India's BFSI sector is fast-growing, leading to a high demand for top-tier, highly skilled talent. However, with the limited and inflexible availability of skilled and tech-savvy professionals in the market, the responsibility falls on HR leaders to build talent for the sector's emerging needs.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Manmay Madiman, Executive Vice President of Human Resources at ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company, shared insights into emerging HR trends in the BFSI sector, the role of AI technologies in talent management, employee well-being strategies and fostering a cross-function learning culture.
Here are the edited excerpts:
In your experience, what are the emerging HR trends in the BFSI industry? How will these trends transform the workplace and top talent acquisition within the industry? How is ICICI Prudential Life Insurance adapting to these trends, especially in the context of remote work and digital transformation?
The key trends include a focus on building emerging skills for future competitive advantage, increasing valence for inclusion and sustainability, increasing flexibility in workforce policies to cater to a multi-generational workforce, and shifting from focusing on just physical employee well-being to holistic well-being.
With technology and data sciences driving innovation, aggregated data platforms that enable the creation of seamless customer experience, and evolution in core skills of actuarial, underwriting and investments, building capacity and capability in these skills has been an important part of our people strategy. Our systems of talent acquisition, skill development, rewards and succession planning ensure that our teams are proficient in emerging skills and use these to anticipate and reimagine products and processes, ultimately driving better products, onboarding processes, and service for our customers and more comprehensive partner integration.
To stay agile and continuously improve in delivering our proposition to customers, a diversity of perspectives and inclusion of all people is an important foundation. Accordingly, the right mix of talent is onboarded, with employees from various backgrounds, educational qualifications, genders and generations working together to ensure financial security for our customers. Our gender ratios are best-in-class in the insurance industry at 30%, consistently increasing over the last 3 years.
Employees increasingly want flexibility in their work and workplace policies. This is delivered through various modes of employment, from traditional employment to fixed-term employment to part-time employment to phygital modes of working. Tools that help employees collaborate, learn and work from anywhere have enabled our employees to sell and service at our customers’ convenience. This flexibility enables effective utilisation of capacity and capability and encourages agility in thinking. It also enables a truly multi-generational workforce, with employees able to contribute their best while their life needs are met.
We have taken a step further from the focus on the physical well-being of our employees to a more holistic view that considers multiple dimensions of employee well-being, such as physical, emotional and financial well-being. A set of initiatives have been developed that build awareness, help institute enabling policies and facilitate habit formation for employees around well-being. These have helped increase employee engagement and create a workplace where employees feel supported and secure.
How do you see the role of Artificial Intelligence affecting the BFSI sector talent? What role do you envision technology playing in HR processes within the insurance sector, and how is your organisation leveraging it for better talent management?
Technology, artificial intelligence and data analytics are enabling significant shifts in the life insurance industry, enabling us to provide the right products to the right customers and retain them for longer, thereby providing them increased protection and return on their savings. By leveraging technology, we can offer cutting-edge digital platforms for distribution partners that integrate entirely into their systems and enable them to provide a more extensive suite of relevant products to their customers. Similar to the revolution in payments and related areas, we are reaping the benefits of data stacks, and financial and health aggregators, leading to a simple and more intuitive journey for customers. Our 4D framework, comprising Data analytics, Diversified propositions, Digitalisation and Depth in Partnerships, enables the delivery of our business strategy and leads to quality risk-calibrated business growth.
Using all these tools, we provide our customers with a convenient, fast and seamless purchase process. Our recently launched “ICICI Pru Stack” offers a unique set of platform capabilities that include digital tools and analytical functions, and enable us to offer an end-to-end digital purchase process to customers. The deployment of advanced machine learning tools helps predict customer persistency and other behaviours, facilitating timely interventions to educate the customers and resolve any challenges. Predictive data analytical models are being used to offer the right product to the right customer. Technology solutions have also been the catalyst for our claim settlement ratio, which stands at 98.14% for Q2-FY2024 which is amongst the best-in-class in the industry.
