EP 198 – Satishwar Balakrishnan – CEO Aegon Life Insurance – Each One of Us Is an Enabler

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Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 170 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

Satishwar is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Aegon Life. He has successfully led Aegon Life’s transformation into a digital-first business. He joined the company in July 2019 as its Chief Financial Officer. Having spent over two decades in this sector, his extensive experience and thought leadership have played a pivotal role in taking Aegon Life to a higher ground. Prior to this, he has helped build the insurance business at Reliance Life, ICICI Prudential, and IndiaFirst Life. He is a Chartered Accountant and holds a Bachelor’s degree from Mumbai University

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The Asia InsurTech Podcast enjoyed speaking with Satishwar Balakrishnan, a Managing Director and the CEO of Aegon Life Insurance. We talked about the liberalization of India’s insurance market and how having alternatives and options always makes sense. Mr. Balakrishnan also walked us through the rationale behind Aegon’s decision to go fully digital in 2018 and the risks associated with that decision.

Read the best-efforts transcript below:

Michael Waitze 0:01
Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to the Asia InsurTech Podcast. Today we are joined by Satishwar Balakrishnan, a Managing Director and CEO at Aegon Life in India, it’s great to have you on the show. How are you doing?

Satishwar Balakrishnan 0:18
I’m doing well, man. Thank you very much.

Michael Waitze 0:20
It is awesome to have you. It’s always great to have guests that sound great. Anyway, before we jump into the main part of this, what do you think is the biggest trend or emerging trend in insurance and InsurTech? In India? And by extension, the rest of the rest of Asia? Yeah.

Satishwar Balakrishnan 0:37
Let me actually start with what’s happening in India, we are all aware of the various tech aspects which is happening in India, India, to a great extent is also the digital provided to the world, I can see that yes, of various technologies, and especially the engineering team that we have in India. But from that perspective, at an earlier stage, we were actually building it for the other geographies, it’s now that we are actually started doing it for the country itself. And you will see a lot of success happening specifically on the digitalization of the insurance segment, that is areas most which is happening. So in fact, you will see that as an industry that has for the digital means, has actually been kind of started, people have started using it immensely. So there is no physical paper anywhere. So that that anyways has been improved. But I still believe there is a long way to go in terms of how digital can enable that old process. And that’s where I believe InsurTech comes in. So if you’re a techie, and if you love to create new things, and actually disrupt the conventional ways of doing things, especially if you have some background on the industry, or even if you don’t even understand the customer pretty well, I think India is the place to be. So because it’s not just companies which are driving it, it’s also the regulator who is driving it. For instance, me as an insurance company, have some specific advantages, in terms of the various regulatory requirements as far as, say expenses of management, right? Where in case if I actually work with an insurance or an insurer Tech, I get some specific advantages, which is kind of trying to promote the Insure tech space and the benefits of digitization and data, which it can bring along across the whole ecosystem in the insurance space. So India is the place to be if you like tech, if you like to disrupt eggs, if you actually can bring in a lot of use cases, using data, India is the place to be. And that translates into the rest of the world. Naturally,

Michael Waitze 2:37
I could not agree with you more look, let’s back up again for a second to get some of your background too, because I want to try to pull on the strings of where you’ve come and where you are now to get back to this idea of India used to build for the rest of the world. Right, but I want to get your background first, I want to come back to that later. Let’s let’s get you first.

Satishwar Balakrishnan 2:56
Again, so I’m pretty sure as is as you enjoy your time the MD and CEO of Aegon life insurance. But just if I can go back a little so I by qualification of a chartered accountant, and have been into the insurance space since the time it opened up in the country. So if you notice all the way till year 2000, we had one Life Insurance Company, which is a public sector company, which used to manage the life insurance piece in India, in 2000, is when it was opened up for privatization. And I was part of life insurance company, they’re the first to start in India in that time, I say Prudential was with them for quite a long, safe, good seven years, that’s a time we actually learned a lot of us right all the way from the MD and CEO, to an entry level employee like me, we were all learning insurance at that point in time, right. And people from the Life Insurance Corporation of India, which was the public sector enterprise at that point in time, where the people were actually training us. So they had joined a few of them had moved from that organization to us. And they were the gods for us in terms of making us understand what life insurance is, and various other aspects continued with that moved into multiple organizations have been a founder member in at least three of them. And Aegon life is where joined in 2019. But it’s more than drive off in terms of transformation that we’re trying to do. So gone live decided to move into a fully digital only Life Insurance Company in 2018. And it’s me along with a set of people who joined in 2019 Trying to make taking this mantle and this as the objective. It’s rarely went into a huge transformation. To an extent that and thanks to our shareholders, we actually took a call to kind of pause the business for a while, focus on getting this infrastructure getting this foundation laid and make a very conscious move of using data and digital estate strategy. So that’s that’s in a nutshell of what we have been doing.

