``Insurers are fast-tracking their digital adoption to survive Covid-19 Pandemic''

Equisoft is recognized as a valued technology partner by over 50 of the world’s leading insurers and financial institutions in 15 countries. We offer innovative front-end applications, extensive back-office services and a unique data migration expertise. In an exclusice interview with AIP, Rana Biswas,Vice Presidents, Insurance & Wealth Solutions,,APAC,Equisoft explains how with a proper technology ecosystem in place,life insurers can provide their customers with the accelerated, highly personal care they desire.

Rana Biswas, Vice Presidents,Insurance & Wealth Solutions,APAC,Equisoft


How do you see the situation triggered by the Covid-19 Pandemic and its impact on the Indian insurers?
Firstly, COVID-19 has reset the rules of the game for insurers. The entire value chain— from prospecting, underwriting, customer onboardingand finally claim settlement—, all have to be done digitally now with minimum human intervention if any at all.

This is a paradigm shift that requires a big change of mindset to adapt to this new reality. Given that Work from Home is the only option during the lockdown period and that to my mind, 25% to 30% of the workforce may return to work in the next few months, adoption to technology is being fast-tracked amongst insurers. As far as impact is concerned,the New Business volume is the worst hit, especially on the life insurance side, and in the first quarter of 2020. 

How the renewal of the policies that are due in Q1 and beyond pans out in 2020 is also critical for life insurers from a persistency standpoint.The slowing economy is likely to have an impact on both new business and renewal premiums.     

How Indian insurers are facing this and should they prepare themselves for a long term or short period?
I think the Indian insurers have aligned to this new dynamic very well.The BCPs implemented by all of them have worked well and we haven’t witnessed major issues with customer services and claim settlements.Having said that,both the sales team and the prospective customer are slowly getting aligned to the fact that the concept of in-person meeting will now need to change for good, though the Face-to-Face meeting will still happen but virtually.

Insurers are fast-tracking their digital adoption and other IT projects that are must-haves in such challenging times. They will need to prepare for a long haul since this pandemic is not going away anytime soon.    

What are the solutions you suggest and products you have to deal with this situation?
Insurers will need to closely evaluate their wing-to-wing IT ecosystem that supports the entire value chain that I mentioned earlier.Both the customer facing front-end digital tools and the policy administration back-end system need to be well integrated to create a seamless experience.

Social distancing has put the spotlight on the need for insurance companies to reduce spending and maintain margins even more than before. Less face-to-face interaction puts pressure on revenue.Market volatility affects the investments that underpin many products. 

The onus is on insurers to find ways to increase productivity and efficiency.In order to persevere through difficult times like this and prepare to meet the challenges of those to come, companies should be thinking strategically about investments that will enable automation, increase efficiencies and strengthen customer relationships. 

In this backdrop,Equisoft is gearing up to implement its comprehensive digital offering in the APAC region to help make business continuity planning a much easier and more reliable process for life insurers.Equisoft’s integrated back-office and front-end solutions can make working from home a much more effective and attractive proposition. In an emerging world of virtual transactions,Equisoft’smodern,rules-based PAS offering,coupled with advanced digital tools like e-Appsand client portals enable all industry stakeholders to stay connected.

With the proper technology ecosystem in place, companies will be able to provide their customers with the accelerated, highly personal care they desire; distribution intermediaries will be able to provide an outstanding user experience across all interactions, from new business submissions to claims; and advisors will be able to meet with prospects and clients virtually. 

These integrated systems will go a long way towards reducing the strain on the bottom-line, and will allow insurers to develop new products, create world-class digital customer experiences, respond more quickly to the emerging changes, and efficiently exploit data to generate new business opportunities.

Insurers who will be faster at upgrading their technology platforms will stay competitive and will be up the curve in their readiness to manage this dynamic business environment.

A more robust and scalable IT platform is surely one of the major drivers of future profitability.

Do you think there is a gap between business growth and investment in IT system for the Indian insurance and wealth management industry?
Yes,there is a gap.

However, a majority of the insurance and wealth management companies in India recognize this and are bridging the gap by investing in world-class technology that is robust and scalable to support long term growth. This includes both customer-facing front-end software and back-end administration systems. 

