COVID-19 outbreak came at a time when India’s economy was already slowing due to persistent financial sector weaknesses. Banking Frontiers carried out a 4 part-study on this topic and sought to understand (i) Impact on economy & business (ii) Challenges (iii) Strategies & initiatives adopted by the companies to compete with COVID-19 (iv)Adoption of digital products and services. The findings are narrated in 4 different articles
Part 1: COVID affects business & operations of financial companies
The pandemic has a major impact on the economy and business of the BFSI companies:
Banking and financial institutions were under immense pressure to ensure business-as-usual amidst the lockdown and health crisis. The operational and technical challenges for both the customers and employees highlighted a lacuna and the general lack of agility in our banking systems when faced with an emergency. In the current scenario, the key challenge for the companies is to balance employee’s health, safety and customer expectations.
IMPACT OF COV1D-19
The impact of the pandemic is felt across industry sectors. Banking is an essential service and Fino Payments Bank always maintained itself as a responsible banker. Shailesh Pandey, chief sales & distribution head at the bank, says in spite of the lockdown the bank’s teams on the field, branches, regional offices and corporate office are working in tandem to make services available seamlessly. “All the office staff, including finance and IT, are working from home adhering to the government directive,” he adds.
With business and economy coming to a standstill, thousands of migrants – mostly daily wage-earning workers – have been rendered jobless. This has a large bearing on the domestic remittance business. Shailesh Pandey gives details about the dip in the bank’s remittance business: “We have seen a dip of up to 80% in our remittance business. However, we are seeing an uptick in early April. Our objective is to have all the 200,000 banking outlets open, and given the current situation at some places, we have to adhere to the local conditions and operate at 50% capacity.”
Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Co has a pandemic response plan to that includes remote working for the employees, including the off-roll staff, to ensure that all critical services and back-end operations are fully operational. Siddharth Kaushik, chief risk officer at the company, maintains that the company has not seen any degradation in the service levels and all processes are operating at near normal. “Given we are in a lockdown situation and customers focus on social distancing, the same shall have an impact on the expected business in the coming days or months; however, as a company we are working on a technology backed sales strategy with digital footprints which shall help us overcome the challenges posed by the current situation ensuring business can still thrive while maintaining social distancing norms,” he adds.
The Municipal Cooperative Bank of Mumbai has opened all the 22 branches to fulfil the banking and financial needs of its customers. The maximum number of customers of the bank comprise the employees working in Sewage and Waste Management department of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai are they frequent visitors to the bank branches for their banking needs as they prefer having hard cash instead of using digital modes of banking in this kind of a situation.
Vinod Ravadka, CEO & general manager, says: “We have reduced our bank’s timings – it is now 11 am to 2.30 pm. We have certain challenges and tried to overcome those. All the branches are provided with sanitizers, masks, hand-gloves to protect the staff from getting infected.”
Anything which has an impact on the economy will have an impact on the general insurance industry. Even before COVID-19, the slowdown had impacted the industry. For Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co, business revenue has not been impacted much by the lockdown, as s business does not come from one segment of the economy. The impact is not the same in every segment of the business and there is still demand for health and home insurance. People purchase health insurance policies irrespective of the economic condition prevailing in the country and general insurance companies are receiving good business from health covers.
Rajeev Kumar, chief risk officer at the company, says there is rise in people getting individual health insurance cover after COVID-19. The epidemic has an impact on the company’s new business for motor insurance as there are no vehicles on the road due to the lockdown, he says, adding people are, however, renewing their motor insurance policies. “It is not necessary that only vehicle moving on the road will meet an accident. Even stationary vehicles can be involved – for example if the vehicle catches fire due to an electric short-circuit or some tree falls on the vehicle, etc,” says he.
SBI General Insurance Co is facing challenges like stress on liquidity due to increase in claims and lower new business volumes, decrease in return on investments due to adverse market movements, decrease in liquidity and higher asset liability management risks. The company is also battling with business continuity plan challenge.
