Insurance could get a big boost from technologies that could reduce paper dependence and increase speed. Source: Shutterstock

Insurance incumbent AIA bets tech will drive company, but not kill workforce

BIG INSURANCE might finally be paying attention to the possibilities afforded by technology, as news emerged that Hong Kong’s largest life insurer, AIA, has plans to invest in innovations that could help agents sell policies more efficiently without the necessary workforce cuts.

According to AIA Hong Kong chief executive Peter Crewe, the company has no plans to get rid of its sales team and replace them with digital operations as many customers still prefer interacting with humans when it comes to purchasing insurance products.

“It would be naive to go fully digital for all our transactions without first listening to what our customers want,” he said in an interview with South China Morning Post

“Many customers still want to do transactions via face-to-face meetings with their agents. I believe a hybrid model of using both online platforms and our agency sales force would continue for a long time.”

Insurance is experiencing huge disruptions by startups and digitization. Source: Shutterstock

Crewe said that the younger segments of their workforce and client base have “big [appetites] for technology” and many are looking for digital ways to engage with insurance.

“It is important for us to use technology to improve their experience with our products and services,” he said.

Insurance technology – or “insurtech” for short – has become a strong tech subsection in its own right, with many small startups entering the marketplace and disrupting it with various offerings such as price comparison sites, apps that demystify policy jargon and offer plan comparisons, as well as cheap, digital advisers.

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Despite this rise in insurtech offerings and concerns from industry mainstays, many people are still relying on traditional means to get their plans, meaning that big firms have an opportunity to go further with technology.

AIA has invested heavily in digital tools such as interactive point of sale (iPOS) solutions and portable devices which are able to boost the mobility and connectivity of agents, and allow them to perform a variety of tasks on the go, including financial analysis, policy applications and claims processing. These tools, according to Crewe, have the ability to substantially speed up the sales process and reduce their reliance on paper.

“This has increased the efficiency and productivity of each agent. We aim to invest more in other technology in our back office to become completely paperless to serve our 2.7 million customers more efficiently,” Crewe said.

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Crewe said that a survey of their customers indicated that almost 60 percent of their customers prefer online platforms for fund-related transactions, thus reflecting the increasingly digitally-savvy nature of their customer base. However, he does not see the increasing digitization of their workflows as necessarily detrimental to the size of their workforce.

“What we need to do is provide the right technology to assist our agents to ensure a good experience and efficient service for the customers,” he said.