How AI and RPA are helping IFFCO-Tokio to return to normalcy, IT News, ET CIO
Seema Gaur, Executive Director and Head IT at IFFCO-Tokyo General InsuranceThe zero sales registered by the auto industry have burdened insurance company IFFCO-Tokyo with a drop in sales in the initial phase of the nationwide lockdown. This segment accounted for around 50 percent of its sales. In an interview with ETCIO, Seema Gaur, Executive Director and Head-IT, IFFCO-Tokyo General Insurance talks about how the company has succeeded with the help of AI / ML-driven claims settlement, RPA and other remote work functions, 80 Percent to achieve business back on track.
What is the business impact of COVID-19 on IFFCO Tokyo and the general industry?
The Covid-19 disruption and subsequent lockdown have affected the business of the entire non-life insurance industry. The effects were very severe in the new fiscal year as there were no sales in the automotive segment. It also has a ripple effect on the auto insurance business, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the business.
At the beginning of this fiscal year, automakers had no sales, which also had an impact on the revenues of the auto insurance industry. However, we are able to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 crisis through our prior investments in technology. These investments like AI / ML driven claims settlement, RPA and other remote work features have helped the company weather this economic downturn. With the support of our providers such as IBM, Adobe, Cisco, etc., we were able to take last hour precautions in this crisis.
In the retail sector, the number of inquiries related to health insurance has increased and more and more people are now wanting to purchase health insurance. The crisis has brought health insurance to the fore and we expect more people to take out health insurance in the future.
You have always talked about going digital and that is essential. How did your digital investments help the company survive the Covid 19 crisis?
Given our digital initiatives over the past two to three years, most of our applications have been able to run from the web browser and our policy-issuing apps like Bima App. Point of sale (POS) applications were also useful in the current situation.
It enabled our agents and intermediaries to issue guidelines from our mobile and PoS applications. We were able to conduct around 80 percent of our business through these channels. For major guidelines, we had provided access to the core system via VPN. A few months ago, we ensured employee productivity in all areas of the company with the introduction of BYOD.
Such digital investments are paying off today while also supporting business continuity.
What was your strategy to face the challenges in the initial phase of the lockdown?
At the beginning of the crisis, we had given around 50 percent of our workforce in India VPN access via their office laptop. Those unable to take the office laptop home with them were able to access the office desktop through a remote access software tool with built-in security features.
The introduction of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) a few months ago helped us a lot after we integrated it into IT security. By using BYOD, a large part of the business has been hit by our employees.
Also, along with a few team members, I have worked continuously ex officio to serve our policyholders. For example: In the first phase of the lockdown, we worked with around 7-8 people in the office. As the CIO, I came to the office regularly.
In the second phase, we worked with 20 percent of the IT staff to ensure continuity in policy issuing and claims settlement was maintained. In times of crisis, we also had to have a backup plan in which we had to get spare parts that could not be delivered to our office.
How do you manage the safety of home workers and track productivity?
To protect themselves against such security breaches, we have given end users at home access to VPN tunnels through the secured firewalls, which they can access over the Internet. People with office laptops who could log into their domain were given VPN access.
For BYOD, we have restricted access to secured remote access software with certain restrictions. We have provided access to the Office desktop via RAS tools with the integrated security functions. Network firewalls and WAF for security reasons are replacing our cybersecurity strategy.
The company is accredited according to ISO 27000: 2013, an industry standard for the information security management system (ISMS). We ensure that the data transmission is securely encrypted via SSL (Secure Socket Layer).
As we rolled out Unlock 1.0 nationwide and across all industries, CIOs are under pressure to manage their IT budget while looking for business revenue. How do you manage IT expenses in your recovery plan?
I am sure that companies will invest more in technology in the future. For our business, we will expand our IT spending and propose to buy more laptops for employees and other necessary hardware such as WiFi devices etc. We have always been keen to innovate with new technologies like AI / ML, RPA, etc. In the future, we will therefore investigate further use cases for companies.
In our recovery plan, we will continue to focus on renewing existing customers as this allows us to have a steady flow of business. We will also focus on health insurance as the number of private customers for health insurance has increased. Not only group policies, but retail policies too, could get a boost.