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ICICI Lombard using tech to be agile as work resumes – Livemint


Bhargav Dasgupta, MD and CEO of ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company, has been steering the company to make it more agile. Thanks to the lockdown, the process has fastened.

The management discovered that technology could make the insurer nimble. “We can handle large format interactions in real-time with many people across different locations. It is far superior to the usual way of working. It’s powerful, and flattens the organisation,” said Dasgupta. Dasgupta, for example, thought conducting a virtual Board meeting would be challenging. But the insurers managed to conduct on smoothly.

With this learning from the lockdown, ICICI Lombard is opening its branches slowly and in a calibrated manner, still relying more on technology to get most of the work done. The company is evaluating whether 50% of the employees can continue to work from home after normalcy returns, as it helps in work-life balance. “In big cities like Mumbai, it can help to reduce commuting time. We can even recruit people who want to step out of the full-time professional life, like young mothers who want to quit. We can think of having a part-time module for them,” said Dasgupta.

As of now, over 50% of the company’s 269 branches have reopened for business, primarily in green and orange zone. Like many other organisations, ICICI Lombard runs a centralised operation. But it also empowers the regional leadership to decide on what is appropriate for employee and customer safety at a specific location. For example, at the centralised level, the management can ask branches in all green zones to reopen. But if there are any local level concerns, the local personnel can decide to keep it shut.

Even in branches that have commenced operations, the company has reopened them with 50% employee strength. The staff comes to duty on rotation and follows safety procedures. Employees must wear a mask all the time. When they come in, their body temperatures are checked. At all locations, employees must maintain social distancing. Offices are sanitised regularly. ICICI Lombard has decided to keep the meeting rooms shut. If someone wants to do a meeting, it must be done virtually.

According to Dasgupta, some aspect of office may need a redesign in the medium term as an office built with centralised air conditioning cannot be changed overnight. Such changes would happen but will take time.

As branches reopen, the insurer is prioritising the departments it wants to operationalise. The health insurance claim, for example, is among the first few functions that the company is focussing on. While the company could effectively service customers digitally while employees worked from home; but as the business scales up, it expects some productivity challenges.

The general insurance company was able to process cashless claims. But to process reimbursements – when a patient is treated at a non-network hospital – customers need to send physical copies of the documents. Employees need to be at the office to process them. Another function ICICI Lombard is focussing on is the information technology. These teams are essential for support. The company was able to operate call centres partially during the lockdown. But now some more employees have started going to the office.

Whoever is coming to the office must use personal transport or the company provides it to them whenever needed. The company has asked employees not to use public transport at all. It is also working on arranging buses to bring staff to the office, mainly in Mumbai and Hyderabad. The head office of ICICI Lombard is not yet open as it is located in a high-risk area (Prabhadevi, Mumbai). The management is still deciding on how to open some the other large offices, as most big cities are in red zones.

It is tough to predict how things will pan out six to nine months from now. “But a few things are apparent. We are in this for a long period, until a vaccine or a medication is discovered. We will have to continue working with social distancing and with lower staff because of space constraints. We must be prepared for a new way of functioning. We will evaluate what works and what is beneficial. Then, adopt it quickly,” said Dasgupta.

The lockdown has been a big learning process for ICICI Lombard. It made the company explore its capabilities and scale up digital services. For example, it could service motor claims without any human intervention. Its claims managers can do a live video survey sitting at their hubs. The customer uses our InstaSpect app for this. Earlier, only some of the claims were processed using through this feature. But during the lockdown, all motor claims were processed using InstaSpect. Similarly, in health, it had an artificial intelligence tool which was authorising claims. But now, a significantly higher number of claims are getting processed through it.

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