By Chula Hettiarachchi:
The unprecedented global climate of today has taken a heavy toll on life. At no point in time, did we anticipate that a single health pandemic would so significantly shift our focus as a society and leave us assessing where we all fit in this “New Normal”. Now more than ever, individuals will be looking to their insurers for reliability and real value.
Life insurance is one of the few industries listed by global experts as a segment that shows promise in a post-COVID era. As an industry leader, ranked among the top three players in the Sri Lankan life insurance market, Softlogic Life is fortunate to have thus far recorded the fastest organisational growth rate in the industry over the last two decades. Guided by the experience of successfully overcoming challenging and very volatile situations over the last two decades, we firmly believe that the life insurance industry in Sri Lanka too will drive rapid growth and is geared to add real value to all Sri Lankans as well as support the country’s ailing economy in its recovery.
With the implementation of carefully-defined strategies, it is possible to overcome the short-term and medium-term drawbacks that the industry is facing at the moment and build a solid foundation for a more sustainable, harvest-rich market in the long run.
The challenges of the last quarter
During the last three months, when movement around the country was restricted, the insurance industry had to deal with several crucial challenges. Employee safety was key amongst them, as was the gradual shift to a successful, agile work-from-home (WFH) platform. A drop in both new business and the collection of premiums was apparent as expected, along with a lapse in insurance policies that were already in force due to inherent difficulties that this period had on personal finances.
Also, with the imposed restrictions on movement, meeting all customer claims while keeping to regulatory guidelines was quite challenging. These reasons would’ve undoubtedly impacted organisational revenue and profitability, eventually trickling down to difficulties in managing staff needs and retention rates. But this reality is undoubtedly changing.
A technology-driven new normal
present, the country’s shift into this new normal has accelerated
the move towards a seamlessly connected, digitally-mediated world of work,
education and social interaction.
As a result, customers will align their loyalties with companies who offer a frictionless service experience across the board that include apps, integrations and digital ecosystems, and less paperwork and product pushing.
When disruption happens at such an unprecedented scale, companies that remain relevant will be those that can innovate ahead of the curve in meeting the rapidly changing needs of clients. This is true even of the life insurance sector, where medium-term goals should include developing digitally-enabled collections, selling, operational, and claims management platforms. From a customer point of view, companies should take a second look at their product propositions, solutions and value-added services for customers. Companies will have to be more agile while reaching out to customers and leverage the unique capabilities of data and digital solutions.
After a year, when market conditions start to normalise, this same momentum should be kept up. There should be a continued improvement to productivity through digital and web-based sales and operational processes. Market profitability should be managed with a proper balance between profitable conventional products and simplified low-profit products.
Embracing flexible and remote working opportunities is required across all sectors. Insurers are forced to ensure that their businesses have sufficient connectivity to support more staff working off-site for now and for the future too. Staff morale and efficiency should be cautiously and efficiently managed in what is highly likely to be a continued work-from-home environment.
Softlogic Life’s Approach
At Softlogic Life, adapting and responding to these customer needs that changed overnight was relatively frictionless, since most of the sales, operational and work processes were already digitised. For example, all our sales advisors currently work on a 100% digitally supported sales platform, where post-sales operations of over 90% of the policies are managed via an auto underwriting platform.
The work-from-home system for our employees was established within less than 48 hours, while a total solution for the digital sales and operations staff to work from home is now in development - as a perfect approach to combat the mid-term adverse effects of COVID-19. These solutions would act as a robust platform on which to base our long-term operational efficiency as we go on our way to be the industry leader by 2022.
In terms of revenue, the company secured significant revenue in April, meeting all client requirements, including claims without any gaps in service standards. With the backing of several well-defined strategies and plans, Softlogic Life aims to get back on track to our original status in revenue and operations by the start of the third quarter.
Customers are always at the heart of our company’s operations, and we deliver on our promises to facilitate our customers to live their life to the fullest. We will continue to create value for our customers, even during this challenging time. We have also created value for our hardworking employees by empowering them with the required knowledge, skills, remuneration and rewards to succeed in life while also assuring them of job stability at this time.
Our continuous excellent work and unwavering commitment towards our stakeholders will help us further shape the insurance landscape in Sri Lanka as the most innovative Life insurance company of the country. Our spirited approach helps us to combine all different facets with the vital element of technology in every initiative we bring to the market, to render it cost-effective and customer efficient. We firmly believe that as long as insurance solutions are easy to purchase and the service standards are maintained at a high level, the demand for insurance can be expanded much more, especially during the post-COVID era.
Finally, it is important to note that these are incredibly challenging times for individuals, families, businesses and indeed, society as a whole. The life insurance industry has a pivotal role to play in supporting customers and the country through this crisis and recovery. At its core, the life insurance sector is about managing disruption - death, illness and disability are all disruptions we try to anticipate and provide for. Therefore, we need to invigorate our existing strategies to offer solutions that are affordable, reliable and convenient. With a history of strong financial performance and unwavering focus on our customers and product innovation, Softlogic Life will continue to prove its value as and status as one of the most valuable Life insurance brands in Sri Lanka.
(Chula Hettiarachchi is the Executive Director of Softlogic Life. He is a qualified sales and insurance professional with a career that spans 35 years, 22 of which is in the life insurance industry. He joined Softlogic Life in 2001 as Head of Sales and since then has contributed extensively to the growth and development of the company)