Elaborating on their unrivalled strength, AIA Sri Lanka Deputy CEO and Chief Agency Officer Upul Wijesinghe stated that AIA’s parent company AIA Group has gone through numerous challenges, including World Wars, multiple financial crises, pandemics and natural disasters during the past century of its existence. With such a magnitude of experience and heritage, AIA has grown in strength and experience and plans to continue its good name for centuries more. As a veteran in the industry with a wealth of knowledge built up over 30 years of experience, Upul firmly believes in a few key factors that have helped AIA retain dominance in the life insurance industry then and now.
Primary among them is the ability, skill and discipline to identify customer needs and desires and deliver the best of solutions and service. AIA’s global experience brings together a confluence of the best of training, technology and support for both agency and bancassurance channels to deliver exceptional customer service and experience. AIA Sri Lanka’s distribution channels are the front line and face of the company. Speaking with his three decades of experience at AIA, Upul states that he had witnessed the company’s dedication towards customer satisfaction, by always going out of its way to meet the ever-changing needs of customers and being there for them in times of need. Agents, or Wealth Planners as AIA refers to them are the first point of contact that the customer has with the company and the ones who customers call whenever there is a need. AIA’s Agency is widespread across the country in over 100 branches.
According to Upul, the pandemic has been a rollercoaster experience. With the significant impact COVID had on large industries such as travel and tourism, AIA created opportunities for those who were unemployed due to the crisis, recruiting over 2000 Wealth Planners within just seven months during 2020. Post this extraordinary recruitment drive, the company had the challenge of training these individuals to meet the high standards demanded by AIA, which was a tough task given the restrictions on physical meetings but one that was dealt successfully with the help of AIA’s experienced training staff stepping up to their best performance and leveraging digital technology to the fullest. According to Upul, “Anyone who embarks on a career at AIA as a Wealth Planner is on their path to success with ongoing recognition, guidance and training. We are determined to create pathways for a salesperson to become a successful entrepreneur. The company is also dedicated to strengthening the female participation in the Agency channel and currently has over 44% female representation among its hard-working team.” Upul states that many individuals from different industries have joined AIA. With their varied expertise, they bring diverse and innovative ideas allowing the company to accelerate its growth.
In this journey, AIA Sri Lanka has been recognised internationally for its dedication and hard work continuously. The company has had the highest number of MDRT achievers for six continuous years and was even ranked #77 in the world for MDRT. This showcases their diligence in building high quality distribution and unparalleled customer service.
In conversation, AIA’s Director- Agency Distribution Chanaka Liyanage stated that AIA were pioneers in launching the full-time agency concept in Sri Lanka, which is called Premier Agency Circle (PAC). The channel attracts the highest calibre of talent from a variety of industries and is supported by intense training, a fully digitalized working process and a fixed income during the early part of their career. According to him, the PAC has grown rapidly in the past three years and is demonstrating a high level of productivity and quality. Chanaka mentioned “During the last couple of years, it was essential to enhance the technological skills of the team to meet the digital sales expectations of our customers. Hence a significant effort was put into making our agents competent in using digital tools and processes to efficiently write new business even during lockdowns. Besides that, during the last year our focus was on digital career opportunity enhancement programmes which supported our recruitment drive.”
Chanaka also states that distribution itself is three-fold in generating business, maintaining client relationships, and giving continuous feedback from the company’s distribution point of view. He believes that the insurance business is not a short-term, one-time occurrence but a responsibility for life. The company partners individuals through every stage of their lives with an invisible but powerful strength and stands ready to support customers in case of health events, death or when delivering the maturities of their long term savings.
To extend its reach to more customers, AIA pioneered the partnership distribution channel, or Bancassurance, in Sri Lanka and currently are in partnership with two leading banks; NDB and DFCC. “We strive to build the best partnerships so that we can provide the best products and propositions for the banks’ customers, while offering an unparalleled level of protection through every stage of their lives,” added Senaka Rajapakse, AIA’s Senior AGM Bancassurance.