Says Amar Joshi, the company’s chief business officer: “There are many expectations from us and fulfilling those mandates for our employees, customers, distributors, intermediaries, vendors and society at large in times like these is the foremost challenge for us. On the workspace front, getting people to accept that work from home is the new normal is a challenge. Shift from conventional workplaces to the virtual one needs to happen seamlessly without any impact on core operations or customer service levels. This is a unique and unprecedented situation and we need to adjust to the evolving situation and respond to changes accordingly.”
For Reliance Capital, COVID-19 has restricted the way it conducts its business. There is obviously an economic impact. Swaminathan Subramanian, chief people officer, says the company has taken several proactive measures even before the lockdown was implemented but he is concerned because the impact is uncertain, and there is no certainty about the pandemic’s exit. “However, there will be more focus on health and wellbeing among the people after this epidemic,” he says.
“It is not a holiday,” he says, and hence “work ethics need to be followed. We have Oracle Cloud HR system, which allows any form of HR activity like attendance, employees leave, etc done remotely. Because of the processes that the system follows, it has become easy for us to record attendance when the employees work from home. It is a performance management period for us and hence employee appraisals will be done online by April end.”
LONG-TERM, SHORT-TERM IMPACTS
Financial services companies have had long-terms and short-term impacts because of the pandemic. However, business is usual for the SBI General Insurance Co. HR is ensuring new ways of working from home to keep teams more intact and engaged. Amar Joshi concedes that the prevailing situation certainly limits the scope of new business generation, but the company’s strong relationship quotient with its intermediaries has enabled it to leverage its strength of personal touch, enthusiasm and positive energy in converting it into incremental renewal achievements and customer connect.
Fino Payments Bank is facing the prospect of decreasing business. Shailesh Pandey says the company has ensured that costs are managed well to keep business afloat. “Innovation will be the key across departments and processes. As such marketing and HR spends will be rationalized on need basis to support business. We have long standing relationships with our partners for advertising, analytics and technology and in this critical juncture we stand by each other,” says he.
Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Co has enabled all critical processes, both internal and external, to operate digitally. The company is leveraging digital platforms to implement marketing and sales strategy to connect with its existing and potential customers. Siddharth Kaushik says long term impact is something which remains uncertain. “Looking at how the situation has evolved, we shall continue to focus on digitally enabling our business operations ensuring that the impact remains minimal and we are able to adapt to the evolving scenarios.”
NBFC BIZ AT STANDSTILL
NBFCs are not spared by the impact of the pandemic. It is a known fact that if this sector gets impacted, there will be significant fallout that can damage the economy. On the one side, collections are disappearing due to the moratorium. On the other side, banks are not forthcoming to meet the financial needs of the NBFCs.
Rakesh Kumar Bhutoria, CEO at Srei Infrastructure Finance Co, hopes there will be positive regulatory measures. “I feel the moratorium must be carried forward to the entire value chain. If the regulator focusses only on the banks and NBFCs are left out, then this sector will face a financial crisis of a very different order. Soon, there will be some announcement from the regulator about the proactive measures for the NBFCs, which will help in the stabilization of the sector,” says he.
At Aadhar Housing Finance, most of the customers facing activities have come to a standstill. Using digital platform, the employees are working from home to ensure customer service remains uninterrupted. Rishi Anand, chief business officer at the company, says the crisis has left the transactions with customers at a standstill. “This is affecting the dreams of thousands of our customers, who wish to buy their own homes with home loans, and this in turn has affected our business prospects too,” says he.
Inditrade Group of Companies, through its subsidiaries Inditrade Fincorp (a NBFC) and Inditrade Microfinance (NBFC-MFI), are lending to the poorer sections of the society. Apart from its own funds, the company avails/ borrows funds to carry out its activities. With all offices shut and all employees locked down at their respective homes, business has come to a standstill for the company leading to a significant loss of revenue and complete uncertainty regarding recovery of loans. The challenge now for the company is how to meet the fixed costs for an uncertain period of time without any corresponding revenue. The lockdown has completely stopped cash-flows and no physical collection can be made. In addition, the RBI has announced a moratorium on repayments of loans for 3 months and this means no collections at all.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay, group chairman of the company, points out that the company’s lenders are continuously pushing it for honouring various terms of respective agreements and make repayments. Meanwhile the RBI’s moratorium talks about bilateral negotiations between the borrower and lender for the purpose of moratorium. “Unfortunately, in our case the customer is retail and they simply cannot pay us, and we have no option but to grant them moratorium.”
