V. Viswanand is the deputy managing director of Max Life Insurance. He spoke to the Economic Times.com and discussed the three Ps–products and processes as well as partnerships–that Max India Ltd and Axis Bank have used to create a distinct brand identity in a saturated segment. Understanding how Max Life has managed to cut through the clutter is crucial. Despite two decades of privatisation, insurance, and particularly the life insurance segment, have remained fairly traditional in terms of not being capable of innovation or tapping into underserved consumers. The shift to digitalization in consumer services, along with the birth of digital brands and a consumer culture transformed by the penetration and use of social media, smart phone, and ecommerce, has seen traditional industries like banking and insurance respond rapidly to shifting consumer demands. A Do-it yourself (DIY), approach to creating a range of products that suits individual needs, rather than one-size fits all has gained momentum.

Walking this terrain of technologically-fuelled innovation is the three-Ps playbook of Max Life Insurance. The company’s deputy managing directors shared their challenges to the established status quo of the life insurance market. Previously, the company was only selling endowments or money backs. V. Viswanand explained how Max Life pioneered the “first permanently term plan”. This term plan outlives one’s lifecycle.

It is important to make sure that customers are properly onboarded and serviced.

V. Viswanand is Max Life Insurance’s deputy managing director. He claimed that the three Ps, or the three-pronged approach to life insurance, has helped Max Life Insurance emerge as a major player in the crowded segment. Here are some details about the company’s ESG commitment, its diversified product range, the intuitive services and tech-enabled ease of use customer journey.

How insurance companies can best serve the millennial segment To support this outlook, they do extensive research to listen to “consumer insights”, which includes in-house surveys such the India Protection Quotient (or the India Retirement Index Study), that they conduct year-on–year to find trends. Customers continue to be drawn to life-insurance products for protection, but retirement planning is now the most important driver of demand. This trend is consistent with the large and increasing segment of millennials that are drawn to investing to ensure an effective retirement plan. They want to work hard, have fun, and retire early.

While millennials are bullish and looking to build their retirement portfolios early, a boring, traditional or rigid product such as a premium policy of 20 years or a premium policy for 10 years is not what attracts them. Something like the Max Life Insurance ‘Smart Wealth Advantage Guarantee Plan’ –or the apt acronym SWAG–brining in flexibility and allowing for permutations and combinations with their 90 variants is more likely to find favour with this technologically-tuned and well-informed consumer base.

Homemakers are a historically neglected segment. India’s women make up 45% of its population. However, most of them are not employed or part of the formal economy. They cannot provide a payslip and their income tax returns (ITR), in order to be eligible for insurance. Max Life Insurance is a standalone, pure-term insurance that fills in the gap. Max Life Insurance covers the homemaker who, historically, has been dependent on her husband for his insurance, receiving only half of it. Delinking this dependency is a step towards empowerment of homemakers. In the long-term, insurers will be able to tap into this segment for growth and help pave the way towards a more inclusive and broader life insurance industry.

Max Life Insurance has also tried out fixed deposit (FD). The FD market is fraught with tax complexities. Consumers are taxed upon return. As such, they are also subject to tax deduction at source (TDS). This results in lower net returns. Max Life developed the Smart Fixed-return digital plan (SFRD) as a solution. It is a new age life-savings plan offering both guaranteed tax-free returns and protection from loss.

Max Life SFRD Plan, which has three options to address new-age investments, was designed to be a simple savings program that allows customers to save for their future and make life easier.

Streamlining the customer journey

The financial sector is reimagining its products and services in response to the new wave of technological intervention, including leveraging new technologies such artificial intelligence (AI), ML, and robotics. These new products and services target the modern customer who is digital-savvy, and requires creativity, nuance, and customisation at all stages. Technology is a key tool to help customers change their lives.

V. Viswanand emphasized that customers don’t want to interact with call centre executives in these days and age where DIY is a popular choice. They want to be able to communicate with their customer with minimal intervention. The technology has made it possible for one third of our online purchasing journey to go without any assistance from humans. To this end, the chatbot was a very innovative innovation. Users prefer to chat with a chatbot over speaking with someone because they feel more in control. A chatbot can also give them impartial advice em>, said V. Viswanand.

Customers were searching for the innovative ‘buy-now-pay later’ model. Max Life realized that customers were looking for a way to navigate financial and medical issues. They offered a one rupee upfront and underwritten the policy. V. Viswanand explained that Max Life Insurance has the top Google ranking for search-engine optimisation keyword searches for term insurance and life insurance. He also stated that Max Life Insurance can even beat disruptive digital-native companies in this field. How? It is by educating the customer and creating awareness on the frontend. Company also ran a medicheck fraud prevention using an AI modeling to scan model centres. It routinely caught around 3-4% fraud diagnostic centers. A common dialler ensures fewer calls are made to customers. Voice-to-text speech analytics allows for smooth script adherence and better conversion rates. Technology is leveraged to deliver customer delight and joy.

The ESG agenda, the partner ecosystem, and the ESG agenda
V. Viswanand cited SWAG as an example and said that it was shaped from insights from a bank partnership. The ‘buy-now-pay later’ model was also shaped from insights taken from a casual remark by a web aggregator, asking why the insurance product is still the only one where the customer has pay first and then company has the option to take them as a live or reject them.

The GST burden can be reduced to increase India’s life insurance penetration. The reason is that the Indian term prices are overwhelmingly geared towards the wealthy salaried class. However, they leave out the large and untapped population of micro, small and mid-sized enterprises (MSME) which often underreports their income to be eligible for a lower tax bracket. It is also important to remove tax from annuities or at minimum on their chief component. Only tax the interest component in developed Western economies that have higher levels of insurance penetration.

Max Life Insurance’s policy making has been influenced by the environmental, social and governance (ESG), standards. The company made most of the infrastructure digital, including office transactions and logistics, and thus greatly reduced the carbon footprint. V. Viswanand highlighted the steps taken by the company to ensure that all 14,000+ employees participated in these initiatives. Max Life Insurance has also launched India’s second largest ESG Fund. This has allowed Max Life Insurance to be more visible among the millennial customer segment.

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