Michael Waitze 4:58
I love this I have to back up again for Second, do you remember like what changed? Or what was the impetus or the catalyst back in 2000? That said to the country and to the regulator as a whole, you know, what having one insurance provider or just having minimal insurance providers isn’t enough? What caused the open up? And then what was the what was the initial reaction to it? And then what was the kind of the final reaction to it as well? Does that make sense?

Satishwar Balakrishnan 5:23
It absolutely makes sense. So one, it was seen, actually, for anything, right? alternatives and options always makes sense. It’s not just one from a customer perspective. But alternatives in terms of competition, also makes us think differently, alternatives makes us work towards pride basically helps you to start thinking, innovation perspective, from a customer perspective, because everybody wants to create a new USP. Right? Right. So that that kind of works. So it’s, it’s handling that competitive pressure, but it’s coming in, I think that’s what that whole thing drove and it naturally because you’re having that one, one huge organization, visa vie multiple creates a lot of balance coming in and innovation comes in. In fact, we would have seen that post 2000. Quite a few changes have, for example, gone live popularized the entire term product in India. Earlier, it was largely the dominant product, which was the mainstay, but popularizing the core life insurance product is a term product happened with a gun life, then they started their entire campaign and made it more affordable. So the it’s not really an expense. But people actually started seeing a lot of merits with the various marketing campaigns and the awareness campaigns, which the company did, we saw a huge transition in terms of actually people looking for a pure term life insurance. So it’s it’s getting across the board, even now, it’s relevant that you get more participants. So that there are challenges which comes in in terms of solutions to the challenges and new challenges, which forces us to pick so that you’re not complacent and what we are doing.

Michael Waitze 7:03
It’s so hard to say this, right. But Steve Jobs said like, in your career, if you get to have one like product defining moment, you’ve had an incredible career. And then he went through this whole litany of all these great things that Apple did. And I feel like you’ve had kind of the same thing. You were there in 2000, right? When the regulatory environment changed and said, Okay, let’s let more people participate in this. But I think if I remember correctly, in 2018, you said let’s stop 2019 And let’s just go fully digital. So, I have to ask you again, what was the catalyst there right, because now you’re in a well developed market, India is a big market, we can talk about penetration later, but what was the catalyst to say back in 2018 and 19 and say, okay, the paper is great, but we have to like move into the future now and do this thing, what was that?

