The Development of Sri Lanka’s Life Insurance Industry – Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Ceylinco Life, Thushara Ranasinghe

Many businesses were adversely impacted as a result of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown in Sri Lanka. Despite being impacted, Ceylinco Life was able to overcome the numerous challenges they faced and continue on their growth momentum.

Thushara Ranasinghe, Ceylinco Life’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, is a firm believer that challenges posed by current circumstances can be overcome through teamwork and agile thinking. 

“Adversity reveals genius” – Horace

In 1986, Thushara began working at Ceylinco Limited as a Product Manager. He is one of the founding members of Ceylinco Insurance PLC, with over  41 years of experience in sales, marketing, and strategic planning. He also serves on the board of Ceylinco Healthcare Services Limited which pioneered private-sector cancer treatment in 2008 and Sri Lanka’s first retirement resort located in Uswetakeiyawa. Thushara holds an MBA from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura’s Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK.

Speaking about the current status of the insurance industry, he states that in 2020, the life insurance industry as a whole grew by 16 per cent which is a higher rate than the 12.6%  recorded in the pre-COVID year 2019. This indicates that people are more aware of the need for life insurance and have invested more in life/ health insurance based products. It is evidenced by the fact that the life insurance penetration level which has been hovering around 0.5 % for the past few years has increased to 0.69% in 2020. The total GWP of the life insurance business was about Rs 102 billion in the year 2020 with the top five players having a combined market share of almost 81 per cent.

The industry as a whole paid claims up to 37.9 billion in 2020 which includes disability benefits,  death benefits,  surrenders,  maturity benefits and other benefits paid to policyholders. The growth in the claim and other benefits payout recorded a 7.8% growth compared to 2019. This high payout instils confidence among the insuring public and augurs well for a higher life insurance penetration rate in the country. 

In the case of COVID 19, Thushara states that practically every company in the industry has paid COVID claims despite the policy conditions indicated in the policy documents. For example, Ceylinco Life has paid up to Rs 12.2  billion in claims and other rewards to its policyholders in the year 2020. Rs 8.3 Billion was paid up to August 2021, which includes COVID 19 claims and other benefits.

In terms of growth opportunities, the most important pillar of the life insurance industry is derisking the future of one’s family. The second most important is the retirement pillar which requires greater emphasis from the industry and attention from the public as Sri Lanka has one of the fastest ageing populations in  South Asia. Only a small segment of the labour force, who are employed in the public sector are entitled to pensions. All private-sector employees and those involved in informal economic activities( Gig economy) need to build up retirement capital in order to secure a regular monthly income during retirement.

Another area of growth for the industry is health insurance, after the breakout of the pandemic in March 2020.

The new normal has triggered the development of converting all manual processes from onboarding of customers to claim settlement through digitalization. A noticeable increase in online sales and online and other automatically updated payments has been recorded and will continue to grow in the future as well.   

Ceylinco Life has remained at the top for the last 17 years because of their core values that the company always adheres to. Ranked the ‘Most Valuable Life Insurance Brand’ in Sri Lanka by Brand Finance and voted the ‘Peoples Life Insurance Service Provider of the Year’ for a record 15th consecutive year in 2021, Ceylinco Life has been Sri Lanka’s leading life insurer for more than half of the 33 years it has been in existence. In 2020, the Company was certified as a ‘Great Workplace’ in Sri Lanka by Great Place to Work®, was named the ‘Best Life Insurer in Sri Lanka’ for the seventh consecutive year by World Finance, and accorded an ‘Honourable Mention’ as one of the ‘Most Admired Companies in Sri Lanka’ by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (ICCSL) in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), UK.

Ceylinco Life has close to a million lives covered by active policies and is acknowledged as a benchmark in the local insurance sector for innovation, product research and development, customer service, professional development, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility.

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