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HDFC ERGO transforming its General Insurance value chain using digital

From serving customers to empowering the investment teams; be it adhering to the ever changing compliance requirements or managing audits, HDFC ERGO is transforming itself into a digital enabled organisation, says Mehmood Mansoori, President - Shared Services & Online Business, HDFC ERGO General Insurance

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Edited Excerpts:

How was the first year post the merger with HDFC ERGO Health Insurance? 
The merger of HDFC ERGO Health Insurance with HDFC ERGO General Insurance was completed on November 13th, 2020. It was one of the most challenging integrations of two large IT ecosystems. We had chosen an ambitious path of merging all the products and customer data on a single platform and our IT team completed this mission in a record time of less than one year. Usually, such IT integration takes around 2 years, but we have managed to complete it swiftly. It not only saved our time but also significantly improved the service level of the merged entity.

The merger has established HDFC ERGO as a prominent health insurance player in the market and makes as well as provides the opportunity to combine our customer base in fulfilling their non-life insurance needs; be it Motor, Health, Home, or Travel in addition to the host of other products one needs.

Our physical footprint has increased and now we are present in 174 cities with 203 branch offices and 300+ Digital offices. We have successfully integrated our employees, system, and processes and can service 140,000+ Advisors and over 1.5 Crore customers with the matured digital service architecture and some of the best products in the market. We recently launched a one-of-its-kind Health insurance product, named Optima Secure, which fulfils most of the customers’ needs from a health insurance policy.

How IT and digital is being used in crop insurance and what have been the results. Please give stats and the back end digital infrastructure built to support the customer facing interfaces?
We use advanced technologies like remote sensing, drones, Bots, and mobile apps for managing the Underwriting, monitoring, and processing of the crop insurance business. We have setup an in-house remote sensing lab which specializes in analyzing drought, rainfall, and soil moistures forecast using spatial resolution data which assist us in underwriting, pricing, and target cluster selection. This technology also assists in crop health monitoring, planning for crop cutting exercises during the season, yield estimation, and clustering of districts.

Drones are also being used for loss monitoring due to a catastrophic event. We use mobile apps to record and capture crop cutting exercises, during various seasons. Crop cutting exercises serve as a basis to arrive at yield estimation. Geo-fencing capabilities ensure that the crop cutting exercise is conducted on the right farm segment.

Our dedicated microsite for crop insurance provides farmers with the complete details on the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), guidelines, claim status, and FAQs. Farmers can also enroll themselves in the scheme through this site. Our website has been awarded by Govt. of India for being a comprehensive customer facing website for PMFBY. This website is available in English, Hindi, and other regional languages too.

HEGI envisions itself to become an AI-First organisation. What is the roadmap and how much action has happened on the ground. Please share stats?
Being digital is not sufficient in today’s world. AI is continuously maturing and used in different industries. Transforming into an AI-first company essentially means, anything technologically possible must be done using AI. We are very excited about the possibilities and investing the best of our talent in such initiatives. We see the increasing role of AI when it comes to service and we are using the same to provide a differentiated experience to our customers. Our investment in digital has helped us in a big way and 60% of our customers are using digital platforms to avail our services with 33% being serviced through AI in real-time, 24×7. What is more delightful is that customers have very easily adopted these digital modes. For us, the use of AI is not to optimize cost but to provide the experience consistently, and this is visible from our Net Promoter Score. Needless to say, that our turnaround time has significantly improved, further adding to our operational efficiencies.

We use AI in the entire customer lifecycle i.e., on-boarding, policy issuance, policy-based services, and more important claims. As part of our journey to transform into an AI-first company, we have implemented some important initiatives like:
• Servicing customers through AI-enabled bots: We offer several services to our customers through digital platforms to ensure seamless servicing, as well as to ensure their well-being while they stayed at home. These services were offered through AI-enabled bots like DIA (Digital Insurance Assistant), WhatsApp bot, and eMail bot (eRA) which ensured real-time servicing 24×7
• AI-Based Motor claims to process: On the motor insurance front, we launched the AI module IDEAS (Intelligent Damage detection Estimation and Assessment Solution) for the settlement of motor claims. The IDEAS module uses Neural Network image processing & Analytics, Machine Learning, and Natural Language that supports instant damage detection, as well as calculation of the claims, estimates for the surveyors to help in motor claims settlement in real-time.
• WhatsApp Bot for Advisor: We recently launched an AI-based WhatsApp BOT, Aqua, to help service 140,000+ advisors to address most of their needs from the organization

Further, we understand the ever-changing customer dynamics and, that technological innovation needs constant research and development. With that in mind, we have recently partnered with IIT Bombay for a period of 5 years to institutionalize 50 high-impact projects across business verticals such as acquisition, servicing, claims, renewal, underwriting actuarial practices, and operations. The partnership will also see the setup of an innovation lab at IIT Bombay’s campus in Powai, Mumbai. This lab will facilitate interactions, brainstorming sessions, and requisite workstations for the students, professors, and the HDFC ERGO team. This engagement is expected to provide a gateway to professors and students of IIT Bombay to pitch ideas and solutions directly to HDFC ERGO and leverage HDFC ERGO’s industry expertise. The association will foster innovation and further ensure faster turnaround time and efficient service to enhance the overall customer service experience.

