“Technology is not the goal in itself; it’s simply a business enabler. To drive the business forward, a CIO has to align IT with the needs of the organization,” says Sumit Puri, CIO at Prudential Life Assurance, Indonesia. Educated at Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru, Puri brings a vast experience in technology and insurance to his role at Prudential. Being a Six Sigma Green belt holder, his technical specialties include Oracle ERP modules, Siebel CRM, IBM MQ workflow, mobile applications, and Web portals.
Technology as a business enabler
Puri says that the power of technology must be leveraged to help businesses. In 2009, about the time when he joined Prudential, a new regulation in Indonesia mandated that insurance carriers ensured their agents were licensed following some assessment from the regulator. While competitors continued to ponder over how to fight the regulation, Prudential took up the challenge by setting up an e-Exam infrastructure at various branch offices within three months to help its agents from all parts of the country get licensed quickly.
This helped facilitate Prudential becoming the biggest insurance carrier in Indonesia with 60% licensed agents and 23% market share based on weighted new business premiums (Source: Indonesian Life Insurance Association / AAJI business reports, FY 2013).
Prudential also has proactively deployed technologies such as a business analytics solution supported by data marts to offer a single view of the customer. A best in class CRM and Unified Communications Tool was also implemented in 2010 to enhance customer satisfaction levels and increase integrated channel engagement with customers.
The organization is currently looking at leveraging mobility to bring efficiency in sales force automation. Puri stresses that to be successful a CIO must employ technology exclusively to achieve business goals. A CIO must know what the business wants and accordingly shape the organization’s IT strategy. “A successful CIO speaks the language of business,” he says.
SMAC for competitive advantage
A positive word-of-mouth publicity by customers on social media channels is becoming extremely important for the long-term growth of the insurance business today, according to Puri. “Social media has become a game changer due to its power of influencing customer opinions. With Indonesia having the world’s third largest user-base of Twitter, there is a need to quickly grab the social media opportunity.” Prudential actively tracks online social conversations to improve its products and service-levels.
Insurance companies possess a huge volume of customer data and it can best be leveraged with analytics, says Puri. Analytics can help an insurer recognize the needs and preferences of customers. Currently, Prudential is looking at gaining insights into the behavioral patterns of customers through social media analytics. Using these insights to create a great value-proposition for customers is the logical next step.
Commenting on cloud computing, Puri says that as a technology, cloud will take some time to mature. “Use of cloud is still limited to testing and non-mission critical areas on a pilot basis. Security issues need to be contained and standards need to evolve before the cloud can be fully embraced by insurance carriers,” he opines.
Prudential has been aggressively using mobility to deliver speed and efficiency benefits in its customer- and channel-engagement efforts. It was the first insurer in Indonesia to introduce mobile sales force automation. The insurer plans to reach to 10% of its vast customer-base with its new mobile app.
The four pillars of digital strategy, social, mobility, analytics, and cloud (SMAC), can help create a constructive feedback mechanism to educate customers about benefits of insurance and make it easier for insurers to interact with them. Puri cautions that although SMAC can be of immense use, a carrier should not approach it in haste. Only a meticulously planned strategy can help a carrier build consumer trust. “In today’s connected world, trust can be built by listening to your customers.”
Puri brushes aside the popular debate, “CIO versus CFO”, stating that there is no power-struggle between the two roles. “In financial services sector, IT has traditionally been considered as a cost center with CIO being under the CFO in the corporate hierarchy. This has led to an unwarranted perception of power-struggle.” Both, CFO and CIO, have the same task of adding value to the company’s business. At Prudential, he adds, IT is judged purely based on the value it creates for business.
Going forward, Puri plans to exploit the full potential of new technologies such as Automation, Cloud, Business Intelligence, Mobility, and Social Media to help Prudential scale new milestones of success.