Bandyopadhyay also points out that the company’s lenders are institutions and they are using all possible means of collection. “This is an unfortunate situation for us and we are struggling,” he adds.
BACK TO NORMAL?
There is uncertainty around when COVID-19 will exit. Even after the lockdown is lifted, the economy will not bounce back soon. Most of the workforce have gone back to their home bases and it will take 6-9 months for getting things to be in place.
Part 2: Challenges and cultural changes
Financial companies are facing infrastructure, connectivity & work culture challenges:
Almost all industries face challenges and some of these challenges could be business specific. Though insurance companies are included under the list of exempted services, the lockdown has brought in a general restriction on movement. IRDAI and Life Insurance Council have issued various guidelines in terms of death claim settlement and extension of 30 days to premium payments. Most of the insurance companies have still not completely developed a 100% digital environment. They face challenges including technology support and preparedness, expertise and experience of business leaders to engage teams while working in a virtual environment alongside distractions, virtual team management routines, managing employee anxieties of missing out.
Amit Malik, chief people, operations & customer services officer at Aviva Life Insurance Co, says a severe health crisis like COVID-19 leaves a huge impact on the employees’ mental and physical well-being. Social distancing and complete lockdown, anxiety about job and salary losses are factors that add to stress.
Rajeev Kumar of Bajaj Allianz General Insurance speaks about the connectivity challenges: “We are facing the issues like non-consistent internet connectivity while working from home, as the quality of the internet is not the same compared to our office connectivity. We also face challenges of power shutdown in some areas. However, customer service and claim processing are not impacted by the crisis.”
Fino Payments Bank faces issues like non-availability or less availability of cash in rural areas, as not all outlets are open due to curfew situation in certain locations. The bank also faces challenges in creating awareness among the merchants and supporting them in this hour of crisis.
Swaminathan Subramanian of Reliance Capital, says people have understood that working from home is the new normal. “There are 17,500 employees in our workforce. Providing infrastructure to them is challenge for us – not everyone has internet connection to work remotely, many do not have laptops or iPads and home, providing IT security to nearly 80-90% of the staff is a huge task. We have hired laptops and given them to our employees,” says he.
CHANGE IN WORK CULTURE
A pandemic challenges existing business continuity management initiative of any organization. Every company has business continuity plans and disaster recovery sites; but what happens when you cannot access these sites and travel is not permitted. Evolving scenarios call for agile decision making and optimum utilization of resources, with an objective to create a blended work environment – physical and virtual.
Siddharth Kaushik of Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Co says the initial few days were the most challenging as time was limited and situation was ever evolving, and the task at hand was mammoth. “We had our priorities clearly defined wherein we were clear that the entire workforce would need to be enabled to work remotely from home ensuring their safety and well-being,” he explains.
“Our objective was to continue to service our customers in a business-as-usual manner. We have been able to successfully manage our business operations without any significant disruptions in the current situation. In the days to come, we would review our response once lockdown is over and will have to review directions and responses from various stakeholders concerned and have a gradual plan for resumption before we move to a business-as-usual state,” says he.
Says Rakesh Kumar Bhutoria of Srei Infrastructure Finance Co: “We are having a habit of face-to-face conversations with our clients on a regular basis; Indians believe in ‘Touch & Feel’. Post-COVID-19, this will change and there will be less of visiting, meeting and receiving clients. It will be a combination of face-to-face and digital communication. It is a challenge as well as opportunity for us. “
Swaminathan Subramanian believes that there will be a cultural change after the lockdown is lifted. “There will be questions on the need to travel, travel restrictions will become permanent and it will reduce to some extent the cost of operations,” says he.
