Humanizing Digital Solutions in Finance

Humanizing Digital Solutions in Finance


Dipu KV, President – Operations & Customer Experience, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently shared a video of a Gangireddulata, where alms are given thru a QR code, implicating the success of digital payments in India. FM makes real sense that over the last five years, the non-contact payment methods have become a norm today. According to RBI data, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, and people panic-keeping currency, digital payments have recorded a growth of 30.19 percent during the financial year ended March 2021, reflecting adoption and deepening of cashless transactions in the country. Likewise, the growth of existing financial services firms and new digitally oriented entities are blowing the tailwind to the sector’s journey towards further transformation, as do the set of reforms and policies which have been regulating it to the core.

Innovative business models, the progressive digitization of financial systems, and adoption of digital technology have increased the pace of the financial sector’s digital transformation. Also, Digital Financial Services (DFS) carry the promise of delivering financial inclusion to the last-mile and addressing India's most vulnerable, marginalized, and remote communities in an increasingly and swiftly digitizing country like India. However, in order for these efforts to reach the disadvantaged and prevent further exclusion, the industry must overcome a number of obstacles. To understand about keeping up with the dynamic trends in the industry while leveraging these trends to deliver cutting edge technology solutions to the customer, CEO Insights engages in an exclusive conversation with Dipu KV, President – Operations & Customer Experience, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd. Dipu possesses over 25 years of experience of working across the financial industry of India, posing a unique aspect of scaling from the roots and transforming legacy businesses. He is also an ardent speaker, who enlightens the concept of digital transformation as well as innovation.

In conversation with Dipu KV, President – Operations & Customer Experience, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd

You possess nearly three decades of experience in the financial industry, how has been your professional journey so far? Which among your achievements do you consider as the most important milestones in your journey? 

Having been into the financial industry for 25 years, with GE Capital being the first and currently operating at Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co. Ltd., I hold two achievements which I consider as important. One is having made an impact on people, by nurturing them into leaders for the last 25 years, is one area that gives me immense bliss. The second is having been able to generate the firm by significantly providing better experiences for customers and partners. Speaking of my time at Bajaj Allianz, when I reminisce facts such as being rated No.8th in the global list of top 100 digital insurers, and deemed as the highest NPS with lower grievance ratio from the point of view of a third party market research. Since I was able to leave a significant mark on the landscape and by maximizing our payment options, we were able to digitally transform our company. Clearly these are the milestones which I consider to be pleasing.

What does the COVID era and the post COVID era mean for the financial industry?

Nevertheless, COVID-19 hinged on a digital way of working, rather firms are constantly in efforts to digitize their enterprise, with some turning out to be leaders and some following suit. However, speaking in the India context, I believe there are two specific areas to shed light on. One being multilingual, since digitalization mostly tends to happen in English and I think the most befitting manner to amplify reach would be the need to communicate in the same language as your clients. 

Secondly, now that customers have experienced digital serving, I think it’s time to shift the focus from digitizing the physical to humanizing the digital. Meaning efficiencies have to be ensured while maintaining the consistency of the bots, by including the warmth and healing touch like that of a human being.  For I believe an impact being made in this on the Indian economy, would spark numerous opportunities, when the financial sector’s footprint covers every nook and cranny of the country. 

The other is that, the moment digitization occurs, the world becomes flatter when viewing it in a supply and demand aspect. As boundless opportunities open up, talents can be seen working across different parts of the globe and this then enables one to reach customers, and partners from any part of the world. Therefore, the combination of digitization and multilingual approach will not only give rise to various opportunities but firms will be able to make a significant difference in the nation. That’s how I’ve perceived the landscape thus far and these are the key areas which I think will be the focus in the road ahead.

Currently, what are the challenges that firms are facing and how should they combat those challenges?

Surely, COVID-19 imposed landscape clearly points out to the fact that it comes down to the mindset by the end of the day. Approaching practices of any sort adopted today, with the right mindset, it’s clear how these practices could have been adopted much earlier. This I believe firms should consider as the biggest angle of focus.

Speaking of focus, the next aspect would be ensuring the right focus between the combination of man and machine when going uphill. Since it’s equally important to satisfy the need of empathy and human touch, as is when achieving digitization and consistency.

