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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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‘Govt. lacks mechanism to recover USD 40 billion spirited out of SL from 2008 to 2018’

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Dr-Kalpa-Rajapaksha

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The government doesn’t have any mechanism to recover the USD 40 billion that was siphoned out of the country illegally from 2008 to 2018 by Sri Lanka’s business elites, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Peradeniya Dr. Kalpa Rajapaksha said.

“Most people think that the IMF loan is a victory for Sri Lanka without knowing its risk factors. These are exceptionally high because one of the main impacts would be for the banking sector whose liquidity is due to weaken on account of high tax impositions and certain economic reforms, Dr. Rajapaksha told The Island Financial Review.

Dr. Rajapaksha added: ‘The tax relief given during President Gotabaya Rajapaksha’s tenure triggered this issue, which cost government coffers more than Rs 450 billion. However, Sri Lanka has to carefully follow IMF recommendations taking its history into consideration. It is said that Greece and Ethiopia and several other countries absolutely failed by following IMF recommendations in the past.

‘We are in the dark as to the method of economic recovery because the government is attending to deeper, burning issues in the country, such as reduction of poverty and ending economic inequities.

‘The imposition of heavy taxes on people, especially professionals, via a wealth tax and a heritage tax by 2025 and the increasing of direct taxes, such as VAT, on low income classes, without taking into account the need for a wage hike, will iraise the poverty level and widen wealth inequalities.

‘Inflation at the global level is very high and strategies are required to increase exports and cut down the heavy import dependency of the economy. This is a prerequisite to address all economic woes.

‘The previous ruling party squandered and stole billions of dollars but the present government not having any plan to recover that money is a tragedy. Therefore, promoting neo- liberal principles is impossible under the current corruption scenario.

‘Further, the IMF has set the target of reducing the debt to GDP ratio to 0.7 per cent in 2023, along with their recommendations. Many people doubt the achievability of these aims.’

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Global banking sector instabilities affect local bourse

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE trading got off to a positive start but later turned negative yesterday due to huge selling pressure. The reasons being investor worries over a domestic debt restructuring mechanism after having secured the IMF loan and the negative global scenario when it comes to the banking sector, market analysts said.

According to analysts, during the last week strategically important banks in the global economic system went through credit default swaps, especially Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and Credit Suisse Group AG. But another leading European Corporate Bank possibly facing a credit default swap, created some ripple effects for economies like Sri Lanka, analysts said.

The All- Share Price Index went down by 134.1 points and S and P SL20 declined by 51.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 871 million with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in NDB, which crossed 1.2 million shares to the tune of Rs 51.6 million; its shares traded at Rs 43 and Aitken Spence 772,000 shares crossed for Rs 47.1 million, its shares traded at Rs 61.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, SLT Rs 82 million (717,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 52.8 million (8.2 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 50.1 million (298,000 shares traded), Tokyo Cement (Non- Voting) Rs 36.5 million (388,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 33.6 million (251,000 shares traded), ALC Cables Rs 33.3 million (406,000 shares traded) and Sunshine Holdings Rs 27.2 million (633,000 shares traded). During the day 45.4 million share volumes changed hands in 15000 transactions.

The market is generating revenue from SLT over news of it being divested; moreover, there has been interest for the hotel and tourism indexes, since tourist arrivals and earnings have been attractive, an analyst said.

It is said that Treasury bond yields opened steady on Monday, while the rupee opened weaker at spot market, dealers said.

A 01.07.2025 bond was quoted at 30.75/31.00 per cent on Monday, up from 30.90/31.20 per cent on Friday. A 15.09.2027 bond was quoted at 28.00/70 per cent, up from 28.00/50 per cent from Friday. The Sri Lanka rupee opened at 322/325 against the US dollar, weaker from 320/325 a day earlier.

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Holding ‘Raid Amazones’ for second consecutive year in SL, a rare honour for her – Head of Marketing Srilankan Airlines

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Flying start to ‘Raid Amazones'

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

More than 250 female French athletes arrived in Sri Lanka for the challenging ‘Raid Amazones’ adventure event that took place last week in Kandy. They arrived in Sri Lanka for the second consecutive year, which was a big achievement for the country when it comes to the tourism sector, Head of Marketing SriLankan Airlines Saminda Perera said.

“For the first time in ‘Raid Amazones’ history they selected one country for two consecutive years, which could be considered a great honour for Sri Lanka. This would enable more French tourists to arrive in Sri Lanka in the future, Perera told the media recently during the event in Kandy. ‘Raid Amazones’ will hit the streets of the fabled hill capital, Kandy, with the participation of over 250 female athletes.

‘Raid Amazones’ is a well-known annual destination adventure event originating in France, which features female athletes competing their way through a range of challenges, such as, orienteering, mountain biking, canoeing, riding, running and archery.

“Sri Lanka was chosen over rival destinations by the event’s founders due to the unparalleled warmth of its people and support on the ground to pull off a successful event. Their decision is also due to SriLankan Airlines’ tireless marketing efforts to secure the popular trail on successive occasions for Sri Lanka in its hour of need for international tourism support, Perera said.

Saminda Perera

Tourism sources added: “During the 21st edition of the trail, the participants will be able to connect with a potpourri of natural and historical highlights as they trek through the Kandyan plateau in Central Sri Lanka.

“Their journey, though, would begin from the moment that they step onboard SriLankan Airlines to fly from Paris to Colombo, on an aircraft dedicated to ‘Raid Amazones 2023’.

“Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kandy, the iconic setting of ‘Raid Amazones 2023’, is renowned for two of the most recognizable cultural symbols that define Sri Lanka.

“SriLankan Airlines partnered Raid Amazones in 2022 soon after recommencing operations to Paris.

“SriLankan Airlines, together with Connaissance de Ceylan, the official ground- handling partner of the event, will go all out to ensure that the French group experiences the best in Sri Lankan hospitality.

“This event will especially help create more awareness of Sri Lanka as an adventure travel hotspot among French travellers and the rest of Europe, where ‘Raid Amazones’ is sought-after and attracts adventure-seekers.”

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