RPA is perfect for eliminating ‘non value adding’ tasks: Parvez Mulla, COO, HDFC Life

In the intensely competitive insurance sector, HDFC Life is banking heavily on its technology strengths. Parvez Mulla, COO, HDFC Life, shares with EC, on how his firm is using emerging technologies such as AI and RPA to its advantage

Can you take us through some of the recent technology initiatives that you have taken that has led to huge business impact?
The world is changing at an accelerated pace enabled by spate of technological disruptions. These disruptions have matured in their life cycle and now have scalable use cases for enterprises. At HDFC Life, three years ago we saw the pace of these disruptions in evolving insurance market in China and started investing in technology initiatives. Our large scale tech enabled digital transformation gave us mobility platform across our sales journey. It digitised all our onboarding processes and made the journey smooth. We progressed from there to plug and play partner integration through APIs.

We then built our data platform, started our cloud journey and then invested in data lake. We created multiple cognitive engines within HDFC Life. Separate technology teams were focusing on different areas. Our emerging tech team, ADCAT, developed a spate of tech products which could be use to simplify journeys. Nudge engine, Recommendation engine, Dedupe, Customer 360 were developed to enable personalising customer journeys. The Data Labs team worked on predictive modelling across the value chain helping us to reduce our claim settlement time from weeks to days.

Our fraud analytics model and customer propensity models are extensively used by us and our partners. Our online learning platform mLearn, Geo based sales solution like InstaGo and people app mConnect have helped us drive better people engagement and satisfaction. We have launched a three-click PASA (pre- approved sum assured) journey which shortens the customer buying process and makes it seamless on partner systems. HDFC Life has believed in using technology, not as an end in itself, but to serve to smoothen the customer journey and simplify the process for the customer.

How do you look at the usage of AI in your organisation? What is the impact that AI is making or has made?
Long term businesses are built by constantly focusing on understanding evolving customer needs. We have not searched for a use case for AI and force fitted it. We wanted a customer or business problem to be solved and we applied the relevant technology which served to address the problem. We have a data labs team created within HDFC Life having AI/ML specialists. We started with customer facing bots.

Elle is a chat bot for customers, which handles 70 per cent of customer chats. The email bot handles 20 per cent of emails and Twitter bot was recently launched. We are in process of integrating all the bots on a common platform and adding Facebook and WhatsApp to the suite. We have an email sentiment analysis being used to understand customer complaints and queries. We are using voice bots for the revival calls to customers. We have worked on various machine learning algorithms to well as enable/augment underwriting, determine customer propensity, product recommendation and optimum ticket size, as well as predict future premium payments (persistency).

Voice emotion analysis and voice authentication are going live soon. We are in the process of developing a risk mitigation solution to strengthen the payout process at our branch offices – these include face match and signature match. Our process bots have enabled us to rationalise and relook at our processes. We have recently gone live with a beta launch of our new hyperpersonalised incentive program which incentivises input triggers and desired behaviour amongst sales team member in our proprietary sales channels. This uses segmentation and dynamic programming to ensure that each sales team member is incentivised to maximise his individual achievement.

What’s the relevance of RPA for your organisation? In what areas/business processes is it now being used?
Insurance is a process centric, customer oriented business and a strong process drive creates predictable customer experience. The focus is not only to create documented processes across the functions, but also identify forms of waste in the processes by understanding the type and nature of activities as Value Addition (VA) and Non Value Adding (NVA), and its impact on quality, cost, time, etc.

Also, we track the performance gaps/ opportunities through rigorous business reviews. RPA becomes the perfect approach towards eliminating the NVAs in the processes and bridge the gaps in performance through a non-invasive, speedy delivery and cost efficient way. We have bots deployed in 26 functions of the organisation, spread across insurance value chain of new business, policy servicing, persistency, payout, claim enabling various touch points for customer facing and support functions. We are now processing our transactions, ranging from expert scrutiny of a new business case, providing a surrender quote, policy loan decisions, process payouts, etc., through bots.

Evolution of RPA in your firm – do you see RPA handling more complex operations now or in the future?  
Given the complexity of the insurance products, spread of processes across geographies, dynamic workforce, different partners, multi-distributor model and eco systems/ platforms; we at HFDC Life have strategically identified, experimented and deployed leading edge technologies including RPA to create a scale and competitive advantage. Hence after evaluating 40+ vendors, built first set of eight bots in Oct’16 for our most complex process (customer initiated payout) and second set of three bots with the most complex function (actuarial). Post these two deployments and successfully ‘managing the change’, in next six months, we deployed 22 bots in FY17. Post this, we have been growing strength to strength in our bots penetration and used case complexity.

Currently, there are 154 bots running across 26 functions, out of which 40 per cent of the bots are complex in nature. Further, we manage the real time adherence of these bots through a Super Bot and each of our bot has specific tangible benefits viz. TAT reduction, accuracy improvement, risk reduction, productivity improvement, etc. Now we are looking at RPA in conjunction to AI/ML, analytics, all put together, as ‘Cognitive BOTs’ to re-imagine the processes and create a significant shift in the customer experience and business value creation. The future is all about how effectively we use technology to simplify complex scenarios of the value delivery processes.

AIautomationHDFC LifeLife insurancemachine-learningParvez MullaRobotic Process AutomationRPA
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