The work from home concept is new for the BFSI industry. Shailesh Pandey of Fino Payments Bank, says work from home, or WFH, is new for banks. But the way banks have managed to maintain uninterrupted services gives out a lot of positives, according to him. “All the departments have coordinated seamlessly to ensure services are up and running. It is quite possible that WFH may become the new normal as it helps companies reduce costs and at the same time improve the work life balance of employees,” comments Pandey.
UGRO Capital had opted for work from home much prior to the announcement of the lockdown. The company is able to provide the required support and services to its clients even when the employees operate from home. Shachindra Nath, executive chairman at UGRO Capital says the company has not only been able to stay connected to its small business customers but it has also managed to offer them 3-month-moratorium on their loan EMIs.
Inditrade Group team is working from home to reassure customers and handhold them during this time of crisis. Sudip Bandyopadhyay says it is impossible to ascertain or predict the long-term impact on different parts of the business. In the short term, all employees wherever possible are trying to work from their homes by using different digital methods and technology. The company is trying to carry out banking, customer interaction and interaction with large ecosystems wherever relevant.
Rakesh Kumar Bhutoria believes that WFH is not a bad idea. “Our telephone conversations have become extremely focused and our productivity is not getting hampered due to COVID-19. It will give new experience to our employees, there will be rise in the use of technology and it will reduce our operational cost,” says he.
BankBazaar, a neutral online marketplace for instant customized rate quotes on loans and credit cards, is also journeying through extraordinary times. Adhil Shetty, CEO, says the company has enabled a slew of business continuity measures to ensure that all customer needs are serviced during this critical period. “We have made arrangements for all employees across all our offices to work from home, with complete and secure access to essential tools and platforms, while ensuring data security and privacy compliance, so that there is no service drop-ins. We will continue to monitor the situation in real time and comply with government and health authorities’ mandates.” Says Shetty.
WORK CULTURE POST-COVID
There will be significant changes in the way employees travel, congregate, meet customers and other partners after the situation turns to normal or near normal. While digital methods with the aid of technology will be used more and more, it is too early to predict the future of physical interaction and movements.
Part 3: Strategies & initiatives to counter COVID-19
Financial institutions have adopted business, operations, crisis management strategies to counter COVID-19:
Fino Payments Bank is working with banks for cash availability. CMS and BPCL are its strategic partners and these companies are ensuring cash availability so that this can be provided to branches and merchant points. The bank is also encouraging customers to deposit cash in their accounts to ensure local people can use them to buy essential things. This way local cash will be in circulation.
Shailesh Pandey speaks about the doorstep banking services of the bank: “We have been incessantly communicating with our merchants and consumers. As not all outlets could be opened, our merchants are providing doorstep banking services to customers. While the number of daily customers serviced has dropped, people appreciate Fino’s efforts to provide doorstep services, especially senior citizens.”
He says doorstep banking services is extremely useful when pensioners and DBT beneficiaries have to withdraw cash. The bank’s network will be there to help them, he adds.
SBI General Insurance Co is closely monitoring liquidity requirements and any increase in outflows due to increase in claims and lower new business volumes shall be met through increased allocation to these MF schemes. To cater to the inflows and outflows as per the company’s internal projections, it maintains holdings in overnight/liquid mutual fund schemes. The company is closely monitoring the market situation and if need arises, will increase allocation to these MF schemes to tide over stress scenarios.
The company has created an Emergency Management Team (EMT) comprising members from senior management. The team has been closely monitoring the situation in liaison with the central, state and local authorities and necessary advisories are being issued to the employees and other stakeholders. EMT has been taking necessary steps as per the company’s crisis management plan to reshape business strategy, to maintain business continuity, to build resilience and prepare for recovery. There is also a Crisis Management & Communication Plan in place which highlights the necessary dos and don’ts for the stakeholders. EMT has also provisioned for various engagement activities and matrices to make the work from home a delightful and productive experience for the employees.
