Meet the leader of life insurance: Ceylinco Life

Thushara Ranasinghe Managing Director/CEO, Ceylinco Life Insurance Limited

This trendsetter proved why they are the best in the business even during tough times

COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown in Sri Lanka took a toll on many businesses. But Ceylinco Life, although affected, worked around the many challenges they faced and bounced back.

The life insurer reported a 16% growth in revenue to Rs17 billion during the first six months of 2020, with profits amounting to Rs3.5 billion.

During the first six months of the year, Ceylinco Life reported gross written premiums (GWP) amounting to Rs10 billion, up 13% from a year earlier.

Total GWP of the life insurance industry had only grown by 4% during this period. From their humble beginnings in 1930, they’ve morphed into the market leader of life insurance, setting the benchmark and leading by example.

Today, Ceylinco Life covers a million lives, serving customers from over 250 branches across the country. The company paid out Rs6 billion in net claims during the first six months of 2020.

Ceylinco Life commands a 23% market share and its life fund reached Rs100 billion, the fastest in the industry to reach this milestone.

Thushara Ranasinghe, Managing Director/CEO at Ceylinco Life Insurance Limited, told us they were on high alert even before the lockdown and took the steps necessary to monitor and track all their employees, ensuring everyone’s safety. They also took care that operations went as smoothly as possible.

“We have a business continuity planning team that met every morning on Zoom,” he says. “We had a number one and number two in each department because in the event something happens, then we need to have an operating team—the A team and a B team.

The A team would come for two weeks, while the B team would work from home and swap. So, the company would function irrespective of who may catch COVID-19.”

When the government declared that insurance is an essential service, the A Team and B Team made sure that customers got served.

To help those who could not visit a branch, Ceylinco Life swiftly set up a WhatsApp number where customers could send documents—verified with a phone call—and settle their claims.

“We credited the monies to their bank account, or since some of us had curfew passes, we delivered cheques to their homes,” explains Ranasinghe.

“Because we used to meet every day on Zoom,” he reflects. “The level of cohesion and focus on customer issues were high. We were more focused, and as a result, we ended the quarter with an increased market share.

We also recorded the highest growth in the insurance industry. So maybe we are a team that performs best under stress!” Ceylinco Life has a strong rural presence with over 250 branches in the suburbs throughout the country.

The company employs 800 people and has sales force of over 3,500. One of their biggest challenges during the lockdown was getting those who are not tech-savvy to make their payments online. So they developed how-to videos in all three languages.

“We sent these videos to our salesforce, and they used social media to train our customers to pay online,” explains Ranasinghe.

“We recorded a high growth rate from April to June and subsequently pioneered onlinebased video training on how to credit your premium.”

Not stopping there, Ceylinco Life also launched an alternative method of sending an SMS with a direct link that goes to the website and payment gateway.

During the pandemic and the lockdown, Ceylinco Life made sure they engaged with its audiences on social media.

“We created a virtual Avurudhu village complete with games and activities,” says Ranasinghe. “The Sinhala and Tamil New Year is an important event in the Sri Lankan calendar, and we wanted to do our part to offer some relief for our audience.”

This digital campaign served its purpose and also showed them audiences they hadn’t seen before. Since most Sri Lankans stayed glued to their electronic devices, Ceylinco Life pushed their brand forward with strong communications online and on television—we noted a significant increase in both prime-time and non-primetime viewership.

“On TV, we pushed the message of good hygienic practices and a special jingle to thank the first responders. This helped in our rebound effect. And despite the investment, it helped us remain top of mind consistently throughout the lockdown.”

Ensuring their staff were well being imperative. They sent masks and all protective equipment to their team members.

They also ensured there were no layoffs and pay cuts. “When the government stated that we give three month’s grace period for those who cannot pay premiums, we were concerned,” explains Ranasinghe. “For most of our agents, their income comes from commissions of premiums. We honoured the claims, and at the end of March, we paid an advance to our agents.

For our permanent staff, we had initially declared we would pay six months of bonuses. Although cash flows were affected, we held to our word and paid it in instalments over a few months.

It was because we took care of our staff and built a bond of trust that the extra income and revenue came later.” Innovation is nothing new for Ceylinco Life.

To become a market leader, you have to do things differently, Ranasinghe tells us. “At the start, people believed life insurance was something you get at a later stage, and along the way, you get nothing. So we developed two very successful products. One was the Advance Payment Plan where you get periodic lump sums and your life cover remains intact.

The other was Sip Setha, a product designed in the event something happens to the parent(s) to ensure the child will have sufficient money to complete his or her education right up to A/Levels.

” Over the years, Ceylinco Life has improved this product and added to its growing portfolio of innovative products. Sustainability is also an important aspect of the company.