Want to Innovate? Don’t Be Afraid of Being Fired Says AXA Affin Life CEO

Want to Innovate? Don’t Be Afraid of Being Fired Says AXA Affin Life CEO

by December 11, 2019


“If you want to innovate, you must never be afraid of being fired”

Those were the first lines that Rohit Nambiar, CEO of AXA Affin Life said when I asked about the secret sauce behind a relatively small player like AXA Affin Life capturing over 70% of the digital life protection market share.

A bold statement, but with the inertia that exists within insurance is seeing it is perhaps this type of mentality that is required to drive much-needed change within the industry.

The 39 year-old leader believes that the insurance industry a giant that has been sleeping for far too long, he thinks that insurers are so product-centric that the industry has seemingly forgotten that at the core of the insurance business is to offer people protection at their time of need.

Everything must be viewed through the lense of the customers

There’s been no shortage of fancy technologies that have flooded market of late, from AI-powered chatbots to blockchain in insurance, Rohit is a strict believer of that no matter what it is, it must be viewed from the lense of the customer.

“We need to be obsessed with our customers. Investing on understanding our customers, their preferences and reactions to our offers before and after launching a product.” he said.

Citing AXA eMedic, their digital medical insurance as an example, he said that they have focused ensuring the purchase journey will not take more than 10-minutes and the underwriting questions are simple.

While the product was initially targetted at those aged between 16 to 30 years, by listening to their customer’s demand, they have expanded the offering to children as young as 15 days and expatriates working in Malaysia. They’ve recently even expanded the offering to target young families.


If a project takes more than three months we go back to the drawing board

To be agile seems to be core to AXA Affin Life’s mantra, Rohit believes that the “fastest fish will eat the small and big fish alike” which is phrase that he often repeats when addressing his internal staff and also during public speeches.

In speaking to many of the various insurtech and fintech startups that work with AXA Affin Life, they seem to verify the speed in which they were able to strike a deal and go-to-market.

He shared in these past two years there have only been two projects that have taken more than three months.

Rohit believes that the era of long and expensive have passed and that speed of execution is crucial in today’s modern world.


Nearly 300% growth through digital channels

Like most insurers sales through digital channels only account for a small portion of AXA Affin Life’s sales, in their case it accounts for roughly 3%. However, according to Rohit, that’s quickly changing, he shared that they’re seeing almost 300% growth through their digital channels.

By 2023 the insurer targets to have 20% of a sales come through digital channels.

Those who are familiar with the insurance sector will be aware that this transition is often met with resistance from their agencies. Even in China where digitalisation of financial services is ahead of the curve, 90% of insurance premiums still comes from agencies and banassurance.

Insurers like AXA Affin Life walk a fine line in balancing shifting consumer behavior and maintaining the interest of the agencies who still remain their bread and butter.

In this Rohit says he makes it clear to the agencies that digital will complement them and not substitute them, he shared 27% of sales coming from 1-year insurance agents are coming from digital leads provided by them.

Fresh off winning the “Young Leader of the Year Award” by Asia Insurance Review (which he joked 39 is too old to be considered young leader) Rohit seems optimistic about the future of AXA Affin Life and the industry.

Moving forward, he said that their focus would be to drive a seamless, frictionless on-demand healthcare covering the entire spectrum of healthcare, wellness, care management, payments and claims.