When insurance players went IT-insured!

CIOL Bureau
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MUMBAI, INDIA: Enterprises have been churning out products and offerings with the regularly changing needs of its customer and his/her family. Insurance companies are an example one such sector that witnesses every player vying for the larger pie and go that extra mile. Irrespective of the company’s domain, the influence of IT cannot be ruled out.


In a conversation with Prasad Ramasubramanian of CyberMedia News, Abhay Johorey, Director Transformation & Services — Aviva Life Insurance — shared the influence of IT in his company and many more! Read on.

CMN: Could you elucidate on the expenditure on Information Technology (IT) systems in 2006-07 (figures) in Aviva and how much budget does your enterprise allocate for IT expenditure each year? What is the expected change with respect to the previous year?

Abhay Johorey: Robust technology system is very crucial for a financial company like Aviva. Between manufacturing and services, I would say services use a significant portion of IT. In services, I would say that plays an important role in the financial services. Between services, financial services use information technology more.


Over the last one year, we have invested in various systems such as customer interaction system, policy administration system, and sales productivity systems etc and as a company policy we don’t share the figures but I can tell you that there is a significant amount of expenditure on that front.

If you look at a broad percentage — you have to put 5-10 per cent of your expenditure and the amount is significant and as I mentioned IT is a core competence of the BFSI segment.

CMN: What part of IT implementation plays a more prominent role -- software or hardware or networking? Why?


Abhay Johorey: Well, it’s a difficult one because all the components — software, hardware and the networking — put together make an application and it depends on the situation. If you have hardware in place, then software becomes important. To say which is important depends on the situation, all the three play a role in giving utility to the consumer. With the businesses going to tier 2 and tier 3 cities, then networking plays an important role. The answer really depends on the situation.

CMN: Since the rupee is growing stronger against the dollar, don't you think it is the right time to purchase IT products (both hardware/software)?

Abhay Johorey: There is a never a right time to purchase. The bigger role is played by when you need them. You can’t really inventorize! Price of the currency does not play a role in buying the product.


CMN: Being in the services space, how have you ensured that you are continuously performing well in the yardsticks of service, quality, cost, compliance, operational risk mitigation and client/end-user satisfaction?

Abhay Johorey: It’s a continuous process and we always benchmark ourselves based on reverse auction and based on competition. We comply with the ISO standards and when it comes to quality and service our standards are high and we have a lot of automated monitoring. A fairly standardized best of class practices that is world class and it’s on a continuous way.


CMN: With the time-lines of innovation and first mover advantage constantly coming down in every industry today, what has Aviva done to address this issue?

Abhay Johorey: The important point is to be a customer research oriented company and benchmark based on competition. What’s important is reliability, in financial services --- given a trade between reliability and innovation — I would place more money on reliability but that’s not to say that innovation is not required. There is a lot of market research orientation and whether we need to improve, pricing etc gets based on how we are performing.


CMN: If you were to name five top technologies that you would consider using, what would those be?

Abhay Johorey: Let me put it this way--rather than technology—I would tell you what I want to do in 2008.

Firstly, it would be to manage identity as our company has 30,000 agents and 5,000 employees so to know whose doing what? Secondly, I am keen on exploring Linux---it has matured on technology. Thirdly, I want to figure out how to manage patches better — in the sense as to how do you keep the change management bit?


Technology to manage incidents since ours a large company and I need a technology to manage incidents. Also, a technology to manage infrastructure change—our infrastructure has to change according to the way we are growing.

CMN: Have you implemented virtualization in your organization?

Abhay Johorey: Of course, we have done that and virtualization is means to the end. Reducing the cost is the end and virtualization is the means to reach there. There are a whole host of solutions, which we are figuring out and working on!

CMN: If you were to name five key verticals that are heading for growth in the next fiscal, what would those be?

Abhay Johorey: In terms of economy I would say retail, telecom, non-banking and financial institutions and in terms of IT — it would be identity management, Linux, ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) technology -- those are very important!

CMN: If you were to name top five vendors in various IT areas, who would those be? (At least name the top two, according to you, in as many technology areas as possible, such as software, servers, routers, networking equipment, mobility solutions, security, storage, etc.).

Abhay Johorey: I think it would be unfair for me to point out. I think Gartner and Dataquest are the best to point out and I can’t comment on it, as there is a commercial angle and proximity angle to it.

CMN: Aviva is a renowned name in the financial and insurance space and you have recently roped in Sachin Tendulkar as your brand ambassador. How have your ensured that you always got associated with the right people and talent to put your message across the masses?

Abhay Johorey: We took a brand ambassador to increase the mass appeal of the brand and insurance is a business based on long-term trust and it is the first time we had taken a brand ambassador. We did a research and found out that despite Chak De — cricket seems to be ruling the roost.

Sachin Tendulkar, we figured out, is the favorite across the age group and many have grown with him. There is a lot of identification with him and he embodies Aviva’s core values. He has a very good fit with our brand.