Satishwar Balakrishnan 7:51
Like the The answer lies in the statement that you made, India is a huge market, right. And there has been the conventional brick and mortar model, which continues, right, so but you can still reach to a very limited set of people using that. Fair enough. India is also a huge market, in the term, the way the entire adult population is kind of bifurcated, and what I mean by bifurcated if we can categorize them into three broad buckets. So one is people who have a steady income in the form of salaries, okay, they are employed as salaried earning people, right, they get monthly income, that’s around 114 million people. And you have another 114 Total goes to one 20 million people who are kind of, it’s not steady income for them, but they’re still below the kind of they’re making their ends meet, right. So they don’t have residual money as of now, then we have this huge population, which is around 330 million people who are self employed, right, who make their own their their own businesses, either they also employ people or they are freelancers, they are gig workers to various such combinations who are on their own. And this is the population which is also can’t be catered through to the conventional processes, right. And this is the population with various pieces that has happened in the country over the last one decade or so, where these people have actually come into the digital framework. They have started using digital means for various activities. For instance, the one of the biggest moments that has happened in the country is the unified payment interface, UPI, right. So across the board, you will see that people have started using it and across segments. So, you will have even this estimate till till the time we arrange to meet people, they have also started using UPI, or for that matter, the mobile inroads mobile phone inroads, which has happened in huge, humongous every other individual has a mobile number with him. Right. And there was another piece which is also happened in the country or the last time A decade or so, people, we have a unique identifier, which is also digitally enabled. So that’s another huge plus. Right? So it’s a unique identity as a citizen of the country. But it is also digitally enabled. So that gives a lot of comfort and business, which you also opened up a lot of bank accounts. Right. So what do you see as the UPI success story, and a lot of these things together, one is the mobile usage, which went up to a huge number crazy, every every other adult in the country has a mobile phone, not every other other, every adult has a mobile phone, there is data consumption, which has again, gone up majorly, right. So because the whole piece of data became affordable in the country, and you will see a lot of users started using it, plus the unique identification in the form of other and then a bank account. Right. So this was the infrastructure which kind of was laid out for the UPI to succeed, because these are the three pieces on which it works. That happened, and even data consumption, right. So earlier, if you look at the country for say, if you just go back some five years back, consumption of data was purely for entertainment purposes. It made major inroads into the country because people saw the mobile phone and usage of that screen to watch a lot of videos. Okay. So that’s that that was one of the biggest reason for data consumption in India. But now, you will see that the data consumption is also for making transactions, which happened through UPI, a lot of adoption to e commerce facilities. So various other pieces that came together, which enabled this piece, so the infrastructure required, or the foundation required that came in and then came up with this idea, which was actually there for quite a while. But for it to became popular is all these things coming together, the Ecosystm fell in place. That’s how it’s assessed.

Michael Waitze 11:55
What a great story, I want to make a slight differentiation between what’s happening in sort of tier one cities, right cities that people have heard of Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, right big cities that people have heard of, to second and third tier cities, were just traditionally in any country, it just lags. And then what the impact of all of these things you’re talking about, whether it’s the UPI, the payments, the FinTech, and the access to mobile information, first through entertainment, then to information, right, and sort of Education has had on those second and third tier cities, where probably a lot of these 330 million people that you were talking about live, were probably the first 120 are living in those first tier cities. I’m just presuming. But tell me what the impact has been in those second and third tier cities as well.

Satishwar Balakrishnan 12:41
In fact, this isn’t the exact reason why I said the basically are so what is the transition? Or what is the moment that you realize to make a pause and moving into the entire digital and data strategy. And this is the exact piece, okay, you have to reach out to these population, because India, as you said, is a large country, and the population is scattered across, right. So tier two, tier three is where you will also see a major population of demand. And this is the population which is actually started using digital needs to take care of their needs, right? In fact, if you notice, okay, let’s let’s give me an example. Let me give you an example please how ecommerce works for example, right? So India, in India, marriage is a big event, right? And you kind of spend a lot of money on your marriages. So that that kind of happened. And for people to kind of and they dress up on the marriage occasion, especially the the bride, people wanted to get some unique designer clothes for them, which earlier for them, if they have to have their will have to necessarily go to the nearest city. Or, in fact, if you had kind of want to be very unique, you will naturally go to one of these to months, right now. But this thing is now actually available to people through the ecommerce platform, sitting at your home, even in your teeth, tier three city, right? So that’s, that’s the kind of that’s the choice, which has been made available. And that’s the realization, which has come to you in the tier three tier four cities that they are not lifting. They can also consume such things staying in their own city or on their village. Right. So that’s a big change. And you will actually see, for example, the various major designer labels. I don’t know that where you can get the exact data for it. But in one of the articles I read that the the consumption of high end designer gowns or dresses, is also coming from the tier three tier four cities in the country. Right? It was earlier not that they used to come to the Da Vinci to Dubai. But now it’s directly coming from there. It’s it’s opened up, it’s opened up a huge opportunity. So the customer segment itself has become huge. Yeah, this is the reason why we also felt that digital is the way digital is the means digital is the only route through which we can actually reach out to the interiors of the country. But, but still keeping the product very much affordable? Because that’s very critical.

