Insurance companies, like other businesses, had been impacted by the pandemic, in terms of new business premium and risk management. While the insurance industry has heavy dependence on face-to-face advisory, most of the insurers were able to leverage digital platforms for various processes from policy issuance to claims, says Anand Pejawar, President-Operations, IT & International Business, SBI Life.
What is your digital strategy to policyholders, since the implementation of lockdown measures?
The company adopted API (application programming interface) integration to enhance the insurance digital end-to-end experience. A classic example of this integration is the ‘YONO platform’ offered by SBI Bank where a customer can buy SBI Life term plan in just three clicks. The Certificate of Insurance (COI) is then made available on the same platform immediately on transferring the premium amount. All the other transactions like payment of renewals, policy details, etc, can be obtained from this application.
Another instance, is the e-COE (Certificate of Existence) submitted by the annuitants every year. The process is completely digitised and secured, and can be done by the annuitant from the comfort of their homes. In such times, this has helped the senior citizens, who otherwise would have to travel to bank branch or Govt offices to get the same certified.
We have also been encouraging our customers to manage their policy servicing needs with ‘Easy Access’, a mobile application that provides products and policy-related information on their finger-tips. We have developed a web and mobile application, ‘Customer Self Service (CSS) Portal’, for customers to view and make transactions for all issued policies with SBI Life under single login. Not only this, we also have an AI- driven ChatBot, ‘RIA – Real Intelligent Assistant’ that assists users with queries. This pandemic has brought all our digital initiatives to the fore.
Were you able to onboard new customers/entertain renewals during the lockdown period? How was it done?
Yes. This was possible only because of our in-built digital solutions. To contain the spread of the pandemic, we enabled a work from home policy, wherever required and equipped our employees, distributors and partners with necessary digital tools. For instance, we could onboard new customers and issue policies, 100 per cent digitally with Alternate Sales Process (ASP), which is a paperless-penless tool; collected renewals through M Connect and Smart Advisor plus, mobile platforms that empowers the sales personnel to assist the customer with their queries.
Which type of policies was issued during the lock down? Also, given the restrictions on movement, how was the medical test (if required) undertaken?
Depending on the insurance needs of the customers, we have sold policies, namely pure term insurance, ULIPs, traditional insurance policies etc. Medicals too, wherever applicable, up to a certain level of sum assured, we got it done through telemedical/videomedical process. We advise customers to provide correct information to the medical consultants over phone or video so they face no challenge during the claim settlement process. Policies with a sizeable sum assured that includes complete medical tests were kept on hold for some time as customers were not willing to leave their homes and get the tests done in diagnostic centres; many were closed because of complete lock down.
In terms of claims initiation process and claims payment to policyholder, how has the digital service helped?
At SBI Life, customers can intimate claims online. All the information on procedure and claim forms is available on the website or the CSS portal.
Lately, we received claims for 10 policies arising from Covid–19 cases, which were settled in the shortest period i.e. within three days. As far as survival and maturity benefits and lapse termination refund (LTR) goes, almost 100 per cent of the payments are done through electronic funds transfer (EFT).
How soon are the claims settled to the policyholder since the submission of all the documents?
In life insurance, the claims are of two nature. The first one is categorised as ‘early death claims’ where the death has occurred within two years of the insured taking a policy. As per the regulations, within 90 days the company needs to settle or repudiate the claim by conducting necessary investigations, if required. However, at SBI Life, we have put in a mechanism which helps us settle genuine claims within an average of 15 days, including investigations, if required.
The other category is the ‘non-early death claims’ where the death of the insured has occurred after three years of taking the policy. Here, as per regulations, 30 days are provisioned to take a decision and settle such claims. But at SBI Life, our normal TAT is less than three days in settlement of such non early claims.
Do you see digital only policies taking off post Covid-19?
Organisations across have leveraged digital platforms for various processes starting from sourcing to issuance and policy servicing. While it is definitely a good move for the industry towards a digitalisation, we don’t expect this situation to eliminate human intervention in terms of advisory. In India, most of the people utilise the online platform either to do a quick research on the product features or compare products etc, but prefer buying the product offline after consulting their insurance advisors.
In my view, this ‘ROPO sales’ i.e. ‘Refer Online–Purchase offline’ would continue. The real digital world would be where people refer offline and buy online on their own. While this will take some time, organisations will continue invest on newer technologies and create awareness towards online buying.
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