How Aditya Birla Capital got back to 'normal' post lockdown

The financial impact of this pandemic on ABCL’s businesses is going to depend a lot on the way it resumes operations in the economy, writes company chief executive Ajay Srinivasan

Updated: Aug 22, 2020 10:53:15 AM UTC
Ajay Srinivasan is the Chief Executive of Aditya Birla Group's Financial Services; Image: Vikas Khot

This is Part 3 of a series on how Aditya Birla Capital dealt with the fallout of Covid-19. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

With the partial lifting of lockdown, by the end of June, close to 90 percent of ABCL subsidiary branches across the country opened their doors to customers, signalling that business is getting back to normal. Employees started operating at these branches, in small numbers.

The HR Team created a comprehensive Business Normalisation Plan (BNP), which focuses on how to reopen offices, protocols, what percentage of employees the company can bring back, sanitation measures, and which individual(s) is accountable for what function.

Alongside, the company ensured that only critical-for-business employees would attend office, and would travel using personal vehicles.  Those who live in containment zones or under curfew, and those who have health issues themselves, have not been asked to join.

ABCL’s Life Insurance and Health Insurance verticals both have huge dependency on training their frontline employees, advisors and partner employees. During the partial lifting of lockdown, the company moved all physical training sessions to digital. The HR function created Virtual Instructor Led Trainings (VILT) and digital training content, besides leveraging learning apps for self-paced trainings.

Since the situation is dynamic, the company has set up a central 'containment team'. This team monitors containment zones across the country. While the information shared by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs gives the overall guidelines/framework, the team tracks the various guidelines issued by States/UTs. Moreover, most of the decisions on containments are left to the District Administration/ Municipal Authorities at a city/ municipal level, which the team tracks daily. This information helps the businesses take decisions on which branches can be opened.

In the current environment, people's primary concerns are health and wealth. Starting May 2020, the company created a platform for podcasts on these aspects. These podcasts feature industry stalwarts, and are advisory in nature. More than 20,000 people engaged with these podcasts over the past three months. Over 65,000 people engaged with in-house health and wealth planners in the last three months.

ABCL’s performance during the last financial year and in the last three months of lockdown demonstrated that with the company’s digital assets, it can onboard its customers and distributors, provide service and effect collections. For instance, ABCL’s health insurance business issued 97 percent of policies digitally, vs. 93 percent in the previous year. Its life insurance business sourced 100 percent business digitally. The mutual fund business serviced 95 percent transaction digitally, and digital transactions grew by 25 percent year on year. The lending businesses leveraged on the EBOT technology with CRM to ensure faster turn-around time for customers, currently at 81 percent vs. 65 percent pre-lockdown.

These are really incredible outcomes given the environment the company has been operating in and speaks for the spirit and effort of the teams.

The financial impact of this pandemic on ABCL’s businesses is going to depend a lot on the way it resumes operations in the economy. A lot is going to depend on the strength and quality of government policies to support the economy in these unprecedented times.

ABCL foresees its protection businesses, life and health insurance, witnessing some demand where fulfilment will be largely digital. It is expecting that mutual funds would benefit from the huge amount of systemic liquidity. The lending businesses will face the most challenge, given the state of the economy. This business has been focussing on leveraging sales and credit teams to ensure that its collections come in on time. They have also identified potential sectors, which could come under stress, and are proactively engaging with those stakeholders to avoid any collection challenges in future.

The writer is Chief Executive of Aditya Birla Capital

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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