On the same page, I often notice that in India there is an enormous availability of manpower, which often evokes the fear that most job opportunities will be dominated by various technologies as they emerge. This provokes the thought of how to achieve an optimal mix of automation as well as ensuring the inclusion of human skills, to ensure that man and machine can co-exist. These are the three challenging areas that firms would need to focus on building solutions.

How do you make a legacy industry like finance trust high-end technologies, when it comes to scaling up from scratch and transforming legacy businesses?

Well, I would suggest that, rather than focusing on a particular technology, it’s important to start with understanding the customers’ needs. With that said, I would like to lay forth the five steps that we follow at our company, which I believe would be beneficial for scaling up scratch and transforming legacy businesses.

Firstly, it’s about acquiring a good understanding of where the customer seems to be reaching out for, which calls for relying beyond the feedback they shared.

Secondly, these needs will have to be categorized into stated and unstated needs, as unstated needs often tend to ooze out even before knowing how to fix those needs.

Thirdly, it’s important to be well in sync with the current landscape and observe how the processes have been built over the years and chances are that it may show the customer is not exactly placed at the center of everything.

Regarding the fourth step, I would like to recall the six sigma that I had acquired from GE Capital and with that, I would suggest looking into ways the landscape can be designed to ensure an optimal solution for the customer.

For the fifth step, I advise that it’s only right to focus on the right solution which doesn’t always have to be state of the art technology solutions, as even the simplest solution could turn out for the best.

Therefore, understanding customer needs is key, followed by following these five steps would point to the right solution to scale from. There again, if customer needs are met in a massive manner, scaling up would occur automatically.

According to you, what are the key elements required achieving operational excellence as well as customer delight when redesigning business models?

I think that, along with the aforementioned five steps, it’s vital to involve everyone on board including placing stakeholders in the front row, which could bolster a strong operating rhythm. This welcomes and leads to tackling differences of opinion when introducing change. This enables to storm the operating rhythm using customer feedback as well as data, showcasing how organizational and operational excellence is much in play, leading to the conception of an automatic product ready for success.

However, during this process it’s important to avoid focusing on perfection, since it would affect the pace. Instead it’s vital to focus on a simple viable product promising success. This product can be launched into the marketplace, helping in crowd sourcing by accumulating detailed feedback from customers as well as partners and then with the gathered input the full scale version of the product can be launched.

As a result, it not only helps in achieving operational excellence, but helps to focus on customers, engage with stakeholders, and understand realities of launching.

Which latest technology do you perceive as being the most sought after choice for deployment among enterprises?

AI, ML, quantum computing, Blockchain and more appear to be the most happening tech at present. However, certain areas of infliction intrigue about the kinds of shifts that it has bestowed on to the technological landscape. Judging on that, most of it seemed to start from digitizing the entire approach with customers, with AI entering the game and leveraging it to provide top notch experience to customers. Then came IoT when customer service required improvisation to deliver cutting-edge solutions and our company came into the industry by leveraging Blockchain.

Currently, I think that conversational AI is increasingly coming into the picture, as I mentioned earlier about how there’s a need for consistency of bots with a human touch. Since the world has already entered a non-contact system, I feel that the shift from text to voice may pose a significant role in the entire spectrum.

Emphasize the role of subject matter expertise and the insights into an organization’s business for today’s technology leaders.

Today, continuous learning forms a crucial part to experts as well as newbies and I strongly believe that it’s not about being a ‘know it all’, but being a ‘learn it all’, for it’s important to be in a constant learning curve. Additionally, these learnings have to be applied at the right time. Take the pandemic for instance, there could have been other events which could have occurred. Either way the world expects a quick response regardless of whether one is prepared or not. That’s where I think that it’s extremely difficult to apply what is learned and I also think experts possessing deep domain knowledge but at the same time are eager to learn, is what I’d call the best of both worlds.

Hence, it all comes down acquiring expertise while handling multiple scenarios during a particular function or an industry and about embracing change.

Going forward, what will be the kind of role that a president should play while hacking these new opportunities?

Since customers are the main reasons why organizations are burning their night oil, it’s important to have an eye on them. Secondly, it’s important to learn what’s going on across various industries and not restricted to learning about one’s industry alone. Since customers often tend to evaluate the bot or app of one company by comparing it with the best experiences that they have had in the industry, instead of limiting that comparison with that particular company’s peers. Thus, having a thirst for learning while keeping up with trends in the market are both crucial.