SBI General Insurance is almost digital-ready

Reported by: |Updated: January 30, 2017

Gunjan Ghai, senior vice president and national head, Banking & Marketing and Product Development at SBI General Insurance, feels a young insurance company with a banking giant for its partner does have some advantages over the competition:

Gunjan Ghai feels that the way to quick digital readiness is to build better systems for an institution to interact with employees, intermediaries and customers

Brian Pereira: You have an extensive range of products as also an efficient distribution network that includes over 14,178 IRDA certified SBI and its associate banks employees and over 6,323 agents. However, digitization will take a lot of effort and bringing everyone (and all products) on the same platform will take a lot of time. What is your roadmap and plan for
the same?
Gunjan Ghai: We see technology in two components: one, as an enabler of our existing distribution and operational processes. We put in a significant amount of effort to enable our intermediaries and bank employees to interact with us better. Secondly, the customer facing component, wherein the customer would be able to interact with us digitally, through self-service options. This is on our roadmap. The customers may be more ready than some of the banking institutions and we need to catch up and meet customer requirements.You are under the SBI umbrella. What advantage does that give you over the other insurance companies?
We are in a unique position (compared to the other insurance companies). A large part of our business comes from the bank. We have our products on the SBI core banking system. Through SBI, we talk to some lower middle income groups. So, there is a seamless end-to-end transaction. The other insurance companies are not able to do this.
The migration of the lower middle income groups to digital has been faster than what other insurance companies might have done. We see it as a big opportunity for us, because in my view technology works as an enabler in low ticket size, high frequency transactions. That’s where it is most effective. And we are in the right direction to tap this opportunity using digital.

Which are the digital technologies where you see a lot of potential? Which technologies in particular will you leverage?
I see digital technologies in two components. The core of it is data – what we do with that data and how we engage with our customers better, through relevant offers and options. Secondly, it is the front facing technology. We are very keen on mobile enablement of our engagement with the customer, especially since internet access is largely through mobile in India. A lot of the work we are doing with our partner – SBI – and on the platforms we are building for agents or for our customers have mobile at its centre.
We would like to deliver an end-to-end self-service capability for either our partners or customers, driven through the mobile.
Apart from that, we are constantly improving our customer portal for it to become functionally wide and much more engaging. We are exploring cloud-based solutions for our insurance systems. We want to become more agile and nimble.
Data analytics forms the core component of insurance for underwriting, actual pricing etc. Because we deal with large volumes of customers of low ticket size, we engage with the bank for data analytics. We are working with the bank to segment our customers much more accurately and to be able to design products and make offerings to customers which make sense to them.
One of the areas we would like to pursue in the future is product design. It would get impacted through what we learn through digitization and data from our customers. That’s the future we would like to move to.

What have you achieved in the past one year in terms of digital initiatives?
There is a lot happening with wallets and we have integrated with Paytm and Jio wallets. The ecosystem is constantly evolving and keeps growing. We recently revamped our website content and are now in the process of revamping the transaction component. We are also integrating digitally with our partners so that they can get their customers to experience seamless insurance banking. We should also evolve into a provider of insurance service capabilities. Right now, we have projects underway to integrate two large partners.
Our belief is that the ecosystem need not be an SBI General only website for it to grow. It needs to be an ecosystem, which involves our intermediaries and partners. So, we are developing an agent POS system for our agents to transact digitally with
our customers

What kind of innovation are you working on? Do you collaborate with startups?
We are watching the telematics space with some interest. But transformation in the telematics space will happen if there is industry-wide collaboration. Working with a large bank which is interested in technology transformation, we feel there is an opportunity for us to explore a pilot.
As mobile wallets and payments proliferate, the associated cyber risk will also increase. So, we are thinking of addressing that – not necessarily at the IT end but more on the customer end. We will look at building and delivering products which enable the transformation in
that direction.

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