Says Amar Joshi: “We shall continue to operate within our ALCO mandated ALM gap limits. Compliance to the same is monitored periodically. We will continue to closely monitor and assess the market situation and if need arises, will review our position accordingly. On maintaining business continuity, as an insurance company, we have a crucial role to play in order to stand with our policyholders in this hour of need. We are following a comprehensive business continuity plan to address all probable situations. We have taken a balanced view of our employees’ health and safety and commitment to our customers.”
UGRO Capital is working to find ways to support its customers with extra credit which they require to withstand the COVID-19 impact and to sustain their businesses once the situation is back to normal. The NBFC have plans to launch such product and they are talking with large banks about it.
Reserve Bank of India had issued a circular giving liberty to all banks and financial institution to allow a moratorium of 3 months on payment of instalments in respect of all term loans outstanding as on 1 March, subject to the borrower making such a request. Rishi Anand of Aadhar Housing Finance says based on the direction of RBI, the company has extended an option of moratorium of 3 months EMIs to all customers who wish to opt for the same. Secondly, upon things getting normal, the company would introduce products which will help improve cash flows for the customers and assist them in getting back to regular business flow.
Fino Payments Bank has waived off deposit charges for a period of 1 month from 1 April to encourage cash deposits into customer accounts.
Aviva Life Insurance has a focus on digital and customer first approach. Amit Malik says the company’s efforts have been in keeping the employees motivated and serving the customers in such a scenario. “Apart from the need to close our accounts for the financial year, we are also engaged in meeting the requirements of our employees, customers, partners and vendors in these times of difficulty,” he says.
INITIATIVES FOR EMPLOYEES
BFSI companies have taken special initiatives to protect the employees. Fino Payments Bank has provided COVID-19 medical insurance cover to all its field staff. The bank’s Family Floater as well as Hospicash insurance customers can avail COVID-19 cover.
Shailesh Pandey gives details about educating employees and customers: “We continuously educate our merchants, field staff and customers on the need for social distancing, branch hygiene, cleaning micro ATM and mPOS devices after each transaction, wearing masks, etc. Videos and images are regularly posted in various languages on social media platforms to create awareness and for the benefit of merchants and customers.”
Swaminathan Subramanian reveals details about the employee initiatives taken by Reliance Capital: “Reliance Capital is taking good care of its employees. We are assuring our employees that there will be no pay cuts, we have paid advance salary to the employees of Reliance Capital, Reliance Commercial Finance and Reliance Home Finance. So, the employees can stock up basic essentials and provisions in advance. Reliance Capital is giving paid leave to its employees who have COVID-19 symptoms, or they are in quarantine. Further we are working with 1mg app for online doctors’ consultation of our employees.”
Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Co is focused on the employee health and safety. Siddharth Kaushik says health and safety of our employees and uninterrupted service to our customers continue to remain the company’s top priority. He says the company will continue to tailor-make its strategies and responses in accordance with the evolving scenarios.
Rishi Anand too says employee safety is the only strategy the company has today. He highlights that support each employee and support the country. “Such difficult times always leave behind lots of learning’s and help us identify our gaps. Benefit is to identify and improvise on them. That’s what we have all been involved in these days,” he adds.
Part 4: Is digitization the only hope during COVID-19?
BFSI companies are focusing on the latest technology channels, platforms, online products, digital sales & marketing activities to provide efficient customer service:
Aviva Life Insurance has launched a comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan using WhatsApp, which is focused on themes like fitness & health, mental wellbeing, updates on economy, etc. The company’s learning team has focused on new online opportunities for employees to learn skills like big data, analytics, branding and specific courses for leaders on managing teams during a pandemic.
Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance is focusing on technology backed digital platforms / solutions for our business operations ensuring that it remain agile and adapt to the evolving scenarios. Siddharth Kaushik gives details of technology adoption by the company: “We have relooked at our processes, brought in certain customization and enabled all critical processes, to operate digitally. Further, our sales work force and processes has been tech enabled and requisite hardware and software tools have been provided for to carry out the day-to-day operations.”