Does Indian insurance industry have any legacy problems?
Equisoft recently hosted an exclusive CIO Dialogue with CIOs from Life Insurance, Wealth Management and Banking companies in India which gave us invaluable insights about this question.

The Indian life insurance industry is now 20 years old. In many companies the legacy PAS has now really become a “System of Record”. Dismantling it and moving into a modular system is very cumbersome given the complexity of the transformation. 

As the core systems age,they become increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain.They have closed architectures and are hard-coded, meaning product updates and changes, let alone new product development takes a long time and is also resource intensive.

Life insurers in India are feeling the pressure owing to the challenges presented by their legacy PAS. CIOs acknowledge the need for modernization and the fact that they don’t have the experience or expertise to build replacement policy administration systems.

However, most agree that it is the culture and mindset of the organization that drives the need for any IT transformation.

How rapidly, global IT systems are evolving or How dynamic the IT system are in the insurance and wealth management?
According to the 2019 Bain & Co. APAC Insurance Report, Insurers that prosper in Asia will take a “today forward, future back” approach.

Today forward means understanding customer expectations and global trends, and using state-of-the-art digital technology to make business better, cheaper and faster right now. Insurers typically focus on three to five well-defined initiatives that can get the company on a firm path to the future in each market where it does business. 

If today forward is made up of thoughtful doers, future back belongs to artful dreamers. They envision the future of insurance from the perspective of a technology-driven evolution of products and services. They imagine what insurance will look like in10 or 20 years from now, then work on the required steps today to prepare the company to compete in that future world.

Globally,we see advancements in technology continuing to develop at a very fast pace as customer expectations continue to evolve. Systems need to be linked to data feeds so that information can flow freely where and when it is needed.

Hence,the immediate priority for insurance and wealth management leaders is to catch up by building the right foundation to allow systems integration, accelerate product innovation, meet heightened customer expectations, and compete with born-digital insurtechs.

What are the IT needs of the Indian insurance and wealth management market? Do you think, going digital is the only way to go for the Indian insurance and wealth management industry?
Be it by enhancing the customer experience, accelerating product innovation,optimizing workflows or detecting frauds, technology has bolstered the Insurance and Wealth Management industries in a massive way over the last few years.

Some of the trends and challenges that companies are facing today have no boundaries. In all regions, connectivity has become the holy grail, leading insurers and financial institutions to seek better and more integrated front-end tools for their sales force and customers.To provide accelerated and highlypersonalized customer experience, global financial institutions are also increasingly making use of technologies such as Big Data, AI and IoT. 

In low or falling interest rate environments,margins are likely to be further eroded by the added costs associated with regulatory changes such as IFRS 17,data privacy and tightening best interest rules.Companies need to find efficiencies, improve margins, invest wisely and continue to focus on accelerating innovation to remain competitive.

Digital Transformation has become the norm today and Insurance and Wealth Management companies need to leverage technology to deliver a 21st century experience for advisors and their clients.

What are the services and benefits Equisoft’s products provide?
Equisoft is recognized as a valued technology partner by over 50 of the world’s leading insurers and financial institutions in 15 countries. We offer innovative front-end applications, extensive back-office services and a unique data migration expertise. 

The firm’s industry-leading products include insurance and wealth management CRMs, financial needs analysis, asset allocation, quotes and illustrations, electronic application, agency management systems,as well as customer, advisor and broker portals.

Equisoft is also Oracle’s main integration partner for the Oracle Insurance Policy Administration for Life and Annuity (OIPA) system, a modern back-end solution that is recognized as the undisputed leader in North America. Oracle has been named a Leader for the sixth time in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Life Insurance Policy Administration Systems, North America (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019).

Among 12 total vendors in the 2019 study,Oracle was recognized for its ability to execute and its completeness of vision. About 80% of all OIPA implementations across the globe are completed by Equisoft.

We believe the key benefit of our product and service offering is the fact that it is tailored to the specific needs of both the Life Insurance and Wealth Management industries,and designed to create end-to-end,seamless experiences for their customers.

What are the other Asian markets you are focusing? Which are the advanced Asian markets from theIT point of view?
Outside India, Equisoft is also positioning its insurance expertise in Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines,Thailand and Bangladesh,while on the wealth management side,the focus is more on India and Singapore. 

China,Japan,Australia,Singapore and Hong Kong are the most advanced markets when it comes to IT adoption and implementation.