We see significant focus on these emerging skills that will create future competitive advantage for us, through their application to the customer onboarding journey, underwriting, customer service, claims etc. Over the last few years, our people strategy has been to consistently increase capacity and capability in roles that augment growth, including through the use of technology, artificial intelligence and data sciences. A detailed skill mapping exercise for these roles was carried out that involved building a skill inventory, mapping proficiency levels of employees, and enabling us to identify capacity and capability gaps. Any gaps are filled through a host of interventions that include industry-academia partnerships, onboarding of specialised talent, and offering customised learning and certification journeys to upskill existing employees. Agile structures in teams and cross-functional projects encourage experimentation and piloting of projects that ensure that the Company “tests and learns” different models that are replicated once successful.
Similarly, across the employee lifecycle, HR processes such as talent acquisition and employee onboarding have been digitised end-to-end. Technology is deployed at every touchpoint in the employee lifecycle, with various employee apps operating like a digital office, including the core app ATOM and the enterprise social network PULSE.
To enable superior productivity, on-the-go-learning is deployed by our learning management system Saksham and an AI-based learning app “My Coach”, in addition to high-tech pre-sales tools for digital collaboration, joint sales calls, lead management system with enhanced voice capability, geographical tagging and digital customer demand generation platforms. Through these, our salesforce can take customers through the journey of awareness to education to consideration to intent to purchase, with effective funnel management analytics through the journey.
When it comes to building a culture of excellence and innovation in an organisation, what are the most crucial aspects that an HR leader must not ignore? What are the signs that HR leaders are on the right path to fostering such a culture? Can you share specific examples of successful initiatives or programs that contributed to building this culture?
The building block to excellence and innovation comes from anticipation, reimagination and experimentation, and these behaviours are enabled and encouraged by bringing in a diversity of thinking and perspective building for leaders so they have an integrated perspective of business. A culture of risk-taking and making small innovations through pilot projects which come together to create momentum and ultimately lead to better products, onboarding processes and service for the customer, is encouraged.
The Human Resources function enables this culture by building processes that reinforce innovation, build internal capabilities and promote collaboration. Leaders are encouraged to have a learning mindset and be open to possibilities, coach team members to perform to their potential, and create an inclusive culture of diverse perspectives.
An example of an initiative that has promoted innovation is our internal crowdsourcing of innovative ideas through a digital platform called pi. The pi platform creates continuous engagement and generates new ideas by giving employees a platform for their voices and ideas. In addition, there are mechanisms in place for members of the leadership team to directly hear the voice of the customer and distribution partners, through customer interactions with members of the leadership team participating/observing. This ensures a direct transmission of ground insights and experiences from customers to function heads, who can collectively solve any challenges or identify new opportunities for impact on customers.
What leadership principles guide ICICI Prudential Life Insurance? Reflecting on the leadership evolution, please share how the leadership team has been equipped to navigate challenges and drive the company's strategic vision.
Enabling a customer-centric culture is at the core of the Company’s people strategy, in line with the Company’s Vision. This is operationalised through the simplification of products and processes for our customers, to enable the right product for the right customer at the right time. The customer onboarding process and processes for distribution partners are technology-enabled and strengthened through data analytics.
The leadership team therefore needs to constantly anticipate, reimagine and experiment, for the Company to move from its current state to the desired state. This is enabled by outlining expected leadership behaviours that will allow risk-calibrated growth with profitability, called our Leadership Anchors.
Leaders are encouraged to prioritise learning and have an integrated 360-degree view of the customer and business. This is enabled through leadership development interventions that help build an integrated understanding of business, enable direct customer feedback, help them reflect on challenges and reframe issues, and require working on cross-functional projects that impact business. Leadership development is a continuous journey built on a foundation of job rotations facilitated by a well-defined succession planning process.
