Serverless organization, onboarding in 15 minutes
Byju Joseph, CTO, Future Generali India Life Insurance, outlines the digital direction of the company:
Future Generali India Life Insurance Co began its digital journey about 4 years ago and today it is perceived as a leader in digitization among insurance companies. It has become a serverless organization, all its operational systems are hosted on the cloud and it is now vying to onboard a customer in just 15 minutes. What is the sort of technology infrastructure the company has come to set up?
“We decided on 3 factors which we thought will drive the infrastructure agility in the company,” says Byju Joseph, CTO. “One is the changing consumer behavior today, the second is the new insuretechs that have come into the market and the third is the connected ecosystem across the financial services industry. We believe without these 3 factors, we cannot create a technology infrastructure. So, we started our journey of what I would describe as a welding of a digital ecosystem about 4 years ago. The company was in operation for 6 years then. We found that the consumer behavior has changed, the business model has transformed, and there is a need for a connected ecosystem to carry on operations. So, we realized we need to transform digitally and that is the time we started on a full-fledged digitization drive.”
NO CHANGE IN CORE4
The company consciously decided not to change the core insurance system it had. What it did was to add spaghetti systems around the core - APIs essentially. That meant innovations in digitization were just around the core. The APIs were strategic enablers. It handled the transformation in a unique way. It created a system of records and a system of engagements, connecting the 2 through an enterprise service bus.
While digitization has happened in banks in a big way, the insurance sector has been slightly lagging. Is Future Generali an exception?
Joseph would not claim it a total exception, but he would say that the company became sensitized well enough in time and understood the importance of digitization. “Our first strategy, some 4 years ago,” says he, “was to ensure that we listen within or understand within and we realized that the entire ecosystem within has to be digitized first. We were focusing more on the customer side and how we can ensure that the customer is at the center and how we can service them efficiently were the issues. So, all the digitization efforts were focused on building simple and smarter solutions with customer at the center. We opted for an omni-channel system right from the beginning where customers can come to us through any one of the channels of their preference. Mind you, we were the first in the insurance industry to use WhatsApp as a channel for interactions with the customers. We have a bot that gets into a conversation when there is click from the customer.”
Joseph says the company has built an omni-channel customer portal recently. A customer can come to the company through some 13 touchpoints. Similarly, it has launched a bot called REVA, or Robotic Enabled Virtual Assistant, which answers queries from customers on products or services. Powered by NLP tools, it is also capable of undertaking all transactions as well as sell policies, a first of its kind tool in the industry in India. REVA was developed on Microsoft Cognitive Platform with incorporated customizations. The system is completely cloud-based.
In this context, Joseph points out to another unique aspect of the technology infrastructure: “We are today a completely serverless organization. All our programs and tools reside on the cloud except the core system. The APIs are deployed on API Gateway on the cloud and most of the transaction system is on the cloud and replicated to the DR site. In terms of software, we have the core system and the APIs, the maintenance of which is done by our internal team. We do undertake development in-house and we have a team of 24 developers and 3 enterprise architects,” says he.
The company is developing a system using analytics and AI to enable selfservicing. All customer requests on REVA and WhatsApp are processed through NLP based system and it can identify the intent of the customer and it starts reacting based on the queries put in. There is voicemetrics, that is, using voice parameters to identify the customer and attend to the customers’
needs without having to attend to him in person. “If this system can handle the issue and offer a solution, the issue is terminated there. In case the problem does not get solved, it is then escalated to higher levels of manual intervention,” explains Joseph.
Another area where the company is doing a Proof of Concept using NLP is to process queries in any of the Indian languages. In this case, the bot or agent can respond in English to a query in an Indian language and the system translates it to the language in which the query was raised by the customer. The company will start with Hindi, Marathi and Guajarati and later extend to all the other languages.
Use of the bot is also being evaluated and extended to email automation. When a person sends an email asking for say fund value, in normal circumstances, it will be a response say after a day or so when the details are fished out. In the proposed system, the customer will get the fund value almost instantly through a system generated email. The service is proposed to be made available 24x7.
ONBOARDING IN 15 MINS
Joseph reveals that the company has digitized and brought into a rollout phase an omni-channel onboarding system. “The motto is onboarding in 15 minutes. Usually insurance onboarding is time consuming, but we have developed this system using which onboarding can be done in 15 minutes. We are also empowering our agents to be a virtual agent. Usually an agent would sit with the customer, analyze all the needs - financial or servicing needs - and then solve these. A virtual agent can attend to a customer online and remotely through any of the channels - web, mobile, chatbot or a connected agent - one who will be able to virtually service all the requests,” says he.
“Wherever there is a human touch point in any applications, we have come to realize that we would need to build in AI assistance. For example, we are doing a proof concept in underwriting, document verification etc. When an underwriter is making a decision, we want to create a parallel system whereby a parallel job of underwriting would be done. This system will throw its decisions and the humans can either accept it or reject it or modify it. Our aim is to have touchless operations for key process in 2019. The humans will be approving and authorizing the customer touchpoints,” says Joseph.
The company has started employee onboarding using a portal. It has an HRMS on cloud and this has made the employee onboarding frictionless. A mobile app and a bot are in its deployment, which are intended to answer all the questions prospective employees would have. Training is also completely digitized.
Joseph says the company’s brand proposition is Simpler, Smarter, Faster. The company is using a unique NPS system, which involves employees at multiple levels acting as change agents and making improvements on an ongoing basis in the processes that have direct impact on customer experience and satisfaction. “This transformational engagement between customers and employees is enabled through a mobile-based application that provides real time feedback from customers to the entire organization. The system has helped us identify multiple pain points and process failures that were contributing to customers turning away thus impacting our customer retention and profitability. Basis the feedback, we organized teams to reach out to the customers instantly to listen to their concerns and empowered them to take decisions and resolve customers issues in 48 hours. We then used all the feedback being received to make improvements and proactive changes in impacting processes. The next phase of improvement in processes would be simplifying our customer communication and augmenting X-sell to promoter customers,” says he.
Byju Joseph highlights the virtues of REVA, or Robotic Enabled Virtual Assistant, which answers customer queries and even undertakes transactions