For many, Insurance was a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’. But that is rapidly changing largely with the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic. Individuals and businesses are beginning to see the need for having an insurance policy that can help protect them in the new world order brought about by the coronavirus. At the same time, insurance companies are finding themselves in a hard spot, designing insurance products for risks that are limited. Given the changing nature of customer preferences and needs, Sanjay Datta, Chief – Underwriting, Reinsurance and Claims, shares an inside perspective of how the company has been hard at work to be able to meet the new needs of a post-Covid world.
Sanjay is an industry veteran who has been part of the startup team at ICICI Lombard since 2001 and helped to grow the business into a market leadership position. “The customer lens has evolved, their tastes have changed so has the way the industry looks at the customer and the products that are being offered. But that said, what hasn’t changed is the way you look at the customer. We have been very clear that as an insurance company, you have to provide value to your customer,” he shared, setting the tone for discussion on the changing dynamics in the insurance industry and how ICICI Lombard has stood by customers in the wake of the pandemic.
With an industry-leading claims settlement rates, Sanjay highlighted how ICICI Lombard’s flagship product has been designed with an in-built coverage for pandemics and thereby COVID-19. Sanjay also responded to the queries regarding the individual and group insurance policy coverage’s, the coverage for medicines and diagnostic tests pertaining to COVID-19, if family members would be covered, etc. Sharing details about a COVID-19 specific product launched by ICICI Lombard which covers diagnosis, Sanjay said, “It covers diagnosis-related expenses after the 14-day waiting period. And, the product has been designed for ancillary expenses that many are beginning to incur.”
He also deep-dived into the challenges they faced and how they have developed insurance products to particularly address the challenges brought about by COVID-19 for individuals quickly. “We had to react on the fly. When we do underwriting of products, there is a lot of history and data collected over the years to substantiate and model the risk when we underwrite a product. Here, we were in the realm of uncertainty w.r.t. risk modelling. There was very little data on the intensity of the pandemic, how much of the world population would be affected, who would be affected, the severity of the illness, among others. So when you underwrite such products on a limited basis you build the product based on assumptions, and data based on projections. So you take the worst and best cases and see how you can enable customers to avail the benefits. This has been an attempt to innovate and help our customers when they need us the most.”
In addition to health insurance coverage’s, Sanjay also highlighted how ICICI Lombard has enabled full refund due to cancellations for its travel insurance policy holders, given that it was not something travelers were doing out of will or foreseeable situations. He said the company has also supported the requests for travel-related claims wherein people had to rush back from their international trips given that they had a small window to return to the country prior to the nation-wide lockdown. He shared while the travel industry has been affected, it would recover in the time to come. “The form and mode of recovery will take time and will probably be different than what we know. The airline industry will also need to innovate on new safety standards and procedures,” he noted, adding that the travel insurance industry may also make some changes w.r.t. medical coverage’s.
In his talk, Sanjay reiterated why contactless interaction and digitalisation will become important for businesses and how the same discipline applies for the cyber world, given that cyber threats would be a mainstay. “Be it for individuals or businesses, our effort will always be that you are safe and secure. We don’t want to use our product at all. But, should something beyond your control happen, we stand by you. We are like family and who better to go to than family.”
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