Harsha Abeywickrema began his professional career when he joined Nestle Lanka in 1989. Thereafter he served in the Pharmaceutical industry with Merck Sharp and Dome, and CIBA GEIGY. He first stepped into the Insurance industry in 1993, when he took up the post of Sales Executive at Ceylinco Life Insurance. Over the years, Harsha worked his way up to becoming Deputy General Manager – Business Development and was actively involved in strategic initiatives, and the performance management and development of the Sales Distribution team.
He later served as the Head of Sales – Agency DSF2 at AIA Insurance, where he was responsible for initiating a new agency channel, national distribution, strategic planning. Thereafter, Harsha joined Janashakthi Insurance PLC in October 2018, as the General Manager of Sales.
When asked why he chose Life Insurance as the sector in which to build his career, Harsha responded, “I noticed the opportunity for career development in the Insurance industry. Being a youth leader and having held leadership positions at Richmond College Galle, as a Senior Prefect and Leader of the Debating Team, the Insurance sector provided the opportunity to further my skills in the corporate world. With the unrealized market opportunity, I experienced a significant growth and character development as I began my journey as a team leader. My skills helped me to bring out the best in the teams I worked with, allowing us to excel in what we do. I was also able to expand my industry knowledge and grow as a professional throughout my career via the different training and development programs, and other professional qualifications that were available. These include a Fellowship at the Life Underwriting Training Council (LUTC – USA), Chartered Insurance Agency Manager (CIAM-LIMRA-USA), Chartered Manager Financial Advisor (CMFA) and an MBA.
This is also a great opportunity to serve the society. As Sir Winston Churchill once said – “The word ‘insure’ over every door of every cottage is certainly considered as a privilege.” I truly believe that this is very valid because most of the financial institutions provide services when you are doing well, but as Insurers we provide financial protection in a time of trouble when a person/family requires financial backing the most. Being able to meet the protection needs of the community and support these families is truly a blessing.
Whilst providing a great service to society, I have also witnessed unlimited income potential in the Insurance industry. Most of the youth look for a career opportunity with a fixed income, but with the ability to have a creative income in the Life Insurance sector, I have experienced the potential of earning a great lifestyle, whilst fulfilling the dreams in my family. The Insurance Industry has provided me the opportunity to visit many of my global dream destinations including many international forums and award ceremonies such as the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), the International Quality Awards (IQA) and the Foundation for the Advancement of Life Insurance in Asia (FALIA).”
As per Harsha, the most necessary quality in a Life Insurance advisor is – “Your passion is key. This will drive your desire to provide financial protection to the society with honesty and integrity.”
Speaking of the manner in which COVID-19 will shape the future of the Sri Lankan Life Insurance industry, Harsha said, “The ongoing global crisis has tested our ability as a nation with its multiple implications across all industries. At present we are the phase of adapting to a “technology driven – new normal”. As an industry, all Insurers have adapted to the necessary digital technologies in order to cater to our customers’ needs. This has enabled us to reach out to our customers and engage with them via digital communication mediums to assist them further. Also, this shift has enabled us to provide innovative solutions to provide financial protection.”
Expressing his opinion on the challenges currently faced by Life Insurance Advisors and the steps that can be taken to overcome them, the Head of Sales stated, “Since the Sri Lankan market is a mix of urban, semi-urban and rural customer segments, our approach should be a hybrid approach of digitally driven strategies coupled with customer interactions. When the crisis hit, our initial response to our customer needs were relatively smooth and seamless with most of our sales and operational processes already digitized. However, these are incredibly challenging and testing times for our nation, businesses, families and the entire society. We are committed to continue our journey as a purpose driven insurer and provide the protection needs of our society and support our nation through this crisis and recovery.”