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How difficult it is for public facing companies like insurance to go remote working

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While almost all companies had to figure out ways to work from home, for some it was more arduous than others as public interaction sits at the core of such businesses. One such industry is BFSI, which although has gone lengths and successfully digitised several ends to ensure seamless WFM, but there are certain challenges like digitising medical examination of prospective customers or physical policy pack dispatch still remains a far-fetched possibility.

Sachin Saxena, Executive Vice President & Chief Risk Officer, Max Life Insurance gives a deeper perspective on digitisation and risks associated with the new normal of remote working for insurance companies.

Given the Covid situation demanding work from home, is Max Life like other firms, looking at enabling work from home operating model in the future as well? 

Yes, we see work from home as a key element in the new normal and future way of working for certain type of roles. We see it as a useful option in balancing personal and professional life.

What are the risks for the insurance industry while pursuing this model?  

With efficient design and safeguards, remote working does not pose any significant incremental risk. Data can be transferred securely through VDI/VPN. Most companies will have to invest some bit in building a digital ecosystem for cross-functional collaboration or making it efficient.

What functions within the company can be enabled for a work-from-home operating model?

Almost all the business functions have been enabled for the WFH model. Only transactions that require in-person interaction with the customer such as medical examination of prospective customers, physical policy pack dispatch, etc., cannot be digitally enabled.

Employee safety and customer interest are topmost priorities for us, and we are taking due care in enabling both.

With remote working, how is Max Life maintaining cybersecurity protocols?

We are a firm believer in security by design. Primarily all the key controls have been baked into the base installations while people are being enabled to work remotely. For example, access through VDI has been provisioned with controls built-in which delimit any unauthorised activity. We have strengthened our monitoring and are keeping a close tab on any malicious activity.

What are the digital tools used to identify and calculate risks in the dynamic insurance industry?

The value of tools cannot be undermined when evaluating risks across the enterprise. We use a healthy blend of industry tools and manual interventions to manage a myriad of risk categories such as Operational Risk, Financial Risk, Technology Risk, Fraud and Compliance Risk. We have put in robust mechanisms with a combination of custom-built and commercial tools for collecting data (esp. transactions), analysing them, correlating them for anomaly identification and business intelligence tools for creating dashboards and reports.

What new IT vendor/service provider partnership needs to be evaluated to support the above model?  Or which new IT solutions and services will be the new reckoners to facilitate the WFH model?

We believe, technologies enabling remote working (balancing security, agility, and scalability) and collaboration tools will become imperatives in the new technology stack. Mobility will be the key consideration driving this change. As cloud solutions offer a lot of these features, many organisations may choose to move away from on-premises solutions to cloud-based delivery models.

Will there be a change in performance evaluation of IT service provider/outsourcing partners for supporting the above model? 

Yes, outsourcing partners that can deliver resiliency (in case of such pandemic situations) with efficiency will be the preferred partners. This may mean that small vendors who have legacy systems with a large proportion of the immobile workforce will lose business in the new normal unless they are willing to adapt and change.

How Max Life anticipated the impact of Covid-19 and initiated remote working a week before the lockdown?

The security and wellness of the employees are of the utmost importance to us. In anticipation of the lockdown, early March a Crisis Action Team was initiated, and it prepared the organisation to test its resiliency and plan for the worst-case scenario. Proactively, we distributed lying inventory of laptops to people who were doing critical roles and the balance staff was provided with rented laptops and in many cases, we even shifted the desktops to people’s homes. We had already invested in secure remote working access tools like VDI and VPN and had put in a work-from-home policy which helped us in times like these.

How do you think the insurance sector will shape up post Covid?

We are optimistic in our medium to long term outlook, though in short term, stress can be perceived for the overall economy. Fundamentally, the performance of insurance can be related to the GDP of the country and it is anticipated that global lockdown will pose significant stress to the GDP. The good news is that the propensity of the customer to protect and save is at an all-time high for the industry in these uncertain times, but the ability to spend may be compromised due to loss of income or to keep higher liquidity, which we believe is a temporary phenomenon and may last one to two quarters only.

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