Through all our actions, we have developed high-quality human capital with leadership stability, with 82% of the senior management team serving the Company for more than 10 years, leadership breadth with 70% of the positions in senior management filled through internal succession in the last five years (balanced with the hiring of specialist talent laterally), and leadership depth with 96% of senior management in generalist roles having done more than three job rotations.
In the dynamic landscape of the insurance industry, how does the organisation stay agile and adapt to market changes while maintaining a stable and customer-centric approach?
Being a trustee of public money, our primary objective is to ensure the right product for the right customer, which is enabled by a comprehensive product suite that includes our key mandate of protecting people’s lives through protection products and retirement planning through annuities, along with long-term savings to enable customers to meet their long-term goals. This is driven by a focus on the simplicity of products and processes for the customer, enabled through technology and data analytics.
This proposition can be delivered to the customer only if we stay agile and constantly anticipate, reimagine, experiment and find new and better ways to add value in meeting customers’ needs. This agility includes being ahead of various trends that are shaping the industry, such as regulatory reforms, socio-economic changes leading to changing customer needs and behaviour patterns, the changing competitive and partner landscape, the potential of technology & data analytics and changes in the financial & medical ecosystem that may enable step changes in medical underwriting, customer analytics and the customer’s purchase journey.
The alignment between our people strategy and business strategy and the consistent investment in the growth and development of employees helps create the edge that makes our human resources a source of our strength and a key competitive advantage. Our people strategy focuses on building capacity, developing capability and enabling the right culture that drives customer-centricity and agility.
Can you share insights into the measures ICICI Prudential Life Insurance has taken to ensure employee well-being, especially in the context of the recent global challenges?
We deliver our core value proposition to employees of a long-term career underpinned on the cornerstones of providing a Supportive Environment, Learning and growth and Fairness and meritocracy at the workplace. To provide a safe, secure, and supportive work environment, the Company has put in place a holistic well-being framework for employees that focuses on physical, mental, and financial well-being built on the bedrock of building awareness, instituting enabling policies and facilitating habit formations.
For building awareness, wellness webinars with external and in-house subject matter experts are conducted with the aim not only of increasing awareness but also highlighting the importance of preventive measures that enable healthy living.
The Company continuously works on instituting policies that are customised as per the individual and life needs of the employees. An employee assistance program to facilitate mental health conversations with physical medical teleconsultation is available through a panel of doctors and experts for employees and families. Eligible employees are encouraged to avail themselves of the Executive Health Check-up policy for undergoing their annual health check-up.
Habit formation is facilitated through a series of concentrated efforts with targeted groups. For instance, #CommitToQuit – an anti-tobacco campaign was run to encourage employees to take a pledge to quit smoking. The campaign communicated the ill effects of smoking and inspired smokers to quit by sharing stories of other employees who had stopped smoking. This helped in reiterating the importance of employees coming together and encouraging each other to take a step towards healthy living. Continuing the effort of providing opportunities for employees to develop healthy living habits, a step challenge ‘StayFit’ was launched on the employee self-service app.
Collaboration and teamwork are essential for success. How does ICICI Prudential Life Insurance foster collaboration among different departments and teams?
Although organisations are structured vertically by functions or departments to drive focus and efficiency, the value to customers is created only horizontally when all functions come together to deliver the common goal of meeting customers’ needs. Fundamentally, therefore, inter-departmental collaboration and synergy and a single-minded focus on the customer help create value for the customer.
This is enabled in the Company in different ways. Leaders are encouraged to have an integrated view of the business, and functional goals are subservient to organisational customer-focused goals. Cross-functional teams work on projects that impact the customer. Across levels, employees take on roles across functions over their careers, that ensure they build a holistic business perspective and functional specialisation is only a tool to deliver on customer & business objectives. This is enabled through the succession planning process at the leadership level and through job rotations and internal job postings at the next levels.
In addition, there are mechanisms in place for members of the leadership team to hear the voice of customers directly through customer interactions. This ensures that there is a direct transmission of ground insights and experiences from customers to function heads, who can collectively solve any challenges or identify new opportunities for impact on customers.