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BW Businessworld

Achieve Best In Class Digital Experience

DX has helped the BFSI sector to examine every process, beginning with internal systems and extending to all forms of customer interaction in a faster, cost-effective and competitive manner

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In today’s world, digital transformation (DX) in the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) domain is much more than just on-boarding the right technology to have a positive impact on business outcomes, as it changes the way businesses are done. DX has helped the BFSI sector to examine every process, beginning with internal systems and extending to all forms of customer interaction in a faster, cost-effective, and competitive manner.

In a recently concluded roundtable organised by BW Businessworld with some of India’s top leaders associated with the world of finance, a wide range of topics were discussed, including the evolution of digital, challenges of digital transformation, unique differentiators of the BFSI industry, harnessing digital for tangible business outcomes, and upcoming DX trends.

Navigating the digital maze:

Aditya Satpute, CVP – E-commerce & Digital Marketing at Max Life Insurance commented, “E-commerce has witnessed a significant boost in the last few years owing to the pandemic. Some key trends that are already dominating the business include the increasing focus on DIY services, personalised and customised products, automated assistance in the form of chatbots and social e-commerce.”

Further, he stressed how the brand is building a thriving e-commerce ecosystem. “At Max Life, we continue to innovate our services through leveraging consumer insights, researching case studies and mapping competition benchmarking. These enable us to design offerings that are relevant to the audience. In addition, digital plays a major role in ensuring a seamless integration of our products across our website, online aggregators and fin-tech platforms.”

Anand Pejawar, Deputy Managing Director at SBI General, was of the view that the BFSI industry has witnessed a tectonic shift in the entire digital landscape. He reasoned, "As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of all inventions, which is exactly what has driven forward the digital transformation with the onset of the pandemic."

He said, "We looked at 3 stakeholders, including distributors, bank assurance partners, corporate/individual agents, and customers, with whom we have to interact on the digital forums. People currently follow the ROCO model (Refer Online, Purchase Offline), i.e. doing all the comparisons online but purchasing in the offline mode."

Pejawar explained that they looked at ways through which the entire journey could be stitched in a manner where the policy is issued via the digital platform. He commented, "We brought in this concept of ‘paperless-penless’ by integrating various organisations and players available in the financial ecosystem."

Pejawar goes on to elaborate on his point. He said, "Issuance of a policy was also directly integrated into the e-repository. As a result, right from the sourcing of a policy to the distributor, the entire journey, including underwriters, except for highly sensitive medical cases (which had to be done by physical means), everything else happened on the digital platform."

This entire shift was made possible through the launch of Digilab, a digital laboratory. Pejawar explained, "We looked at every technology available in the market, irrespective of whether it had been tested in the industry or not, and tried to implement these technologies to provide the best experience to our stakeholders through a process called ETPR (Experimentation, Testing, Prototype, Role).”

The need to see the transformation through a different lens:

Aabhinna Suresh Khare, Chief Marketing & Digital Officer and Head Strategy at Bajaj Capital, highlighted, "Today, one of the common things that come up in all the board discussions is the argument that if a new start-up can finish a project within a few days with a limited resource capability, why are big companies not able to deliver even in quarters."

Khare accounted for several factors behind this lag. He said, "The first problem we identified when we began our DX journey was that we are DRIP companies, i.e. Data Rich, Insights Poor. Start-ups have an advantage in the fact that they do not have old customer data and can structure it right with the latest technology."

Khare pointed out an interesting fact that while everyone wants to see their net worth, no one knows their net worth. He said, "When we launched India’s most advanced Investment Report- The EDGE Report, we found out that no one knew their net-worth. Individuals invested in mutual funds, insurance, or via banks, but there was no one bringing it all together. The problem we solved was a single view of the customer that hit the bull’s eye."

"Today’s Customers are constantly negotiating with their current pleasure and future goals. The business that can help solve this problem and be omnipresent on multiple devices is going to win big in the financial world," he added.

Himanshu Khanna, Director at HCL Software, DX | India & South Asia, suggested, "Earlier, when we sold technology, we were only able to show a demo. In the past 3 years or so, were able to start asking about the specific business challenges an organisation had and suggest tailored solutions. This was music to my ears, because, if I could solve your problem and get into the passenger seat as a partner to you, I have done justice to my job."

Khanna also highlighted how the chatter of a meta-verse has gone up in the past several weeks. He said, "I have been hearing from institutions questions like – can you build a meta-verse for us, and we are here talking about large format full-service financial institutions. This is happening. It is getting real. The question is, are we prepared as a technology organisation to come up and say this is how meta-verse looks like."

Khanna mentioned that everything is shifting to the virtual level. He said, "We have to put a finger on what our requirements are going to be, how companies are going to solve those problems. Are those problems real enough today? Will they be real enough tomorrow? We are taking problem-solving to a virtual level too." 

"I am hoping very selfishly at the position I sit that our technology providers can solve those problems when we go into the customers' meeting rooms," he added.

