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Home  »  Artificial Intelligence AI  »  Our digital journey has completely transformed the way we do sales, underwriting, onboarding, payments, and servicing for our customers : Sattam Bhattacharya, CITSO and Head of IT Enterprise Architecture, Engineering, and Infrastructure at Bharti AXA Life Insurance

Our digital journey has completely transformed the way we do sales, underwriting, onboarding, payments, and servicing for our customers : Sattam Bhattacharya, CITSO and Head of IT Enterprise Architecture, Engineering, and Infrastructure at Bharti AXA Life Insurance

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Sattam Bhattacharya, CITSO and Head of IT Enterprise Architecture, Bharti AXA Life Insurance, unfolds the company’s transformative digital journey in an exclusive interview with Express Computer. Since 2020, Bharti AXA has undergone a significant metamorphosis, revolutionising sales, underwriting, onboarding, payments, and servicing through cutting-edge technologies. Bhattacharya emphasises the pivotal role of enterprise architecture in overcoming challenges, including technology debt, disparate systems, and data silos, ensuring organisational agility in the face of technological advancements.

The interview dives into Bharti AXA’s robust cybersecurity approach, featuring ISO 27001 certification, penetration testing, and encryption of sensitive customer data. 

In the realm of artificial intelligence (AI), Bharti AXA leverages advanced algorithms to analyse vast customer data, enhancing risk assessment, underwriting efficiency, and customer-centric processes.

With the ongoing digital transformation in the insurance sector, how has Bharti AXA Life Insurance embraced technology to enhance customer experiences and streamline internal processes? Can you share specific initiatives or technologies that have played a pivotal role in this transformation?

The Indian BFSI sector is buzzing with technology adoption and reaching new heights in digital transformation, bringing a sea change in how business is carried out. Insurance is not far behind in this digital journey. Different organisations are at different points in their journey of digital transformation, depending on when they started and the scale of their business. In our organisation, a major transformation journey has ensued since 2020, and we have completely transformed the way we used to do sales, underwriting, on-boarding, payments, servicing for our customers on the one hand, and managing the entire distribution in terms of recruiting, training, certifying, adding partners, and paying out commissions on the other. One of the few large initiatives that helped us achieve this has been cloud adoption, building a data lake, releasing an enterprise API suite delivering seamless and uniform services and experiences at any and every touchpoint, and an assortment of digital apps serving end users, keeping in view the simplicity delivered in user experience and value addition in terms of service delivery. Be it a customer trying to inquire about or alter his or her policy details or a seller doing paperless work to check their targets and accrue commission from sales, the business needs it today. It is being delivered digitally to our users.

As the Head of IT Enterprise Architecture, what are the key challenges you face in ensuring the seamless integration of various IT systems and technologies within Bharti AXA Life Insurance? How does the enterprise architecture contribute to the organisation’s agility and adaptability to technological advancements?

The key challenges faced in our kind of organisation are technology debt, disparate systems, data silos, and the inherent vulnerabilities of legacy systems. Technology debt often makes it difficult to integrate the system with new-aged platforms and/or solutions due to the inability of the technology to integrate in real time through APIs. In cases where the integration may be achieved by applying some hacks and/or around, the security risk gets enhanced, which makes the system vulnerable. The long history of building standalone applications by departments operating in silos creates multiple copies and versions of data, making it difficult to integrate due to mismatches in data between the systems and a lack of a single source of truth. Largely, such landscapes fall out of not having a separate enterprise architecture discipline and departments independently running their own applications to fulfil individual needs. However, currently, organisations are realising the need for the same. A dedicated enterprise architecture discipline is an organisational imperative in today’s world to continuously bring in and adopt the right technology for the organisation to deliver on its true potential. EA’s view on the technology roadmap is not siloed but takes into consideration a holistic view of overall organisational needs with due consideration of business priorities and technology maturity.

In the context of cybersecurity and data privacy, how does Bharti AXA Life Insurance approach IT security and risk mitigation? Are there specific measures or technologies in place to safeguard sensitive customer information and ensure compliance with industry regulations?

There is no denial that cyberattacks are increasing with every passing hour in this world of fast-evolving technology. Financial service companies are prime targets for cyberattacks due to the sensitive nature of the data they handle. We take multiple measures to protect ourselves and our customers from any such attacks. We have robust security frameworks and are ISO 27001-certified. We have laid down the best practices for data protection and access control. We regularly scan our systems for vulnerabilities and conduct penetration testing to identify and address weaknesses. The VAPT observations are addressed with extremely stringent timelines. PII data is encrypted at rest and in transit to minimise the risk even if there is a breach. Strict access controls are in place based on the principle of least privilege. Single-sign-on and multi-factor authentication are in place for all applications that handle customer data or are considered to be critical for business. We also have threat intelligence feeds, security information, and event management (SIEM) implementations to monitor the networks for suspicious activity. From a risk mitigation perspective, there are regular awareness programmes, flyers on cybersecurity best practices, including phishing email identification, and social engineering tactics that are continuously conducted. We have a well-defined incident response plan in place to ensure minimal damage.

How is Bharti AXA Life Insurance leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance and streamline various processes within the insurance industry, ensuring a more efficient and customer-centric approach?

While all businesses require getting to know their customers well, the life insurance business is about knowing the customer well, assessing them better, and thereby writing down the associated risks most efficiently. AI in life insurance has the largest application in this core aspect, where AI-powered algorithms can analyse vast amounts of customer data with numerous vectors to assess risk factors associated with the subject, predict the probability of claims or early claims, and predict pre-empt renewal propensity right at the time of onboarding. While assessing the risk more quickly and accurately helps with faster and better underwriting, leading to faster issuance, which enhances customer experience and trust, the propensity models for claims and persistency help improve the quality of business, leading to increased profitability.

In the context of the evolving landscape of technology, how does Bharti AXA Life Insurance foresee the application of generative AI (Gen AI) in transforming operations, risk assessment, or customer service within the insurance sector?

Gen AI has taken the entire world by storm ever since it was born, and certainly there is a lot of interest and traction. While applicability is being identified in every step of our business, starting from lead through to every step of the policy life cycle of on-boarding, risk assessment, servicing, engagement, and claim processing, the real application of technology in direct business operations is limited. All organisations have taken a very cautious approach due to the lack of specific guardrails in terms of compliance and accountability. This is particularly due to the fact that we are a heavily regulated industry with very stringent guidelines. Audits and penalties are associated with any negative fallout that may be there. We expect that over the next FY, the use cases will crystallise more and adoption will slowly increase. We are also experimenting with a few use cases but have yet to have any working Gen AI use cases in production.

In the next six months to one year, what are some of the key technology initiatives that you plan to undertake, and what will be your focus areas and top tech priorities for 2024–25?

We expect this year to be a year of security and regulatory compliance as the DPDP Act-related guidelines are due to come up. This Act has huge penalty clauses, which are quite capable of denting the balance sheet of any organisation. Since the stakes are very high, the same will be important. So security and regulatory-related projects are certainly on the cards for us. Apart from that, embedded AI and customer engagement will also continue to dominate the tech space as organisations continue to engage more with the customer in a hyper-personal way. We are working very closely with our technology partners to redefine our customer engagement and how we may further enable our sales force on the ground.

 

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