“While online channels are seeing an increased uptake and the same is gradually picking up momentum, the traditional sales process is also being customized to overcome the current challenges. The current ongoing situation is making everyone focus on technology enabled capabilities and once we are back to normalcy it would be imperative to further capitalize on these initiatives,” says he.
Srei Infrastructure Finance has launched project ‘Impact’ within the organization. The company is trying to identify new trends that will emerge post-COVID -19 and is trying to match up the new demands coming out.
Due to government regulations and the lockdown/curfew, staff attendance in the Municipal Cooperative Bank, Mumbai has reduced to almost 50%. Those staff members of who are unable to attend the office due to non-availability of transport or their area has been quarantined by the BMC, but their processes are critical have been given an option of working from home. Vinod Revadka says the bank has provided such employees with secured VPN access and implemented a mobile app for outward clearing of cheques.
Adhil Shetty of BankBazaar says digital demand is increasing as consumers stay at home and seek to minimize all physical touch-points and even offline documentation. This trend is only going to strengthen as people look to credit cards and loans to manage their finances. In these testing times, enabling 100% digital access to credit products via video KYC and CKYC will greatly help everyone: customers, financial institutions, and intermediaries, he says adding policymakers and leading banks and NBFCs should fast-track such a system.
Rakesh Kumar Bhutoria advocates platform channel for business: “We are doubling our investment in platform business; we are able to cater to increase in demand using the platform channel. It is our parallel initiative to our agenda of customer asset financing. Further, we are going extra mile with our employees and customers at this time of epidemic.”
Aviva Life Insurance is finding different ways for more cross-team collaborations and reorganize the structure for better digital engagement. The company is engaging with the customers to keep them intact after communicating with them through emails and SMS. It is seeing an increase use of its digital portals and customers are active on keeping a track about their premiums and developments.
Says Amit Malik: “Aviva as a company is doing well to find scope even in the given scenario. However, the industry still depends on offline distribution through sales team, agents, etc, which is bound to suffer currently.”
WHEN SALES GO DIGITAL
Sales at Bajaj Allianz General Insurance have been impacted as the company’s sales team has not able to move around the market. But there many other ways of approaching intermediaries and customers, says Rajeev Kumar. The company is using digital channels to approach the customers now and its new business has been majorly impacted. Sitting at home customers can renew their policies, take new policies and agents can sell to their customers. The repeat customer can take online policies for example if the customer has health insurance policies, they can purchase the home insurance policy, points out Rajeev Kumar.
“For sales and business development, there is a lot of thrust on renewals through online mode and a large chunk of our renewals has now transitioned into that mode. We are not facing any major challenges on renewal front”, adds Amar Joshi.
Reliance Capital is the retailers of finance products and the company’s front-end employees sell insurance, loans and capital market products. Swaminathan Subramanian says the company’s business development team used to call, make customer appointments, arrange meeting with the customers for picking up files and documents, etc. But now the team is focusing to launch digital products and communicate digitally with the customers. “We are seeing rise in the digital payments due to COVID-19. As our business development teams cannot knock the door of the customers for prospecting, there is rise in the digital format of marketing collaterals. There are still some processes which require physical signature and I think the regulator will change those process after COVID-19,” says he.
The sales team of BankBazaar is constantly in touch with partners to ensure that there is as little disruption in availability of products and processing of applications so that customers can access credit products that they require during these times. Adhil Shetty says: “We are working on a war footing to ensure people get secure and convenient digital access to credit. Our technology teams are working on overdrive to accommodate increased usage and requests.”
RISE OF DIGITAL MARKETING
The offline marketing activities have been stopped due to the crisis. Most of the newspapers and magazines have chosen to go digital till things become normal, so there is no scope for OOH campaigns. As people are at their home, companies are using TV and digital channels to reach their customers.
As per the BARC-Nielsen study, television consumption and smartphone usage have grown significantly despite other sectors going downwards. TV consumption has increased by 8% across India in the week ended 20 March. The growth in TV largely comes from non-prime time viewership. News gained by 57%, followed by kid genre and movies have contributed to the growth in TV viewing.
