At Aviva, our top priority is to increase financial literacy in India: Amit Malik

Amit Malik, CEO and Managing Director, Aviva India, is inspired by his father, a military man, to believe that he may not be a soldier, but it is always a war when he leads his team, and his job is to support people in their moments the most difficult. Here, he talks about leading Brand Aviva India during the pandemic, the evolution of life insurance as a category, and its mission to bring financial awareness to the masses.

Amit Malik has leadership roles in organizations such as Bank of America, Royal Bank of Scotland, American Express and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare in geographies such as India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka to his credit. He took over the role of CEO and Managing Director of Aviva Life Insurance Company India Limited from January 1, 2021, having held various positions with the company since 2012. Here are excerpts from a conversation with him :

How has the life insurance market changed after the COVID-19 pandemic? What tactical decisions did you make at Aviva Life Insurance to redefine your strategy?

COVID-19 has impacted all industries, including life insurance. According to a 2022 study, term insurance has seen a huge increase in popularity over the past two years, with ownership rising from 39% to 43% in 2021. Other life insurance policies, such as the Savings and market-linked schemes are also growing in popularity. popularity among urban Indians, according to the report. As the lockdown has restricted movement, we at Aviva have taken all necessary measures to ensuring a seamless digital experience for our customers. We have ensured that our employees have access the technology they need to provide better service to consumers. We even helped clients get used to digital methods, keeping in mind that not everyone is tech-savvy.

How have you seen the marketing strategy of life insurers evolve? What are the key aspects of your marketing strategy, especially in terms of vernacular reach and targeted communication?

We are very committed to our brand goal, “With you today for a better tomorrow”. We aim to deliver our plans and provide excellent service to our customers. Over time, we have continued to innovate in our marketing strategies. This involves reviewing many processes to enable remote customer outreach, rapid adoption of digital means, and training our customers to do the same, increasing the frequency and nature of communications with our existing customers. We favor targeted communication. We ensure that the courier reaches the customer; this helps to reduce wasted effort and build brand value.

Given the current economic outlook and uncertainty, how do you assess consumer sentiment and demand in 2022 in the life insurance segment?

In 2022, it is safe to say that people perceive life insurance as one of the best risk mitigation tools, rather than a simple financial savings instrument. The pandemic has boosted customer confidence in insurance as a safe financial product. People are now willing to spend less on disposables after the first year of the pandemic, and they are mostly renewing their health and life insurance plans. According to a study, people focus on creating savings by setting aside half of their income for financial security. The study indicates that 57% of the Indian population considers financial immunity to be directly associated with financial security and stability. Customer preferences and behavior have changed dramatically over the past year and a half. Individuals have begun to view insurance as an essential risk management tool rather than just an investment.

As an industry, are there conversations among key market players regarding guidelines and strategies for the domain? What do you see as the major opportunities for Aviva and the major challenges ahead?

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has been cautious in making changes that enable industry growth and ensure deeper penetration of life insurance products. As a private life insurance company, we aim to continue to work closely with the regulator on developments to bring about change. From an opportunity perspective, technology continues to be a key enabler to drive growth. We aim to make insurance more accessible and to serve unserved sectors of the population within the scope of insurance coverage. Therefore, the technology will help solve the problems of low insurance penetration. The biggest challenge for Aviva, for that matter the private life insurance industry, is the low penetration and lack of financial awareness among customers. With a literacy rate of 80%, unfortunately only 27% of the population is financially literate.

In the future, what will be the main focus areas of Aviva Life Insurance? What does the projected growth trajectory look like and how are you preparing for sustainability going forward?

Understanding Aviva’s greatest challenge, our primary goal is to instill financial literacy in the masses, to make them understand the nuances of life insurance and its importance. In 2019, according to a survey by the National Center for Financial Education, only 27% of Indians had financial knowledge. We aim for increased numbers through our product innovations and marketing approach. On the sustainability front, we take our climate commitment with the utmost sincerity. In 2021, Aviva PLC announced demanding climate targets. Apart from that, Aviva has partnered with WWF, the world’s leading conservation organization, to take collaborative action on climate change to create a better future for people and the planet.

How do you describe your own leadership style? Have you had to change as a leader to adapt to the new normal?

I’m someone who religiously believes in ‘If not me, then who? If not now, then when?’. As a leader, I aim to create a positive impact in people’s lives by supporting them in their most difficult times. My father, who was in the army, once said, “Son, you may not be a soldier, but it’s a war. You have to lead your team. And do it in such a way that it’s right, and they come out better and come out victorious. That is to say my leadership mantra. I also value the opportunity to train the next generation of leaders who will define the future of business and society.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, I made sure to be there and support all of my employees. Coincidentally, that’s when I was promoted to CEO. I’ve always been a people person, so it’s been difficult for me to adapt to working remotely. However, I made sure to keep the organization motivated and stable. From physical work in the office to working remotely has been the biggest lesson for me as a leader. The new normal is no longer “new”. This is now the reality, and it will continue to evolve.

(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. We allow the PDF of the paper to be shared on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Posted: Monday March 21st 2022, 07:59 IST