Samrat Das believes that technology will soon become the backbone of the BFSI (banking and financial services) sector in India. As CIO of PNB Metlife India Insurance, Das is responsible for the supervision and management of its IT (information technology) architecture, supervising the development of applications, adoption of tools and methodologies, among several other functions.
The Mumbai headquartered private sector insurer, which has been in this market since 2001, is present in 107 locations across the country with access to more than 100 million customers, and employs more than 10,000 people.
Under Das, it has been focused on facilitating business operations by leveraging the use of AI (artificial intelligence) and VR (virtual reality) based applications to drive the insurer’s core agenda of offering customers an enhanced experience. It has also recently deployed RPA (robotic process automation) to drive operational efficiency and is experimenting internally with several other rule-based, high volume repetitive transactions.
With competitors like ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, HDFC Standard Life Insurance, and SBI Life constantly deploying emerging technologies, Das wants to leave no stone unturned to keep PNB Metlife up to speed with the latest that technology can offer.
Prior to PNB Metlife, which he joined in 2016, Das was CIO at TATA AIA Life Insurance. His earlier career stints include Fidelity International, SBI Life Insurance, IBM Business Consulting, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Pfizer.
In an interview with TechCircle, Das spoke about the company's digital strategy and its major technology initiatives.
How is PNB MetLife's digital strategy driving transformation?
We truly believe that technology aligns us to two of our core values -- make things easier and customer first. Our strategy is structured around the concept of 3Ds -- digitize, data and disrupt. We digitize our day-to-day processes, which enables us in seamless customer delivery. We mine data and draw insights to mark predictable behaviour of the customers, which helps us to be future ready. We believe that the digital landscape is constantly evolving and hence we disrupt to keep our digital journey ongoing.
At PNB MetLife, we are able to constantly evolve our technology seamlessly through sets of processes that help in the transition.
What architectural changes have you made to support the transformation?
We have always been at the forefront of introducing innovative technology solutions in the insurance sector.
We partnered with LumenLab, which also acts as MetLife’s innovation centre for Asia, to launch an AI-enabled customer service app called ‘khUshi’, that can chat with existing or prospective customers and help respond to their policy-related queries. Then there is ‘conVRse’, a VR customer service application.
How have these changes impacted the overall culture within the group?
The technological advancements are focused to facilitate business operations and drives our core agenda of offering enhanced customer experience. Today with the help of technology we have automated processes which are repetitive in nature. This has not only reduced our overall operating expenses and turnaround time but also resulted in higher accuracy of the transactions we do.
Tell us about some of the major technological initiatives underway.
We believe that digital innovation is not a destination but an ongoing journey. We deployed RPA within the organization six months back with an agenda to drive operational efficiency. In line with this, we have recently incorporated RPA for the auto debit mandate process. This has helped us immensely in driving operational efficiency. Likewise, we are doing several other rule based, high volume repetitive transactions through RPA.
RPA plays a vital role in shaping up our digital journey. It allows us to continuously relook at our existing processes and optimize the efficiencies.
Besides, the robots which we have deployed are interoperable, which means that during month-ends or high-volume days, we can make them multi-task and involve them in other processes as well, an aspect not possible for manual systems. Going forward, as a part of our digital journey, we plan to come up with process enhancements and our robots will be capable of handling more complex operations.
What are the key cybersecurity challenges affecting this industry?
Cyber security threats are constantly evolving. To address this concern, it is important that we continuously recalibrate our policies, people, technology and processes. At PNB MetLife, apart from following standard Indian cybersecurity regulations, we also continuously leverage our global resilient policies and architecture around information, risk and security.
What impact do you expect technology to have on your industry over the next few years?
Technology will soon become the backbone for the BFSI sector in India. With the rise in smartphone usage, the new-generation of users will be more keen to carry out transactions over their personal handsets. In my opinion, the traditional mode of customer service relationship will get increasingly automated, wherein advanced analytics such as robotics and predictive analytic tools will become the brand interface. Brands will now be benchmarked with the sophistication of technology solutions they are able to offer to customers.