Goutam Datta, Chief Information & Digital Officer at Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, provides insights about technology strategy and its alignment with business:
Mehul Dani: What are the changes made in the tech strategy for customers at BALIC in the current FY 2023-24? How has your company benefited from its implementation?
Goutam Datta: A multitude of digital trends in past few years have reshaped the way insurance industry functions. Customer expectations have evolved and we at Bajaj Allianz Life consistently evaluate and benchmark them, and innovate. We have implemented cutting-edge technology to drive change across stakeholders to ensure they have a seamless experience. We continue to leverage cutting-edge tech and introduce digital assets that will ensure customers are able to purchase or service their needs with us in an efficient and seamless manner.
There were several milestones over the past year including an upgrade of our WhatsApp services for customers. We built similar self-service options for our agents and partners to truly empower them and have a superior experience with us.
Bajaj Allianz Life now works in a robust manner with data analytics and intelligence, ML and AI across functions, keeping customer delight in mind. This has helped us set higher benchmarks within the industry while issuing a policy or while introducing newer products and variants. As an example, we refined insurance buying process that now offer pre-approved offers with minimal documentation, and policy issuance within 1 minute.
Please describe underlying technologies at BALIC.
Bajaj Allianz Life operates at the crossroads of traditional legacy systems and cutting-edge technology. Our longstanding core system, operational for over 2 decades, is founded on legacy tech stack. Currently, we’re undergoing a transformation towards a contemporary microservices-based core platform housed within containers (designed and developed on cloud – a pure cloud native policy admin system). This pioneering approach, unique in South Asia and matched by few global projects, reflects our commitment to innovation. In the digital sphere, we harness diverse technologies including Kafka, IDAM, Redis, Drools, Jaeger, EFT stack, .NET, Android, iOS, Java, and Angular, with Python driving our data and analytics efforts. Leveraging external providers, startups, and the India Stack, we derive intelligent outcomes.
What are the usage patterns of Apps and digital platforms of BALIC? How many customers resort to mobile-only onboarding and payments?
Our engagement primarily spans platforms like WhatsApp and bots. Monthly bot sessions now exceed 4 million, while customer portal and app interactions exceed 50,000 monthly, with our customer app registering over 500,000 logins last month alone. This upward trajectory is consistent quarterly. Additionally, we boast 2.5 million user logins across our internal digital platforms.
Bajaj Allianz Life has a similar journey across digital assets for its other stakeholders – partners and employees, in particular. Today, we are perhaps the only organization to have an agency channel that is near 100% digital, spanning agent on-boarding, training, incentives, etc. They have different apps and platforms to keep themselves updated.
Similarly, we have created a digital ecosystem using bots and AI / ML for our employees. This enables them to be heard and also be efficient when it comes to learning, upskilling or managing their day-to-day requirements. We believe that the entire ecosystem needs to be continuously updated and be future ready, as customers and other stakeholders’ requirements evolve with time, and we should be ready to deliver on them.
Which are your key tech vendors and what are their services?
As an organization that believes in innovation, driving efficiencies and delight, it is critical to have a healthy tech back-bone and a strong digital culture. For this to work effectively we have collaborations with several partners to deliver on our requirements. These include global and local tech giants as well as tech and fin-tech start-ups. They help us deliver on services such as humanoid, bots towards manpower recruitment and customer engagement, transformation of core policy administration systems, development of digital ecosystems, innovation initiatives, and more.
Industry leaders such as Microsoft, Infosys, TCS, AWS, and Salesforce are a few we partner with. Simultaneously, we engage with startups and fintech enterprises, including Yellow Messenger, i3 Systems, Teknopoint, and several others.
What is the capex and opex for digital initiatives? What is the IT team size, and what training have they been given?