“We have made our agency technologically strong and equipped it to give a full service to the customer from the safety of their homes,” stated Upul, elaborating on the steps the company has taken to move forward with technology, making their service available for customers despite lockdowns. AIA has revolutionized the way agents interact with customers, through yet another breakthrough in digital innovation – the all new AIA MyPoS (My Point of Sales), a cutting edge solution designed to give AIA Wealth Planners and Financial Planning Executives access to the whole process at their fingertips. MyPoS takes the customer through the entire journey, from helping identify their needs, develop financial plans, generate quotes, and finalise policies.
“Wealth planners are heroes in our Agency. As a company, we invest in training and developing individuals”, added Upul, highlighting AIA’s desire to nourish, enrich, and develop individuals who join them. The company constantly invests in their Wealth Planners from the point of recruitment, while creating opportunities for a variety of training to improve customer service, technical knowhow etc. The AIA Training Academy, where the magic happens, has over 25 trainers dedicated to fulfilling their responsibilities. The development of quality Wealth Planners is among the reasons for the company’s current success and standing. Wealth Planners are also given multiple growth opportunities based on several career paths, including the chance of taking part in overseas training programmes.
Additionally, Senaka mentions that the team is always encouraged to listen to and understand customer needs prior to recommending the best solutions for their circumstances. “Whilst focusing on the customer’s perspective, with the new digital tools we enable a buying experience where customers can complete the entire experience from the safety of their home, 24×7”. Although digitalization is a prerequisite today, the personal and human touch of a Wealth Planner / Banca Executive’s service cannot be replaced by machinary or automation. Senaka’s view is that technology will always be there to augment the experience, improve the productivity of the distribution but can never replace it. Distribution must be technologically savvy and cater to customer needs, as they are the leading edge of the company, notes Senaka.
In Chanaka’s view, service quality is also a crucial factor in the insurance industry. Frequent surveys are conducted to identify any gaps causing dissatisfaction amongst their customers and guide improvements. “We conduct internationally recognised programmes such as LIMRA, performance coaching, seven habits of highly effective people…” he elaborated. With the closely monitored recruitment process, only those who perform well are taken on board to interact with customers, while being constantly trained for accelerated advancement in their job roles. “It is their quality of service that will decide the customer’s longstanding relationship with the company.” he added.
Strong partnerships are the backbone of a long-standing company. Senaka believes a partnership thrives in three elements, which are recruitment, training, and performance. Choosing the most qualified team, providing them with unparalleled training, leaving no room for mistakes, and managing their performance is key to a successful salesforce. “One of our benchmarks is to see over and above 50% of our bancassurance salesforce being recognised with MDRT” added Senaka.
Having the highest number of MDRT members in Sri Lanka for six consecutive years, Upul states that they continuously encourage their wealth planners to be recognised with MDRT, and IQA (International Quality Award), awarded by LIMRA for their superlative service to customers. Chanaka added to that statement, “Our focus is to produce more MDRT members as it is the highest recognition an insurance sales professional can achieve. They are the premier agency in the world because they can approach high net worth segments and affluent segments. Through that, we focus on producing more MDRT members through our Premier Agency Circles.”
Chanaka shared that digitisation has resulted in an overall progress of the company. He is confident that the ability of the company to provide the team with the digital platforms required to adapt to the change immediately played a crucial role in their continued success, despite the challenges. Upul sees this progression in the industry as a macro change. He believes that we will see an advancement in part-time insurance jobs becoming full-time careers, increased female participation in the insurance industry and more youth focusing on insurance-related careers. He also believes technology has especially allowed untapped sections of society, such as housewives with an opportunity to start a career for an additional income for their family from the comfort of their home. In addition, the community is more open to understanding the value of insurance than when it was considered an unessential expense. It is now very much an industry that promotes the aspect of living to enjoy the benefits of your investment and one that provides much needed financial security in trying times.