"The human element is crucial" – regional CEO on the modern distribution agent's role

"Allianz as an organisation carries a clear purpose – to secure the future of our customers"

"The human element is crucial" – regional CEO on the modern distribution agent's role

Life & Health

By Kenneth Araullo

As more and more sectors are exposed to both the wonders and dangers of artificial intelligence (AI), many are beginning to re-evaluate the so-called “human element” in various lines of businesses. For Allianz Asia Pacific (AZAP) CEO Anusha Thavarajah, humanity still has a very important place in the insurance industry, especially in the realm of sales and distribution.

“The trust and security a human can offer, along with the relationships built, is not something easily replaced by technology, and we will continue to ensure that our customers receive the highest level of service from our agents,” Thavarajah said in conversation with Insurance Business Asia.

Her words touch on the firm’s recent efforts to upskill its distribution agents in Asia, as AZAP recently announced a partnership with INSEAD to further train its people in the hopes of modernizing them against the backdrop of an increasingly automated and digital world.

“Allianz as an organization carries a clear purpose – to secure the future of our customers,” she said. “Our distribution channels play a pivotal role in delivering our purpose by reaching out to customers and serving them with the best of financial and risk advisory. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we upskill and equip them better with professional skillsets to serve our customers.”

It is with this belief that its investment in its people will better serve the customers that Allianz Asia Pacific partnered with INSEAD, although Thavarajah said that it’s not just about developing the insurer’s distribution force.

“Allianz and INSEAD share the same mindset and value system – uniting people and bringing societies together to make a difference, as well as empowering people to take ownership of their own learning,” she said.

The human element

When it comes to adopting new technologies, Thavarajah said that the insurance sector has been slow to adopt compared to other industries. However, with adoption now happening at a more rapid pace, she said that the role of the modern distribution agent has changed.

“The range of insurance services and products that are now on offer is much more complex compared to what it used to be in the past. The role of an agent is evolving from what used to be purely sales-based to a more holistic advisory approach. Every customer, depending on his/her personal situations and life stage, has varying needs,” she said.

In line with this mindset, Thavarajah said that the program upskills agents to be trained to walk alongside the customer at every stage of their lives. The approach has given Allianz Asia Pacific significant headway into not only modernizing its systems, but also preparing its people alongside it to give the firm’s insurance a touch of humanity.

“In this regard, we still firmly believe that the human element is crucial when it comes to protection and creating impact,” she said.

A future with its upskilled people

While the program has only been announced and made available in Asia, Thavarajah sees it as an opportunity to learn a lot about the impact of the change that Allianz Asia Pacific is intending to introduce into these markets.

“Currently, the training program covers seven of our Asia markets focusing on life and health insurance,” Thavarajah said. “In the future, we look to expand the program to the entire agency force and replicate it for other distribution channels.”

Distribution transformation and innovative proposition development will continue to be a mainstay for the firm’s strategy, Thavarajah said, as the region remains a core growth engine for Allianz group.

“In Asia, Allianz today has a diversified footprint with a presence in more than ten markets. We want to show our commitment to the people in Asia, strengthen our position in our markets and continue protecting even more customers in Asia,” she said.

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