Unlock BFSI 2.0: Insurance reinvented itself in pandemic, says industry

Coronavirus prompted insurance companies to digitise, say industry leaders.
India’s insurance industry reinvented itself in the coronavirus pandemic, moving to serve customers digitally and remotely, said industry experts at Business Standard’s penultimate six-part Unlock BFSI 2.0 series.

Insurance will change from a push product to nudge and finally a pull product, said the experts, referring to how schemes are offered to customers. The panelists in Wednesday's webinar, titled ‘Insured and Safe', were LIC Managing Director Suseel Kumar, HDFC Life Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Vibha Padalkar, SBI Life Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Mahesh Kumar Sharma, ICICI Prudential Life Chief Executive Officer NS Kannan, Bajaj Allianz Chief Executive Officer Life Tarun Chugh and Policybazaar Chief Executive Officer Yashish Dahiya. 

The discussion was moderated by Tamal Bandopadhyay, consulting editor, Business Standard.

"The industry does not have solvency and liquidity issues. It is a resilient industry has not been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic," said ICICI Prudential Life's Kannan. "In terms of further acceleration to digital, more and more digital tools will be used in the future." 

SBI Life's Sharma said that the industry was starting to revive. "We have come up from March and April situation. Figures for July look like those in July 2019 and figures for August will look like those in August 2019," he said, speaking about the nationwide lockdown to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in the first two months.

"We have coped very well and person to person contact was practically non-existent. We adapted to contactless business quickly," he said. 

Policybazaar's Dahiya said the industry was covering more customers. "The industry is doing well in terms of demand and growth perspective. Digital was becoming a larger and larger part of the business," he said.

He cautioned that the pandemic had created demand for insurance but it had affected customers' ability to pay, as self-employed people of the country bear salary cuts and job losses. 

Bajaj Allianz's Chugh said that while more customers were buying insurance, purchasing power and ticket size were a matter of concern. He agreed that the self-employed were hit the worst by the pandemic. 

LIS's Kumar said April had been bad for life insurers, but the situation had improved now. "The (LIC's) annuity business is picking up and is giving good volumes," he said. Out of the 100 million transactions in the past four-five months, 70 million had come from digital (for LIC)".  

HDFC Life's Padalkar said the industry had reinvented itself in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. "The economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis cannot be underestimated," she said, adding, "If we waste this pandemic, then we will have only ourselves to blame." 

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