Michael Waitze 15:11
Do you think? And I’m just surmising, right? I don’t know this is true. But do you think that there’s an entire cohort of people in tier two and tier three cities that are way wealthier than people believe. But I think there’s this mentality out there perception that just because you’re not living in, you know, New York City, or Tokyo or London or Berlin, or or Mumbai that somehow you’re poor. And yet, if you can get access to these people out there, whether it’s for E commerce or insurance, that actually there’s an underserved kind of wealthy pop, not that they’re the only population to serve, but that it actually does exist as well. And then that filters out into the rest of the community, that’s there, too. Does that make sense at all?

Satishwar Balakrishnan 15:52
Absolutely. In fact, if you notice, one of the things that the Indian economic system tracks from how the economy is working, go ahead is the consumption of certain items in the rural areas, go ahead, okay. Because we still have a huge amount of population, which is agriculture driven or various other rural sure aspects which come in. So for example, automobile consumption, in the rural area is a big indicator of how the economy is doing, right? Because the consumption happens there. Right? Or, for that matter, two wheeler consumption, these, this is just another, or the FMCG consumption in the rural area. So this is, again, a big indicator of how the economies work. Because we have a large population, staying in these places, right. So that that, of course, this what you said, is absolutely right, there are quite a few. It’s not that the wealthiest people are all available in tier one cities. But you have quite a few, quite a good sized chunk of population, which actually, is well to do quite well to do right and staying in tier two or tier three cities. Do you think

Michael Waitze 17:06
this is a microcosm, and you’ll see where this is going in a second, right? So you mentioned very early in our conversation that India used to build for the world, and now it’s building for itself? Right. So there, we used to say that in a developing country, and I would not categorize India as that in any sense of the word. But educated people are now starting to come home, right? They’re returning back and thinking, Wait, there’s a massive opportunity here that’s untapped? Do you also think the same thing is happening? And I’m guessing right in the tier two and tier three cities where people like go to Mumbai, go to Delhi go to Bangalore to get educated and think, you know what, I can actually take this all the way home, and learn a ton about what it’s like to serve this underserved population in the same way that the diaspora comes back to the country, that when you get back to the country, you go back to your hometown to start building there, and that that impacts the ability for digital insurance then to distribute to those people.

Satishwar Balakrishnan 18:00
Absolutely, as in fact, I would like to give our very own exam, please, this this realization also started happening post COVID in a much bigger way. Right. So the post COVID, we actually moved, and like every other organization, we moved into a work permit, kind of a scenario, right? So we also decided on the same but he also took that opportunity to decide that we will go we actually announced a permanent work from anywhere. So what I mean by that it’s so there was quite a few kind of doubt in people’s mind that the moment COVID kind of eases that would be a little, again, a montage to come to the office. But we are now asked to permanent work from anywhere. And now we are seeing that 40% of our workforce is actually not from Bombay, not from Mumbai. And they, it’s and it’s not necessarily that the 40% is from another tier one city. In fact, we are seeing people from tier two, tier three, a lot of people who actually went back to their hometowns, most of them have decided to stay back there. Some of them came back because the schooling was still in Mumbai. So they kind of continued the DAT right, but a lot of them decided to stay back in their hometowns. And we are now getting a lot of new recruits, new join is coming from those auditions. And the talent is

Michael Waitze 19:18
wonderful. So that’s what I was gonna ask you, right? Because now that you have an even want to use this room, but now they have a representative or someone that’s like an ambassador for the company in a place where maybe they weren’t before. And then people start asking them, you know, Hey, Bob know, what do you do for a living? And she says, Oh, I work for Aegon. What does what does that mean? And then they can start recruiting people there that you didn’t have access to before, which then must make it easier to serve people in these second tier and third tier communities. Because now you actually have people there that understand exactly what it’s like, does that make a difference?