Please provide an overview of the digital initiatives enabling service initiations and how has helped the customer and other stakeholders? 
Customers, right from young to elder members in a family are choosing to research on their own and buy products and services online with ease. Engagement moved from physical to digital – for insurers, agents and customers all alike. Today, it is extremely convenient for our customers to buy products like motor and health insurance online and customers are empowered to avail services digitally in a self-service model. In insurance, the most important service one needs is that of claims, and customers are enabled to register claims using multiple digital channels like websites, mobile apps, IVR, etc. by most insurers.

A sharp increase was seen in customers adopting digital services from our various platforms during the pandemic. HDFC ERGO is one of the most digital companies in the country, with ~93% of policies issued through our digital channels. Our online channel is one of the prominent ones in the country and customers can buy most of our retail products using their mobile devices. We are focusing on strengthening our digital services and increasing the adoption among our customers and partners. Our self-help tech platform has empowered customers to avail 58% of the services virtually in a self-help mode a 24×7.

The use of RPA is helping us issue policies, and this has helped reduce policy processing staff by almost 50%. Today, one in 3 of our customers renew their policies online in self-service modes.

One of the unique initiatives we launched was our free doctor consultation service through our mobile app. This service provides free video/audio-based consultation with MBBS doctors to not only our customers but society at large. We launched this service free of cost for as many consultations one may needs, to support society in this pandemic as people had the fear of visiting doctor’s clinics due to COVID. Adoption of the app is constantly increasing, and people have appreciated this service and our efforts in making it available for them in the hour of need.

How has the power of digital helped in claims settlement?
At HDFC ERGO, we have developed our digital platforms to ensure services can be availed by our policyholders without any hassle and in a seamless manner. Customers can avail of our services easily through various platforms like our website, mobile app, IVR, AI-enabled chatbots, or e-mail bots.
We also launched our AI-based motor claims services for private cars and two-wheelers. With the AI-enabled mobile app, our surveyors only need to take photos of the damaged vehicle. The rest is done automatically by the AI tool, which analyses the photos, assess the damage, and calculates the claim value. This further smoothen the entire process and reduces the surveyor’s effort, allowing the surveyor to focus on reviewing and submitting the claim for our approval. We intend to launch AI-based claims for our customers, which will enable them to just take pictures on their own and get the claim approved instantly in a self-service mode.

Our computer vision technologies and AI models are helping us process health claims faster and reducing anxiety in customers. On the claims front, we have enabled the following services for our customers:
• Online submission of claim documents: Relaxation has been given to customers with regards to the documentation required and also, the claims are being settled basis on the submission of scanned copies of the documents, uploaded by customers on our website or mobile app. Intimation from hospitals for health claims is also enabled via hospital portals.
• Digital surveys conducted for motor claims: About 60% of private cars and nearly 80% of two-wheeler surveys are done digitally. Also, nearly 80% of reimbursement claims and close to 90% of cashless motor claims are paid in one day, from the receipt of the last document.
• Claim registration on WhatsApp Business: Customers can chat with us through the WhatsApp number and register a claim. This has been made to simplify the claims registration process.
• Corporate claims: We are also surveying smaller corporate claims digitally.

Investments, Reinsurance, risk management and Fraud control are also important pillars of any GI company. How does IT and digital help in these respective areas?
The role of IT has emerged in all areas of the Insurance eco-systems and we use tech, both for business intelligence and compliance control. Our investment portfolio is completely managed through our IT platform. Effective controls around front office and mid-office-related compliance requirements are enforced through the tech platform. Access to real-time data helps our investment team manage versatile large investment portfolios very effectively.

Similarly, our Risk management framework, which is highly matured, is managed through the Risk management applications which helps us track and manage risks and associated controls in a transparent manner. Effective Risk management is critical in an insurance company. Today, all the operational risks within the Company are managed through this platform.

Frauds are very common in insurance. Controlling frauds effectively is critical to maintaining healthy books. While we have filtering rules to keep fraudsters at bay, our SMART UNDERWRITING AI solutions are helping to identify non-disclosure from customers by analyzing the customer’s audio conversations. With this engine, we are able to catch any fraud at the policy stage and accordingly take the required corrective steps. At the claims stage, we run multiple machine learning tools to identify a potential fraud that goes for field investigation. The maturity of these analytical engines helps us identify real fraudsters and keeps the experience of 98% of our customers smooth and delightful. Effective tech-based network analysis is helping us identify new uses on a regular basis.

Finally, please discuss the role of IT and digital in audits (internal, external and IT audits) and what steps have you taken to ensure transparent audit exercises at HEGI?
Compliance and Audit are the backbones of superior Corporate Governance for which HDFC is known. Effective enforcement of the ever-changing regulations and internal controls is the key to effective Governance. All our compliance requirements are managed using a compliance platform “WeComply”. The software keeps a record of every compliance requirement and its closure. All the departments are required to assess and confirm the compliance on the platform, making it a very transparent and auditable process.

Our auditors heavily rely on data for their analysis and the same gets fulfilled through our Datawarehouse and host of tools developed to provide data the required-on demand.

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