A glimpse of the critical strategic elements you looked at achieving:

Vineet Malhotra, Head of Digital Business at DSP Mutual Fund, suggested using an “inside out” approach for process and an “outside-in” approach for customer experience. One should always test strategies and not assume whether something will work or not. Malhotra gave an example to illustrate his point.  

He said, “In the United States, we launched one-time password (OTP) on devices before the concept of OTP came to our phones. We gave a device to two elderly persons sitting in front of a computer and asked them to use it. They kept pressing on it and complaining that it was not working. OTP is not a remote control for the computer; you have to read it on the screen." 

Malhotra touched upon the differences between “pure” digital and “assisted” digital and pointed out that we strive to achieve 100 per cent digital, but that might not always be the best strategy and we must get the balance right.

He commented, "My mother is not going to buy mutual funds on the mobile app, but my mother does use a mobile phone. The challenge is, how I can create an experience where my kid can buy in the app, but my mother can also use the app relevantly. I think not ignoring the phygital or hybrid is one of the strategic considerations I would have." 

Malhotra highlighted the fact that start-ups should not be afraid of failing, and that failing is a part of the learning curve. He explained, "In Silicon Valley, start-up founders are very proud of saying I created a start-up that failed. That is considered a big stride as one learns by failure. Try to fail a few times; it is an important learning experience." 

The unique differentiators of the BFSI industry:

Vishal Subharwal, Chief Marketing Officer and Head - E-commerce & Digital Business, HDFC Life, underlined that the digital side of marketing has to be far more agile. 

He said, "The usage of technology, working with media players, being the first to come up with a partnership plan, testing new solutions coming into the market, and bringing the cost down of doing business digitally are some of the core aspects."

Subharwal cautioned, "While most people assume that the cost of doing business digitally is cheap, it is not always the case. One can end up burning cash really quickly. Thankfully, course correction can also be done quickly."

Keeping the customer at the centre is always the key. He said, "Improving the customer experience is important. Generally, if you go to a financial services website, it appears cluttered and a lot of products are thrown at the customer. So how do you ensure that the user experience that you offer on your digital assets and platforms is far superior to your competitors?" 

Sriram Srinivasan, Head Digital Banking at Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, underlined that he had to face several unique challenges as several of his customers are semi-literate or do not own a smartphone.

Srinivasan said, "As we deal mostly with women in the family, they basically have to borrow phones from children, or sometimes the children are operating on their behalf. Also, they use applications like WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram more. These are some unique behaviour patterns which we are trying to leverage."

Srinivasan mentioned that there is no need to develop complex interfaces to interact with people, simple interfaces are the key. He said, "We have found that voice prompts are extremely helpful in guiding people who are not fully literate rather than creating complex interfaces containing a lot of text." 

Srinivasan underlined the importance of people in any journey of an organisation. He commented, "While we keep talking about technology, the most important aspect will always be people. People working within the organisation or outside, vendors or partners, at the end of the day how much you nurture them and involve them within the journey is extremely important." 

Achieve a single source of truth:

Ronak Sheth, Head - Marketing & Client Experiences at IIFL Wealth & Asset Management, suggests it is fairly easy to have access to data given the fact that most customers  have a digital footprint.

Sheth commented, "At IIFL Wealth, our CRM allows us to capture vast data and integrate a lot of digital technologies including chatbot systems and WhatsApp for Business. Our back-end technologies also enable seamless interactions between our clients and relationship managers as well as service teams across platforms.''

Sheth highlighted the fact that data sensitivity is a major challenge. He said, "In terms of what the consumers are expecting today, they are aware that the data provided by them facilitates optimum business outcomes. In an ideal scenario, data analysis would result in highly effective personalised services."

Sheth underlined that though a humongous amount of data is available, the real task is to draw insights from it. He explained, "The data itself is not of much use unless you can draw relevant insights from it. There is no one size fits all. As a result, having those insights and being able to offer customised products, targeted marketing & communications, and personalization are critical to achieve relevant business outcomes."

Why will a platform-centric approach help action DX at scale?  

Rakesh Kaul, Chief Distribution Officer at Edelweiss General Insurance, suggested that customers are now exposed to a digital-first experience and businesses need to follow suit.

He said, "I want it now kind of culture dictates the terms. Consumers demand speed, and businesses today are forced to adopt a digital-first mind-set and deliver on it. We believe that a seamless omni-channel experience will need to replace the current physical-digital patchwork."

"With customers wanting to engage with their choice of channels, including physical and digital, businesses will have to unify these channels so that a 360-degree view is provided," he added.

Kaul mentioned that, from an insurance perspective, the claims settlement procedures will evolve dramatically. He commented, "Companies will have to build a strong, reliable technology platform to make sure that the consumers' experience remains hassle-free. Instant claim settlement is now a reality; we do that for our consumers at Edelweiss General Insurance. Smart use of technology, whether it is AI/ML, will smoothen the claim experience."

The panellists concluded the roundtable discussion by stating that the digital avenues should be utilised in a better and more pro-efficient manner in order to cater to the customers in the future. 

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