Satishwar Balakrishnan 19:49
It absolutely makes a difference, but I would see differently. Go ahead. The reason why I’m saying differently is because this is the challenge that we are also specifically questioning so we don’t Need a physical presence? Fair enough to convince a customer? Right? So we are looking at this to attract more talent in those locations, rather than just looking at the customer customer? Of course, yes, it gives comfort to my near and dear ones, of course that I will do. But in terms of customer acquisition, that’s purely a partner driven model for us. So we’ll speak about that. Well, I would like to do that. But in this one is my employee strength, basically getting into various towns and cities, is helping me attract more talent at that specific location or a city. And it helps in both ways, right. It’s it’s basically one being still it’s it’s overcrowding of the tier one cities anyways, and making traveling a difficult piece, which kind of sucks is a wonderful, wonderful thing to do when you’re working from your home. But it also allows us to actually attract more talent from those spaces when they see that there are some people who are working from that CPN doing well, it helps to bring in botella. Perfect.

Michael Waitze 21:01
Do you want to talk about this partnership driven growth?

Satishwar Balakrishnan 21:05
Yeah, so. So when we when we moved into, so we normally end up saying that we are a digital only life insurance company. So but the core to our strategy, when we decided to go into this space with this was not just a pure Tech Tech play, right? It was a combination of three broad things. Three, or we call it as the three strategic pillars of our new strategy. One is, of course, Tech Tech in terms of the whole infrastructure so that it’s entirely an API driven model. It’s API first, right? The architecture is API first, so that you can integrate with multiple people. And this integration is naturally the integration is with what the integration is with partners. Right? Now, the partners can be of various partners can be coming in various forms. Now there are partners who helped me underwrite, there are partners who helped me distribute, there are partners who help me engage, right, so each of the activity, or each of the process that I have, there is a partner who’s ready to help me a partner who actually is a data sir source of data, right? So there are various pieces, which comes together. So this is that whole ecosystem that has to go together. And can I be the glue to bring them together. So what I’ve done is basically brought this whole thing together, and then give an experience to the customer. And also to an experience to the partner himself. This is the partner, if I can just segregate this partner further. So there are various partners who actually helped me underwrite the processes much better, through which I can actually visualize the sources of data, which allows me to move away from the conventional paper process to a process where you can actually just get some identification of the customer and process a lot of things on your own. But the other piece is the partner who actually interacts with the customer. So what I meant by partnership approach is for the customer interface, we still want to go with the part two, because normally 10 mentioned is the moment you say digital, people immediately assume it to be only direct or a D to C, right? That is we are a b2b company. And the distribution partnership is where the our engagement with the partner the distribution partner is through digital means. But he in turn, because the customer pretty well. So he’s actually representing the customer for me, he knows the customer pretty well. And that’s how personalization can come. So what we mean is because the customer knows him pretty well, or the distributor knows him pretty well. And I say knows him pretty well, that’s also the digital form the data form, right? That’s kind of available to us to make a proposition which is specifically tailored for the customer. And because of which I can actually have propositions which is very different from Michael than what it is for me. Or any of your reality. So if you if you actually because it’s pinpointed it is specific to you, you’re able to relate it much better, it’s not generic, exactly that. This is for me, this relates to me. And then the conversions and the, the conversations both can be much better. This helps us into a oneness, naturally, insurance is a push product, right? Because the proposition is much more personalized the push it becomes a little easier. Using the word pushing very consciously because insurance is still not something which I get up and basically say I need to have life insurance. Hope I reached that stage pretty quick. But currently, you still need somebody else to come and tell you to teach you need insurance. Okay? You have a family. You have a kid who who will graduated 10 years from now, right? That has to happen. That’s a certainty. Right? So have you have you kind of prepared yourself for it even in case if you’re not there. You still need to prefer somebody needs to tell me that because that’s doesn’t come in naturally. Anyways, the moment you talk about it, the realization happens and they are all aware of but you need somebody to make that realization that So that urgency has to come. That’s where the partnership piece helps. So in terms of going the customer getting him convinced, and once he is convinced, we are talking about this process, which in itself, prior to, or even additional now, it’s something like as if you’re actually taking a loan, it is that cumbersome, right? We, through this digital and data means we are making that process way to simpler, no documentation required at all, your unique identification, which again, doesn’t need to come in a paper form, right, then the rest of the process is digital data.