Considering the rapid tech updates and enhancements, keeping oneself updated is very critical and we invest towards this as well. While the tech team is a lean team, we work with partners in such a manner that the tech team is able to deliver towards all the requirements of the organization. We have partnered with one of the largest e-learning platforms, ensuring ongoing learning opportunities. Furthermore, we organize classroom sessions for new recruits based on their requirements and facilitate regular fortnightly in-house training sessions conducted by both internal experts and our partner professionals to ensure teams are updated regularly.
How is technology put to use for CRM? What are you doing to enhance CX?
Customer First is our core philosophy, and every initiative within the organization is designed and developed to deliver this promise. Considering the tech-led environment we are in today, as well as the evolving needs of our tech-savvy customers, Bajaj Allianz Life has delivered a host of initiatives to ensure customer delight in every step of their engagement with us.
We continuously invest to keep our core systems and processes up to date as well as adopt new tech and trends to ensure customers’ experience remains delightful. CRM is the core of our engagement platform, and it enables us to customize our engagement with any customer who approaches us anywhere, thereby providing them a near omnichannel experience.
In order to bring out the best-in-class customer experience, we have implemented multiple systems and platforms that leverages our analytical capabilities front-ended by our digital apps. With out implementation of CRM, at all of our customer touchpoints (physical or digital), large number of policy servicing has transformed to over-the-counter and have become instantaneous. Only a few servicing requests that are either market linked or need additional check internally are pursued within the next few hours or day. Also, this platform ensures meticulous tracking of each interaction to and from customers. For instance, we have put analytical models to understand customer sentiment, enable priority servicing, etc.
We’re also streamlining and personalizing the buying journey for customers through AI and external data sources, coupled with AI-based underwriting. Such initiatives will help us towards building efficiencies while ensuring customers’ delight! We believe that right from sales, on-boarding, service to pay-out, everyone across the spectrum must be empowered. Furthermore, our microservices-enabled architecture facilitates seamless integration across applications, allowing us to consolidate information from various sources and create a comprehensive ‘Customer 360 view.’
We are extending servicing options to our intermediaries through integration with partner apps. This will significantly reduce turnaround times for policy issuance, even for non-straight through cases. Numerous other initiatives are also in the pipeline, leveraging AI capabilities to ensure we provide our customers an enhanced experience.
What are your targets and plans for IT initiatives for the current FY 2023-24 to increase business, to expand customer base and to increase productivity?
Today, Bajaj Allianz Life is one of the fastest growing private life insurers. We have achieved this transformational growth by continuously investing in every aspect of customer experience. This transformation couldn’t have taken place if the company didn’t invest across functions and in technology. The foresight of our shareholders and leader has helped us build a culture of Customer First, where we believe in working in a collaborative manner to disrupt the industry and establish higher benchmarks in everything we do. For instance, towards building a strong bancassurance business we now have a simple plug and play model ‘Onboarding Kit’ ready, which helps to build a successful partnership with any financial institute in a matter of days. Similarly, today, thanks to all the collaboration between teams we are able to issue some policies within a few hours.
We continue to have the most simplified, yet extensive, service platform – the WhatsApp bot – customized for each stakeholder. Be it customers, agents, institutional partners or even our own employees. I believe this will continue to remain our future where we design and develop solutions that can cut across stakeholder groups.
Even our regulatory environment is supporting our agile approach to business. The Use and File approach suggested by IRDAI towards products has helped us introduce several industry-first products or features, which are designed to fulfill our customers’ long-term life goals. Earlier we could take 3-6 months to launch a product, however, with his approach combined with our entrepreneurial spirit, we are able to cash-in and offer customers’ some of the best products in the industry.
I’m happy that all these developments are being done while we are undergoing a huge tech transformation in the company. Bajaj Allianz Life is the first life insurer in the world to take up the transformation of the legacy Policy Administration System (PAS). The journey is already half-way through and we are already making production use of this platform. It is a long program and we will soon complete transform our legacy PAS to a microservice-based PAS, which will further fuel our growth.