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Insurance industry looks at Bionic Insuring in a ‘new normal’

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COVID-19 has disrupted most businesses globally and the insurance industry is no exception. Given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, insurers have been compelled to accelerate their digital journeys and holistically digitize their operations. In this regard, the Insurance Association of Sri Lanka (IASL) hosted a webinar on ‘What does it mean to be a truly bionic insurance company?’ with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as its knowledge partner, on February 23.

Prateek Roongta, MD & Partner, BCG facilitated the event and Pallavi Malani, MD & Partner, BCG delivered the keynote presentation, which was followed by a panel discussion comprising Thushara Ranasinghe, MD / CEO of Ceylinco Life Insurance Limited, Sanjeev Jha, MD and CEO of Fairfirst Insurance, and Pranay Mehrotra, MD & Senior Partner, BCG. The panel discussion was moderated by Chilman Jain, Principal, BCG Colombo.

Pallavi Malani of BCG, while addressing 60+ CXOs from Sri Lanka’s insurance industry, explained what being ‘bionic’ means and outlined the imperatives for becoming a bionic insurer in the post-COVID-19 world. In order to achieve bionic outcomes, insurers need to integrate human elements with technology and not replace one with another. “There is a need to empower talent and enhance efficiencies by leveraging the right tech stack and data. However, businesses will still have to engage with new talent pools and create agile teams to effectively make the shift to bionic ways of working”, she said.

Pallavi further discussed the five archetypes within which distinguished bionic players fall – i) Sales digitizers, ii) Data players, iii) Operations optimizers, iv) Innovators, and v) Digital natives. The discussion was made real with the example of PingAn, the largest Life Insurance company in China. Despite a salesforce of 1.3 million agents, PingAn has a ‘digital attacker agency distribution’ model and boasts of approximately 40% higher productivity than the second largest player in China. It has progressed from leveraging traditional technologies to mobile internet, to now using artificial intelligence (AI) across agent recruitment, training, agent management, sales model, and services. “PingAn has truly been a pioneer in digitizing its entire sales force, at scale,” shared Pallavi.

Pranay Mehrotra, Managing Director & Senior Partner, BCG emphasized on the need to use data as a differentiator. Data players are creating value by building digital foundations, developing new technology capabilities, implementing use case driven transformation, and improving overall data governance.

In his opening remarks, Thushara Ranasinghe, MD/CEO of Ceylinco Life Insurance Limited said, “In 2019, the Sri Lankan insurance industry grew by 10.5% and in 2020, it grew by an estimated 16%. Despite the lockdown, insurers were able to witness steep growth, proving that adversity reveals genius”. He stated that the pandemic took everyone by surprise and rendered all business continuity manuals irrelevant. Nevertheless, Ceylinco was able to quickly adapt to the changing situation and recover from the initial shock by installing proper infrastructure in place.

Sanjeev Jha of FairFirst Insurance said, “COVID-19 has taken away our choice to invest in digital initiatives or data optimization. Bionic is the need of the hour. Insurance companies typically are data intensive and cognizant of risks. Organizations that don’t become digitally sensitive would miss the race.”

In line with this chain of thought, Pranay from BCG emphasized the importance of transforming the agency channel. “COVID-19 is expected to accelerate digitization of the agency channel. Omni channel is expected to be a norm in the future. While it hasn’t happened in the last 12 months, a war for talent is imminent. Digitally evolved companies will be better positioned to capture, share, and create value as opposed to their traditional counterparts,” he said.



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OPPO releases new OPPO A54 in Sri Lanka

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OPPO, the leading global smart device brand, announces the launch of OPPO A54 in Sri Lanka.

A54’s attention to design and great usability is evident in both its exquisite appearance and how it helps to capture great looking shots. This starts with the Material of the Rear Cover, which uses metallic material for its 3D panel, but contributes to a stronger and less bendable structure but also a comfortable in-hand feel. As a result, A54 weighs about 192g and is 8.4mm thin. To align the overall look and feel of the phone, close attention is paid to the Middle Frame Process.

“A Series is designed to enhance or complement our users’ lifestyles and OPPO A54 achieves just this with a phone that manages to balance a high-end performance with contemporary design. Its large 5000mAh battery and 18W Fast Charge makes sure you’re fully powered to get you through your day. With A54, you’ll also have enough storage and memory to make sure that you’ll enjoy your entertainment without the frustrations of an underperforming smartphone,” said Bob Li, CEO, XINDA Lanka (OPPO Sri Lanka).