Michael Waitze 25:35
When you talk about the partnerships, let’s just use ecommerce as an example. How do you ensure that the experience that they’re getting right because this is key, right? The in a way products matter, but experience may matter more, right? If there’s a product that I love, but the experience of getting it’s hard. And now that you’re partnering with E commerce providers, and even payment providers and anybody else where there’s some kind of embedded moment to get the insurance? How do you ensure as well that that experience to them isn’t degraded? Do you know what I mean? Because that’s the experience that they want, right? That’s what they’re involved in. They want to they want to have a good time doing everything that they’re doing online? How do you work with your partners to ensure that experience is seamless and frictionless?

Satishwar Balakrishnan 26:20
Wonderful question. Let me categorize into three buckets, please. So one is the you spoke about a word called a safe bet? Yeah, there is one which is very clearly an embedded product. Remember it practice more or less seamless, right? It shouldn’t be so long that you’re buying the core product. And this comes along with. And that’s another big way that we feel that we can reach out to the major population because you’re embedded is not just insurance as a standalone product getting attached. But embedding for us means it’s specifically solving a specific purpose. Now, let me give you an example. For example, my my kiddo is in is in school right now. Right? There’s a tuition fees, which I BJP and I specify, and I do that’s a desire with every parent, that there should be no compromise on kiddos education, right? It’s education. And you need to kind of plan for those things. What happens if I have not? And this is where I’m talking about embedding life insurance to the school fee itself. So the moment you do that, if something happens to me, I am sure that my kiddos, education is not going to get compromised. Right? It’s kind of getting scholarship through this mechanism. Right? The insurance company comes in and takes care of the education till the stage of graduation. Or another example, Can

Michael Waitze 27:42
I just jump in for a second, because this is such an important don’t don’t lose your thought. But this is such an important point. I want the people that are listening to understand how many of you have heard a story of a guy or a gal or a kid that you know, who had to stop going to school because their mom died. And their primary source of income was eliminated or their dad died and their secondary source of income eliminated. And they had to go back and take care. Right. So this is not just like a maybe thing that might happen on the edge. This is a thing that happens all the time. And you’re right, that if it’s embedded in the product, in the school fee, then if something bad happens, you don’t have to stop going to school because your family can still survive, and you can still get educated and come home and either take care of that business, or start your own career. Yeah,

Satishwar Balakrishnan 28:30
absolutely. Something has actually happened very close to my family labor. I’ve seen that. So it’s it’s similar. It’s like, for example, can I actually embed an insurance product in every search will be an activity for example, rent, right? Can I embed the life insurance into the red because if something happens to be me, the family still needs a shelter. Right? And that continues, and you provide it for a specific period, right that the knee going out or me not being there, at least that that emotional pressure in itself is pretty huge, lets them at least not have financial, that’s the crux of life. Right. But in fact, other than having it as an individual one, this makes it much more contextual. So that’s the wedding side of which can become very seamless, that doesn’t compromise on the experiences they’re currently provide. Absolutely. The second one is a standard on Life Insurance Code. Which is this is where you need to have some amount of interaction because these are large values. And you also need to kind of get into some detail in between the customer and the insurance provider. But this is where we have two models. As I said there are three so one is embedded within the retail one there are two one is the partner has enough data for me to give me a lot of comfort. In terms of underwriting the customer that comes in I use that very same data again given experience which doesn’t need anything. So we just use that everything is redone. It’s kind of its pre approved. If you just pay the money and the insurance starts. So that’s again, an experience, which can be with the partner himself, this also knows the customer very well has enough data to kind of validate that piece. The third is where it’s new, a the partner, the customer himself is new to the party, right? In that case is where you have a lot of other processes that you do, which is a little more, what do you say? It’s still, in comparison to the conventional experience, what we do is they do better, right, but in comparison, the first two, it will be a little more, what do you say, detailing, but still, no paper required, you kind of come in, it’s done. We’re in an in an interface, which is more like transacting online. But we’ll have to naturally spend some more time that’s it. So that’s, that’s how we have factored in the experience using digital data as a means

Michael Waitze 30:50
I like it. One more thing I want to cover, and then maybe I’ll let you go. But who knows what you’re gonna bring up? Because it’s also interesting. When you come into a new organization, and you want to make a radical change, like being Digital First, what are the conversations like internally, where you where you either a need to understand the mindset that’s there and see if it’s see if it’s okay, determine if it’s okay to make that change, or be changed the mindset of the management that’s been around, and even some of the sort of middle level managers and say, here’s what we’re gonna do. There’s some risk involved. But we all have to do this together. What is that process? Like as well?

