Women in the Insurance Industry – Kavi Rajapaksha

Kavi Rajapaksha – Head of Marketing & Assistant Vice President at Softlogic Life

Having enjoyed a successful career in the FMCG industry, Kavi opted to give insurance a chance and she hasn’t looked back since. As the Head of Marketing and an Assistant Vice President at Softlogic Life, with a number of accolades to her name, Kavi is one of the most popular female professionals in the Insurance industry.

Speaking of the most significant milestones in her career, Kavi said, “Prior to entering the Life Insurance industry, my legacy was driving a global team to bring back Astra, one of the most loved food brands in the country, after a fire burnt down the entire manufacturing factory. But the most recent win, was being named ‘Brand of the Year’ in just 3 years at the Effie Awards of 2019. We were up against popular FMCG and service brands, whereas Life Insurance is an industry that is not very popular and hardly thought of by the general public. Therefore, being a part of the team that won such an award was a great honor for me and the rest of the victors at Softlogic Life.”

When questioned about the current status of female professionals in the Sri Lankan Insurance industry, Kavi replied, “When I was first approached by Softlogic Life, I took a lot of time to make my decision, simply because it was a highly male dominated industry. Even today, I’m often the only female at many forums. However, there is a gradual change taking place, where more and more women are joining the industry. Progress in this matter is still slow, but its steady and very encouraging to see. Today, I am 1 out of 3 female Heads of Department at Softlogic Life, also 5 out of the 8 members of my team are women. As more and more women begin to pursue higher education and become more qualified, the number of female insurance professionals will surely rise in the near future. It is important that companies also realize the enormous value that comes with a balanced workforce, and plan for it in terms of basic infrastructure, working hours and flexibility as such.”

Addressing the question of whether there is a need for specific insurance policies for women, especially working women who are the breadwinners of their family, Kavi stated that it was something that the company is currently looking into. “In Sri Lanka, 35% of the workforce are women, and looking further, censuses and statistics show that 25% of households in the country are run by either a sole female breadwinner or a working woman who contributes more than 50% to the household’s finances. But even today, most insurance agents often ask to speak to the man of the house when they visit a home. There is a need for a vast amount of improvement in that corner, especially as our country is coming out of a 30-year war, which has widowed plenty of women and left them to provide for their families. Currently, a large number of women leave the country on foreign employment, be it at the blue-collar level or the white. There is a disturbing number of accounts of these women, especially those at the blue-collar level, being exploited and having their hard-earned money been misused by their partners. Given the different stages in a woman’s life, ranging from her healthcare needs to social aspects, her insurance needs are quite unique, especially if it’s a single mom or the leading breadwinner. Therefore, we really need to look at custom making insurance offerings to suit these needs.”

“Keep your head down and work hard. Many will criticize you for many things, from your emotional maturity to your sense of style. They will compare who you are against their idea of who you should be. Take it constructively and don’t let it sway your confidence. After all, you’re attracting all that attention because you’re doing something right. Let your work prove your capabilities and remember that when you pursue excellence, success will always follow.”

The low level of insurance penetration in Sri Lanka is a known fact. According to Kavi, the cause of this must be identified in order to begin rectifying the issue. “I believe the first and foremost reason behind the low level of penetration is the lack of awareness among the general public about the value of insurance. Sri Lankans are known to be more adaptive to uncertainty than people in other countries. Therefore, they don’t really see the need to secure themselves against uncertainties. Second, insurance is not a product that is sought after. In most developed countries life insurance is mandatory, however that is not the case in Sri Lanka, where only motor insurance is mandatory. The third reason is the negative reputation of insurance among the general public. Thanks to years of claim fraud, insurance agents are looked upon as people who are out to cheat you of your hard-earned money. The negative content in terms of communication, where death is a predominant feature, has also played a significant contributory role towards the negative outlook upon insurance. After all, who wants to see a father meet with a fatal accident on the way to his child’s birthday party? All these combined makes insurance, particularly life insurance, a very unpopular industry. To top it off the per capita GDP fell below 4000 USD last year. People have bigger things to worry about; they need to meet the demands of the present before worrying about those of the future. A person whose family lives off of his/her per-day income is the most in need of the financial stability that life or health insurance can provide, however, the policies we have in Sri Lanka are extremely expensive and well beyond the reach of such people. Therefore, we have introduced microinsurance, which will cost the policy holder Rs.1 to Rs.10 per day based on the plan they choose. Under this, we have ‘Dialog per day Insurance’, which enables you to conduct your insurance transactions through your phone, as well as ‘Postal Insurance’, which allows you to manage your insurance related activities via your local postman. This is affordable to lower income earners, who will receive a claim of Rs.100,000 or if they are hospitalized, they will receive Rs.750 per day, even if they are being treated at a government hospital. As such, there are many who require a fine-tuned product, including working women at both levels, women at home, widows, disabled or retired soldiers, low income earners etc. An agent can no longer go up to a potential customer and offer an already existent generalized product, especially in the case of the Millenials and Gen Zs. Thus, the industry needs to adapt to the times in order to increase the level of insurance penetration in the country.”

On the topic of the impact of the Easter Sunday attacks upon the Insurance industry, Kavi explained, “Easter Sunday had a negative impact on pretty much every industry, especially those related to the tourism sector. For those of us in the Insurance Industry, the biggest challenge was the premium collection, since, in times of financial strain, insurance is often the first thing to be crossed off the list of expenses. At Softlogic Life, when we spoke to our clients, we saw that a large number of them were having trouble maintaining their liquidity with respect to their businesses. We kept on engaging with our customers and allowing maximum flexibility in their hour of need. We also kept the momentum going with our agents and encouraged them to support their clients. The Easter Sunday attacks reminded many Sri Lankans of the unpredictable nature of life. This created a positive environment for life insurance. We received a large number of calls from people inquiring about life insurance policies during the weeks following the Easter Sunday attacks. In terms of our communication, as a responsible local Sri Lankan company, we saw an opportunity to inspire fellow Sri Lankans. Within a couple of weeks of the attacks, we launched a communication campaign titled “Be Positive. Come to Together Sri Lanka”, in order to promote optimism and encourage unity among Sri Lankans. As a result of our efforts we finished off at 3 times the industry growth at the end of the year.”

“I think the industry is adapting well to digitalization. In the case of motor insurance, on the spot claims were introduced a few years ago, but this was a little difficult to do when it came to life or health insurance since they both require a more detailed process. For life insurance, the moment of truth is when your claim is paid in full on time. Therefore, the most effective use of digitalization should be to make the process as fast and hassle-free as possible. It instills trust in the whole insurance system, which in turn brings in more customers via word of mouth. Therefore, we strive to leverage digitalization to make these processes faster and more convenient every day. Softlogic Life introduced the ‘Per-day Claim’ process, which ensures the payment of a claim within the same day it is made, if however, there are certain documents missing, we do our best to pay the claim within the span of 3 days. We also have a process called ‘On the spot Policy Issuance’, which enables the agent to do an in-field underwriting, based on his/her analysis of the needs of the customer in question, and issue the policy to the customer on the spot. In addition to these, we have provided customers with the ability to share their bills and prescriptions through Whatsapp or Viber so as to make instant claims. At Softlogic Life, we have also made large leaps via robotic process automation, which allows more than 60% of our underwriting to happen automatically, meaning customers don’t have to wait months for their policies to be accepted. So, these are some of the things we have adopted via digital advancement, and we are constantly trying to do better”, said the Head of Marketing, expressing her views on the adaptation of the Insurance industry to digitalization.

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