The Rear Cameras itself feature a 13MP Main Camera, 2MP Macro Camera for close range shots, and 2MP Bokehfor brilliant bokeh shots that blur the background and highlight the subject of the photo. A54 enhances shots in all environments with Dazzle Color, balancing the saturation and brightness. A54 also supports filming videos including SLO-MO at 720P at 90FPS with the rear camera, and up to 10 video Filters including Original, Gentle, Noon, Subtle and more.

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Pan Asia Bank records best-ever Q1 results in challenging times – Profit After Tax soars by 81% to post Rs. 750 mn.

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Pan Asia Banking Corporation PLC reported the best-ever first quarter financial results during the quarter ended 31st March 2021 to report a Pre-Tax Profit of Rs. 986 Mn and a Post-Tax Profit of Rs. 750 Mn after recording impressive growth rates of 51% and 81% respectively, demonstrating the resilience amidst challenging macro economic conditions. The Bank’s performance was characterised by strength and resilience, despite the heightened uncertainty due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 impact on the Sri Lankan economy, the Bank’s Operating Profits before VAT on Financial Services reached Rs. 1,197 Mn with an increase of 47%, reflecting excellence in core banking performance and the success of cost containment measures evidenced by improvement in all key matrices which now rank among the industry bests. This feat was achieved even after setting aside provisions for probable loan losses amounting to Rs. 638 Mn. The Bank increased the provision buffers for probable deterioration in credit quality through management overlays, experience adjustments and adjustments for the exposures in the elevated risk industries during the quarter. As a result, total impairment charges for the quarter increased by 21% on YoY basis.

The Bank’s Net Interest Income for the period witnessed an increase of 17% due to significant reduction in financial cost of funds at a rate faster than the drop in interest yields of interest bearing assets. Consequently, the Bank’s Net Interest Margin for the quarter improved to 5.07% from 4.41% reported three months ago. In the meantime, the Bank’s Net Fee and Commission Income recorded a growth of 28% with the rebound in demand for credit due to revival of economic activity amidst the low interest rate regime. The volatility in foreign exchange rates enabled the Bank to increase its Foreign Exchange Income substantially as reflected in Other Operating Income.

The Bank is committed to revenue maximisation and cost management despite sector vulnerabilities that prevailed since last year. The Bank’s Cost-to-Income Ratio improved from 45.66% to 38.08% within a three months period owing to the excellence in core banking performance which is reflected in the noteworthy overall growth in key revenue lines and various strategies and measures taken to contain overhead costs. In fact, the Bank managed to bring down its Other Operating Expenses by 9% in 2021 Q1 compared to 2020 Q1. Meanwhile, increased allocations for performance bonuses, development of human capital and staff welfare led to an increase in personnel costs during the reporting period compared to 2020 Q1.

The Bank’s Post-Tax Profits for the reporting quarter also gained to an extent due to application of lower corporate income tax rate of 24% for tax provisioning in accordance with the guideline issued by CA Sri Lanka on 23rd April 2021.

The Bank continues to report solid Key Profitability Indicators which rank among the highest in the industry. The Bank’s Pre-Tax Return on Assets also improved to 2.24% from 1.70%. Further, the Bank reported a stunning Return on Equity (ROE) of 19.27% during the quarter under review which stands among the industry best. The ROE is the most important performance indicator to gauge the attractiveness of the Banking sector and Pan Asia Bank during its last few years has consistently remained an outlier in the industry.

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SLIIT nurtures school children at ‘Soft Skills + 2021’

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The SLIIT Business School (SBS) organised ‘Soft Skills+ 2021’ concluded on an extremely successful note recently helping students engage, cooperate and thrive in building their talents towards personal development and career progression.

SLIIT Soft Skills+ event is an annual flagship CSR Project of the SLIIT Business School organized with the primary objective of developing secondary school students’ soft skills in positive thinking, creativity, analytical thinking, leadership skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, and teamwork.

Over the years, the programme has garnered much popularity among schools and participants. Due to its tremendous success achieved in previous programmes, Soft Skills+ 2021 followed an upgraded structure. For the first time in the Soft Skills+ programme history, the event was held via online platforms, including a Soft Skills-based online quiz and an online workshop for students and teachers.

During the Grand Finale, Prof. Samantha Thelijjagoda, Dean of SLIIT Business School welcomed the participants and distinguished guests. Prof. Lalith Gamage, Vice Chancellor, SLIIT also addressed the gathering.

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