Transforming insurance's point of sale

Pandemic has further strengthened the need for technological adoption, CEO says

Transforming insurance's point of sale

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

Technology pervades just about every aspect of life today, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made that even more apparent. The need for physical distancing has reinforced reliance on technology to conduct even basic human interactions outside of the household.

Insurance is no different, according to Vivek Mannige (pictured above), founder, chairman and CEO of India-based insurtech firm AccelTree. Mannige, whose background is in engineering and software, has made it a mission to implement mobile technology in insurance to reach wider markets, such as in rapidly growing India.

After obtaining his engineering degree from IIT Kanpur, Mannige worked with a Tata company for 14 years, where he helped build India’s first packaged software product, called TurboAnalyst, introduced in 1988. He later co-founded Indus Software, a company that creates retail lending software that is used in over 20 countries. He ran Indus Software for 12 years and left in 2002 to form AccelTree.

Mannige said that his focus on insurance is something that occurred naturally.

“Technology education taught me how to think analytically and this led me to the realm of software, which in-turn took me to banking and financial services software and finally to insurance,” he told Insurance Business. “It was a kind of natural progression.”

Mannige said AccelTree stands for “accelerate” and “growth”, represented by a tree. In 2010, AccelTree turned its sights to insurance, introducing of the first tablet-based mobile platforms for life insurance sales, which covered the entire insurance sales life cycle.

“Back in 2002, we felt that there was a need for a single platform that could be used to deliver enterprise-grade mobile solutions,” Mannige said. “We spent three years and considerable money in building a platform that received an Innovation Award from NASSCOM, the association of Indian software companies. The platform was a little too early for its time and would have needed huge funds to promote, especially in a market that was just recovering from the dotcom bust. Hence, we decided to build enterprise mobile solutions using our own platform. These solutions were for businesses and used small feature phones, yet they worked. However, convincing businesses to use them was an uphill task. Today, everyone uses such solutions on smartphones.”

Mannige said that, in order to convince people to buy insurance, people must understand the risk first.

“Insurance purchasing is a matter of meeting a need to cover a risk, and if a person does not perceive that need or does not know that such a risk can be covered without spending too much, then that person does not purchase insurance,” he said. “That’s why the level of penetration of insurance is rather low in Asia. Thus, increasing insurance penetration is a major difficulty faced by the industry.”

Another difficulty faced by the industry, he said, is retaining customers. Some customers end up moving to competitors because their insurer does not make them feel valued.

“On a related note, traditional insurance companies are facing challenges from tech-savvy competitors that leverage insurtech to reach out to new audiences, particularly the younger demographics,” Mannige said.

Despite in-roads made by direct online sales channels, Mannige observed that selling of insurance continues to be done face to face through agents, and this is bound to continue in the future. However, point-of-sale products have evolved over the last 10 years and help agents sell faster and more accurately.

“Turnaround time is brought down drastically while the customer can clearly understand what is being purchased and the insurance need it will meet,” Mannige said. “Mis-selling is greatly reduced, and the customer is kept happy. During the pandemic, technology innovations have emerged that allow the agent to have the same face-to-face interactions provided by point-of-sale solutions while operating remotely.”

Mannige believes that the insurance industry in Asia will continue to grow rapidly, especially aided by the further integration of technology.

“Products that allow remote face-to-face insurance sales that were introduced during the pandemic, will aid in reaching out to more remote locations, thereby improving insurance penetration,” he said. “This, and other such innovations, will result in the rural marketplace for insurance in Asia seeing significant growth in the next five years.”

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