With the rise in TV consumption, smartphone usage has also gone up. As per the survey, digital consumption of news and gaming shows huge increase in both incidence and time spent. The time spent on smartphone during lockdown week one has also increased by 1.5 hours. This means time spent per user has gone up by 6.2%, of which majority users are from the 35-44-year age category. Number of new consumers grew mostly in mini-metros with 8 per cent growth, while metro and tier-2 cities both saw 6 % growth in new consumers. Female consumer ratio was more than male consumers by one per cent. social networking apps such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have seen significant rise – not only in time spent/user/week but also in the sessions/user/week, according to the study.
SBI General Insurance is using social media campaigns to reach its customers. Amar Joshi shares details about the social media campaigns: “Social media campaigns are in place while mainline campaigns have taken a backseat industry wide. Currently, we are running a precautionary and engagement series for customers and our employees. All mass media campaigns are on hold considering the market sentiments. A lot of activity on the marketing side has moved to the digital space. Interestingly, the consumption of digital content from our customer segment is encouraging.”
Rishi Anand says marketing is actively reaching out to customers using digital platform and sending out safety measure messages and assurances of their future requirements from us.
Shachindra Nath agrees about the rise of the digital marketing: “Reaching out to customers digitally will form the core of marketing. More defined and solution-led approach and desk work would define the norm for business development and sales, replacing the erstwhile approach based on the perception -we have to build relationship by hanging out together.”
WEB VIDEO MEETINGS
BFSI companies have adopted video conferencing/ meetings as physical meetings are not possible. The Municipal Cooperative Bank has started conducting board sub-committee meetings through video conferencing as most of the directors are either busy or unable to be physically present in the bank’s HO. The sub-committee meetings are held twice in a week and these are now done through Zoom.
Says Amit Malik: “We support the government’s endeavour to promote social distancing and our staff members have been working remotely. We have shifted our communications to digital means and are using WhatsApp and Zoom ensuring the information flow. These not only include employee communication or customer communications, but with our partners and vendors as well.”
Reliance Capital has adopted Microsoft Zoom platform – virtual meetings through video and telephone interactions happen on a regular basis in the organization. This has enhanced productivity and interactions have become more focused, claims Swaminathan Subramanian.
DIGITAL PRODUCTS GAME CHANGERS
In view of the rising need for health insurance cover, general insurance companies have introduced special COVID-19 insurance covers. All the Bajaj Allianz General Insurance health policies cover COVID-19. The company has partnered with PhonePe and introduced an insurance policy called Corona Care for people who have been infected and hospitalised for treatment. Priced at ₹156, the policy will provide an insurance cover of ₹50,000 for people who are under 55 years of age and will be valid at any hospital that is offering treatment for COVID-19.
Rajeev Kumar shares the details about the tie-up with PhonePe app: “In addition to covering the cost of treatment, the policy will also take care of one month’s expenses on pre-hospitalization and post-care medical treatment. Customer can buy it online in PhonePe app’s My Money section. The entire process takes less than 2 minutes and the policy documents will be instantly issued within the PhonePe app.”
Non-life insurer Reliance General Insurance has launched a COVID-19 protection insurance scheme, which offers 100% of the sum-insured in lump sum on positive diagnosis of COVID-19. In case a person is quarantined, the plan offers 50% of the sum-insured during that period.
Swaminathan Subramanian provides details: “The plan has a policy period of one year and the waiting period is for 15 days before one can claim against the policy. The plan will cover anyone aged between 3 months and 60 years, for a sum-insured option from Rs 25,000 to Rs 200,000.”
He says the policy will also give cover for any loss of pay or job under separate add-ons in addition to the base policy. The plan has an add-on option, ‘Travel Exclusion Removal’, which offers waiver to the 45-day travel exclusion policy and enables the insured to claim 100% of the sum-insured if they test positive.
The COVID-19 impact has created challenges for the BFSI companies, and it has also brought new opportunities for them to do the business. In the coming months, there will be more digital products from these companies which all will focus on the digital platforms to drive the sales of these products.