Bureau of India's Governing Council and the Distribution Committee of IRDA, unravels the story behind India's insurance sector.
Here are the edited excerpts:
What are the current trends shaping the future of the life insurance industry, and what do you see as the most disruptive factor today?
The pandemic has shifted customer priorities, leading to increased demand for products that provide financial security and guarantees in challenging times. As an industry, we responded swiftly to challenges. I see the future in providing even more customised products. The Use & File guideline from our regulator empowers the industry to innovate and address customer needs faster in the years ahead.
Our regulator's goal of "Insurance for all” by 2047 is driving improvements in the industry's distribution network. And with the Open Architecture reform, life insurance players have an opportunity to collaborate with banks and enable them to deliver value-packed products to a broader customer base.
Bajaj Allianz Life is utilising its tech prowess to transform distribution. Collaborating with banks and introducing innovative solutions to sales channels, we anticipate a significant shift in distribution dynamics. The involvement of FinTechs and InsurTechs will be crucial in this evolution.
Investing significantly in long-term customer relationships, Bajaj Allianz Life is focusing on building robust systems. I believe the sales and service architecture of the industry will see significant advancements in the years to come with AI and ML advancements.
How is Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance positioning itself to adapt to these industry shifts?
In the past five years, Bajaj Allianz Life transformed, emphasising life insurance benefits throughout the policyholder's lifetime. Innovation in products, services, and sales made us future-ready, ensuring sustained growth and impact. Our success stems from customer-focused products, top-tier services, and robust digital and tech frameworks. Our personalised service eco-system, early adoption of data-driven decisions, and continuous investment in understanding customers make us future-ready. With an agile, innovative, and tech-enabled team, our future readiness is at its peak.
Are you using AI and ML to reduce bias in underwriting and claims processes?
Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) across the entire insurance value chain is no longer an option and we are only increasingly enhancing its usage. Our 99.04% claim settlement ratio attests to effective underwriting and claims processing aided by these technologies. They drive accurate risk assessments, personalised premiums, and sustainable value, ensuring an enhanced customer experience. Importantly, AI mitigates bias, aligning with the industry's commitment to transparency and fairness in decision-making for underwriting and claims processes.
In a competitive labour market, what's your strategy to attract and retain top talent?
We adopt a multifaceted approach to talent acquisition and retention. Beyond traditional employment, we actively engage with individuals through shared services programmes, partnerships, and agent roles. As the tech ecosystem expands, we prioritise investments to offer competitive incentives, positioning life insurance as an appealing choice for top-tier talent. With over 20,000 employees, 100,000+ insurance consultants, and numerous partners, our workforce extends across varied roles. We provide tailored solutions, ensuring continual motivation, upskilling, and future-readiness for each member.
What does the insurance sector's current diversity and inclusion landscape look like?
Interesting question. I’m delighted to share that some of the industry’s top insurance consultants (or agents) are women: a trend echoing in our agency sales channel. Women, drawn to flexible schedules, find agency roles appealing. Closer home, within the organisation, our diversity quotient is high, however, we are continuously building on it. And also working towards being true to the definition of diversity and inclusion, and making a workplace where everyone enjoys coming to.
What lessons have you learned as a champion of DEI, and what advice would you offer to address broader DEI challenges?
Transformative change requires leadership buy-in and a compelling business case. While ample literature focuses on the latter, nurturing a cultural shift within the organisation is the key. It's about ingraining DEI into our DNA and belief systems.
I see that happening at various levels in many industries, and I am glad to be a part of a group that is consciously working on it and pushing for it.
How do you envision the future of the life insurance industry in India?
The future of the life insurance industry is fairly strong. We continue to offer employment to several segments of the society. Various customer segments are now enjoying the advantages life insurance products offer, which aren’t limited to being a posthumous product. The industry is now fairly agile to offer products to help customers meet their long-term life goals irrespective of what the social and economic environment is like. The future holds promise supported by a rapidly evolving digital and technology landscape. Collaborative efforts are shaping a future-ready ecosystem built on trust and transparency.