Faced with a new normal in the post-Covid-19 world, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance has embarked on a massive digital training drive for its 70,000-plus agency force to empower them to make sales pitches via video calls and WhatsApp, said a top official.
With the demand for unit-linked insurance plans (ULIPs) — a key revenue source — slated to take a big hit in these trying times, the life insurer is now reorienting its product mix to focus on term products, followed by guarantee products, Tarun Chugh, Managing Director and CEO, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, told BusinessLine.
In the current lockdown situation and social distancing norms, the company is training its agency force (average age of 40 years) on how to do video calls, make sales pitch via these tools, and how to show empathy to customers who have lost a dear one.
“We are clear that digital is here to stay. Even after 8 to 9 months, we don’t see a situation where our agents can sit face-to-face with customers to do insurance selling. We are, therefore, training our managers and agents on new communication platforms and using webinars to help them navigate the new normal. We are also encouraging our customers to go digital. From March 22 to April10, there has been 51 per cent growth in number of transactions in WhatsApp,” he said.
Chugh said that the last one month since the lockdown was announced has certainly not been business as usual for the company. “Very clearly there is a huge impact on business. We are unable to open branches even after the partial lifting of lockdown. There are 170 branches in the green zone. On Wednesday, only 12 were open. We wanted to send thermometers (for Covid checks at branches), but courier is not available. So, we are sending it through India Post, which is operational. By Friday, we expect 50 out of total 630 branches to be open,” he said.
Chugh said the company, which earlier too had enough digital tools for customers to engage, is now coaxing more customers to use digital mediums and platforms for self-service even as its Life Assist App sees little of traction these days.
Chugh highlighted that the company is now seeing a spurt in demand for protection plans. “Our term product is going to be the most important product. Second will be more guarantee-backed, simple in nature to be able to understand. I see a dip in ULIP plans already visible in 20 days. It also happened in March. I also see a clear dip in ticket size. People are unwilling to commit big sums of money for the long term. The monthly mode versus annual mode is going to be more in vogue. Customers belonging in salary class will grow up in number for us,” said Chugh.
At the same time, Chugh felt this is not going to be the end of the road for ULIPs. “ULIPs will take a hit. But I see it coming back at the end of the year,” he said. Before Covid, ULIP was 45 per cent, guarantee backed was 10 per cent, par plans 30 per cent and term insurance was just 5 per cent.
Chugh also said the company has not resorted to any layoffs (of its employees) despite the challenging business environment.