Satishwar Balakrishnan 31:26
It’s absolutely the later work because you need to have the mindsets ready for it. Right? And that’s a, that’s a difficult task, you actually asked me, right, because people have been used to doing things in a very specific way, right, and haven’t seen alternatives yet. And even if the alternatives are gone, they’re still not seeing those alternatives working, right, they don’t have a clear confidence in terms of this work. And these are huge risks on the table. So it’s more of a very conscious mindset. And one of the things which I had to do for this specific part is to kind of call it out and say, We don’t have any other option. Because with every other opportunity, things, were going back to a process, which basically, people were trying to move into a model saying, Okay, this is an option, let’s do that, which was, again, getting into the manual mode of doing it. To an extent we also moved, it’s, we call it as the zero top. But we also have a process called a zero ops. What I mean by that is we don’t have ops people, we don’t have an operational strength at all, what we have is a set of experts process guys who continuously watch out for what is failing in the digital process. And they come back with solutions to fix it again, to the digital needs, right? So we don’t, we consciously don’t, because the moment you have a good bench of ops guys, you will naturally end up building processes around right now that we don’t have it. It’s a compulsion. And it’s a huge cheat. It sounds much easier now. But while we were doing it, making people conscious, and then we were forced to think, thinking, Okay, we don’t have those resources, digital is the only way to do it. Data is the only way to underwrite. Right? That’s that’s and that change, in itself is better for people to get convinced, stick around build the processes is something which I’m proud that you are now in that phase, but it was a difficult one at that stage.

Michael Waitze 33:29
So you’ve reminded me of something. When I joined the portfolio trading desk at Goldman Sachs, there was this natural tension between what was happening in the front office and what was happening with the development team that was building the technology of supporting the technology to make that business better. And what happened was we what we tried to do really hard. And I think you’re doing this too, is we tried to make it a bit more of a partnership between the front office and the tech team so that as we were building out the automation of the processes that you were talking about, you know, we’re not perfect either. And we may have missed something, we want to create an environment where the tech team would say like, you know, we can make this operation way more efficient if you did this thing, too. Are you seeing that back and forth change as well internally, right, where before, it’s a little bit like we’ll just do whatever you say, and now the tech team is coming back and going, hey, you know what, we’ve analyzed this again. And if you do these three things, it’ll actually make it even more efficient.

Satishwar Balakrishnan 34:21
Absolutely, you’re doing the same thing, but I will give a different push to it. What we are saying is the the front office team is actually only showcasing what the and I’d hate to use the word back office or the middle office, it’s the front. It’s the the business development team is actually showcasing what all these enablers have been. Okay, we have constantly started calling every process every function as a name. Yeah, fair enough. Right. nibblers enablers words the business right? Each one of them has to this is not a support function, or this is not a control function. Each one of us is an enabler and the business development function is basically show showcasing what we have built. Since taking out the product that your build is taking out the process that you have built. It’s basically showcasing this capability that the entire support team for one of our I’m, again using the word support team, because that’s the common term they have built, right. But because the product has been built, or the process has been the underwriting, all those things, it’s the BDD, which is actually showcasing that. So it’s not a to and fro, but it’s because you’re doing something which is different from every other current processes. It’s more of showing those new pieces and how it is convenient to the partner to generate more the customer to kind of get convinced and transact in a much more efficient way. So all those things is getting shaken by the BDD. And this is the enablers we’re building. So that’s, that’s the that’s the change that we brought it.

Michael Waitze 36:00
I’m going to repeat this and I’m just gonna let you go each one of us as an enabler. I love it, Satishwar Balakrishnan, the Managing Director and CEO at Aegon Life Insurance in India. Thank you so much for doing that. That was super awesome.

Satishwar Balakrishnan 36:12
Thank you very much. Pleasure.

Episode 273
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