“Insurers Need To Create A Growth Culture And Put Innovation And People At The Heart Of The Business”: Ruud Sommerhalde

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At the 2nd Emerging Asia Insurance Awards and Conclave 2019, organized by Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) at Bangkok, Mr Ruud Sommerhalder, Partner, PWC and Head of Insurance Practice of PWC  in Asia highlighted the fact that insurance penetration in Asia is still at a very low level, which represents the huge market remaining to be untapped. Average insurance penetration in Asia is at around 3%, which is around 7.5% in Europe and around 10% in the USA, he mentioned. Mr Sommerhalder felt that insurance companies need to focus on some critical aspects i.e. culture, growth, innovation, agency, performance and operational excellence. The companies should be fully immersed in the local market and always in close contact with the customers, he commented. Touching upon the importance of technology in the insurance business, he informed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to add over $15 trillion in the insurance industry by 2030. He argued that insurers should have a healthy interest in InsureTech and strive relentlessly for operational excellence to grow in future.

Mr Edy Tuhirman, CEO, Generali Indonesia elaborated upon the operations of his organization. He stated that insurance penetration in Indonesia is still very low. However, he felt that there are opportunities for expansion and digitization of the industry as Indonesia has over 355 million mobile subscriber, 150 million internet users and enhanced satellite connection. He opined that innovation in the insurance business is very low as compared to other industries. Touching upon the importance of technology in the insurance business, he argued that insurers need to embrace digitization wholeheartedly while retaining their personal touch with the customers.  

Mr Tadthep Sujitjorn, President, Thailand Insurance Institute discussed the opportunities and challenges of Thai Insurance Industry. He informed the audience that the Thai insurance business has received Gross Written Premium of around $7.2 million in 2018, and the industry is growing at around 5%. Mr Sujitjorn felt that insurance is all about trust and that insurer should focus on building customers trust in the industry. He also highlighted some of the challenges of the Thai insurance industry, e.g. a rapidly ageing society, coping with different attitudes of millenniums and global warming, which is also seriously impacting the insurance industry.

Mr Nasir A Choudhury, Founder, Green Delta Insurance talked about the insurance industry of Bangladesh and shared his personal experiences. He mentioned that insurance companies of Bangladesh and India are growing with close collaboration with each other. Bangladeshi insurers are also collaborating with insurance companies of Thailand and Singapore, he stated.

Mr Joydeep Roy, Partner and Leader, Insurance and Allied Business, India congratulated ICC for organizing such an event. He opined that the insurance industry is changing from disjoint to digitally integrated eco-system. Consumers are demanding a more digital experience, he commented, and that insurers are already responding to this trend. He highlighted the need for Microinsurance in Asia and making it commercially viable. 

Mr Gurinder Singh, COO, New India Assurance Co Ltd, Thailand stated that technology is a drive and unifying force that is going to dominate all industries, including insurance in the next few years. However, he felt that technology should be used in a more prudent way, not only in a prolific manner.

Dr Sandar Oo, Managing Director, Myanma Insurance spoke about the insurance industry in Myanmar, despite being in its early stage, is embracing digitization. She stated that Myanmar insurance regulators are promoting microinsurance and trying to embrace digitization using mobile technology.  Dr Oo mentioned that Myanmar insurance industry is liberalizing rapidly and foreign insurers can now start operations in the country as a wholly owned subsidiary or in joint ventures with local insurers.

Mr Vinod H, EVP, ICICI Prudential Insurance, India elaborated on the operations of his organization. He felt that with the growing entrepreneurial community in India, there is a need for business insurance instead of traditional ones. He highlighted the importance of knowing one’s customers and connecting with them.

Mr.Chankee Chhetry, CEO, Sagarmatha Insurance, Nepal mentioned that despite difficulties in selling policies in the hilly regions of Nepal, the insurance industry of the country is growing and promoting micro insurances.

Mr Debraj Chaki, Head Agency and Alternate Channels, SBI General Insurance, India touched upon the importance of Government schemes such as Ayushman Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in promoting insurance in the country. He felt that modern technology like AI and Big data are helping insurers offer tailor-made products for their customers and offer them a better experience.

Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe, Director, Sanasa Insurance Co. Ltd.touched upon the insurance business in Sri Lanka. He felt that Asian insurance companies need to collaborate and come up with a common agenda to solve the problems that the Asian insurance industry is facing.

Mr Arunava Bag, Chief Technology Officer, TCS Digitate touched upon the importance of Machine Learning (ML) and AI in increasing operational efficiency, customer experience and minimizing the leaks in both inbound and outbound claims.

Mr Sree Rama Chandra Murthy Edara, Principal Consultant Tech Mahindra felt that modern technologies are introducing a lot of disruptions in the industry which is leading to the change of business models, traditional functions in the insurance industry and change in risk profiles itself. He opined that insurers should follow the needs of the customers, invest more in R&D, create flexible coverage and be visible in the marketplace.

Mr Atanu Sen, Head, ICC Committee on Banking, Financial Services & Insurance in his welcome address stressed on harmonizing risk and trust in the insurance industry, providing quality information to customers and embracing modern technology. 

The formal Vote of Thanks was offered by Dr Rajeev Singh, Director General, ICC.

Some of the awardees were SBI Life Insurance, SBI General Insurance, Exide Life Insurance, ICICI Prudential, HDFC Ergo, New India Assurance, Green Delta Insurance Bangladesh, GIC Bhutan Re, Sanasa Insurance Sri Lanka, Surya Life Nepal, Dhipaya Insurance Thailand, AYA Myanmar Insurance etc.

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