Allianz: taking the fight to Covid-19

Gany Subramaniam, Chief Executive Officer, Allianz Insurance Lanka

GANY SUBRAMANIAM, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER FOR ALLIANZ INSURANCE LANKA DISCUSSES THE COMPANY’S RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC AND STRATEGIES TO GROW ITS INSURANCE BUSINESSES.

The covid-19 global pandemic and the lockdowns put in place to curb its spread have had a significant impact on businesses across the board. This is an unprecedented crisis and no business or government could have had a standard comprehensive playbook on how to handle it.

Responding to the crisis

While we at Allianz Lanka were faced with several operational and logistical challenges on multiple fronts, the health and wellbeing of our employees and customers was and will always be our foremost priority. We have our general business continuity plans and processes to guide us during such situations. While these formed the basis for how we ran our business during this crisis, we focused on monitoring and reviewing the ever-changing market realities closely and adapting our on-ground strategy to suit those conditions in the most agile manner.

Evaluating the local market situation and reviewing regional and global trends, we were able to comprehend the enormity of the crisis on hand to some extent. We immediately formed a Crisis Management Team with representatives from across all key functions from both our General and Life Insurance businesses. Collaborating virtually, this team put in place necessary mitigating strategies to address concerns on staff welfare, business operations, core service functions and on providing customer and community support. They worked closely with the extended organization to roll these plans out in an efficient and effective manner.

Though our branches and customer care centres were closed, and a majority of our teams worked from home, we continued to stay in touch with customers, virtually. The call centre functioned remotely to handle inquiries and claims with minimal interruption. Critical functions that required staff to be physically present at our premises were run with skeletal teams working on a rotational basis. Thus, the ingenuity and commitment of our team members helped us power through the lockdowns and maintain a semblance of normalcy.

Prioritising customer needs As an insurer, we strived to reassure our customers that we were always there by them, through this crisis and beyond. Ensuring that there were no disruptions to operations and upholding excellence in service delivery was our primary focus. Teams from across functions came together and rose to this challenge to help us adapt to the new normal, almost seamlessly. We also extended a host of other benefits and conveniences to our customers.

We offered a complimentary life cover of Rs500,000 for covid-19 and an additional funeral expense cover of Rs50,000 in the unfortunate event of death due to covid-19 for all existing and new policyholders. We offered other benefits including hospitalization cost reimbursement; critical illness and disability cover; and more to better protect our policyholders. Furthermore, we enhanced our e-motor renewal function to enable more policy holders to renew their motor insurance policies using the e-motor application.

The system automatically generates the E-motor certificate for each customer at renewal and send it to the customers’ mobile number. Since it’s not possible to receive physical cards under current circumstances this was a value enhancing benefit for our customers. Industry outlook The Allianz Global Insurance Report 2020 released in July this year noted that Sri Lanka’s insurance market had already hit a “soft patch” in 2019: premiums grew by “only” 7.8% (Life: 9.9%, Property & Casualty: 5.8%).

This was the weakest growth in five years, after double-digit growth in all the four previous years and 2021 would be even more challenging, given the macro economic issues faced by the country as a whole. While we expect tough conditions to persist, we hope to see the market recover in the second half of 2021.

Looking beyond 2021 the market is expected to grow by more than 10%; over the decade up to 2030, Sri Lanka is expected to clock growth of 10% p.a. as Sri Lanka’s insurance market is still one of the least developed in the region: Premiums per capita stood at EUR 42 in 2019 (regional average: EUR 255), penetration at 1.2%, against the regional average of 4.7%.

On the ground, the Insurance sector in Sri Lanka, General and Life, has been heavily impacted by covid-19 and is heading towards contraction in both segments in 2020. Life Insurance has been affected by falling disposable income levels. The restriction on the importation of vehicles has had an impact on the General Insurance business. Driving growth Our team’s dedication together with the robust systems and tools we have in place have helped us overcome challenges and serve them through the lockdown and beyond.

We will continue to offer world class insurance solutions and the highest levels of service despite trying market conditions. In terms of growing the business, it is indeed a challenge but Allianz, as a global insurer, has faced challenges in the past and proved to be resilient. We are confident that our product offerings in both General and Life insurance will provide customers much needed protection and peace of mind during these times. Being served by a large global insurer with local experience and presence is sure to give them added confidence.

Our life insurance business, Allianz Life Insurance Lanka Limited, continues to roll out innovative life insurance solutions in the market. Last year, we introduced a Corporate Pension product geared to help private sector employees save more now and gain peace of mind in their retirement days. We also partner with individual enterprises from time to time and offer their staff life and health insurance product bundles at very convenient prices.

Almost all our major life insurance solutions are on the Universal Life platform. This allows policyholders to adjust benefits and premiums in line with their financial and protection needs. They can access their individual accounts at any given time and know what they have been charged for. The competitive crediting rates declared at the end of each year help ensure that their money continues to grow on a cumulative basis. Offering greater flexibility and transparency as well as a host of added benefits, this adds to their overall appeal.

However, low life insurance penetration in Sri Lanka could be caused by a variety of factors. For instance, in countries with low disposable incomes, consumers tend to focus on meeting more elementary needs and consider life insurance only once they have been met. Hence, factors like income levels, economic growth and consumer confidence too have a role to play in driving the demand for life insurance. While market conditions continue to evolve, insurers could always do their bit to drive demand including raising awareness on the need for and benefits of life insurance.