COVID-19 upturned our lives in many ways. Uncertainties made the consumer focus on securing the financial future of their loved ones, thereby scaling the demand for life insurance in the country. As the demand for life insurance shot up, an uptake in recruitment of insurance agents was also witnessed.
As per the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, the number of agents associated with life insurers was 2.278,000 on 31 March 2020 against 2,195,000 on 31 March 2019. Out of the total 2,278,000 individual agents of the life insurance industry, female individual agents made up 27.02%. Over time, there has also been a steady increase in the number of women insurance agents, who account for nearly 27.5% of the individual agency force today and can rightly be addressed as the harbingers of change in the industry.
From industry leaders to sector experts, many believe that women are better at marketing insurance than men. In the future of insurance distribution, hiring more women agents would not only make greater business sense, but also significantly improve gender parity in India’s insurance domain.
Women are good relationship managers
With an increasing focus on customer satisfaction, the life insurance sector has gone beyond merely crunching numbers. Demand for soft skills such as creativity and communication, for effective customer service and relationships makes it essential to hire employees who can be empathetic, patient and caring. Besides these traits, women are also naturally intuitive and sensitive to the concerns of others. This is important for key moments in the customer journey such as claims processing and underwriting.
Women’s natural ability to connect with others can come in handy during discussions that take place so often, especially with new customers. The agent-customer relationship stands to get a much-needed personalised hue resulting in a positive customer experience. Effective communicators along with winning customer trust are the sine qua non of the sector and women agents can easily fulfil both these requirements.
Adept at multitasking and navigating risks
That women are adept at multitasking is no mystery. A skill largely acquired due to societal expectations; they bring a lot more to the table than men. Moreover, in the finance sector, women are commonly perceived to be more ‘risk averse’ than men. This is what makes them more suitable for job roles that require soft skills, much like that of a life insurance agent. The sector needs to harness the female prowess to take a balanced approach to risk management.
Able nurturers of financial literacy among other women
Women are an important consumer segment in the life insurance space. Drawing more women insurance sellers aboard is a plus because women customers can discuss their financial and health matters more freely with the women agents. This will also have an impact in adding more women customers for the insurance company. The mutual bonding could make a world of difference to sales and scale financial literacy amongst other women, as well. Besides engaging female consumers, recruiting more women insurance agents could also result in designing products that suit the investment needs of women at different stages of their life.
Organisation’s role in empowering employees
Hiring women insurance agents should go beyond just assigning them the job role. Like in any other sector, training is the key to scale the impact. While women agents may possess the apt traits suitable for this job, developing their skill sets for insurance sales and related activities needs a good amount of training. From marketing tips to digital literacy, training the female agents will help harness their productivity to the fullest.
Among the private life insurers, IDBI Federal Life and Max Life Insurance have the highest percentage of women agents, at 45% respectively. The proportion of women agents among MLI’s MDRT qualifiers in 2020 was 51%. Further fortifying their representation within the organisation, we are driving several programmes crafted for women employees at the middle and senior management level and taking concerted steps to ensure a balanced representation of women at our workplace.
Real impact is created when equal opportunities are given to all and the workforce is empowered to take the right decisions. But how can we ensure that? By building a strong and supportive culture in the organisation where ideas are developed and turned into reality, leading to innovation and growth. Cultivating skillsets and immersing in continuous learning is another important step in creating a leadership pipeline. Committing to diversity and inclusion agenda makes you realise the business value it provides in understanding the markets, serving customers, attracting and retaining the best employees and fuelling innovation.
This article is in paid partnership with Max Life Insurance and was authored by Mr V. Viswanand, Deputy Managing Director, Max Life Insurance.
An industry veteran in the financial services sector for nearly three decades, V. Viswanand is Deputy Managing Director at Max Life Insurance and a member of the Board.
Under his belt, he is responsible for Distribution, including Proprietary Channels, Bancassurance and Third Party Business, Institutional Sales, Business Development and Distribution Operations.
He steers the strategic direction and growth of the company and leads the Max Skill First training partnership as well as the Procurement and Facilities functions.
He played an instrumental role in not only propelling the company to emerge as the industry leader in Customer Retention, Claims Paid Ratio and Customer Loyalty but also had led the Company’s wins in several global and national accolades in Quality and Technology, including the coveted Gold medal at ASQ, USA and RBNQA.
More from Max Life Insurance:
How life insurers can transform into a new-age digital hybrid sales distribution model post COVID-19
Reimagining the role of advisers to align with the future of life insurance distribution in India
Revisit Mr V. Viswanand's sharing at #InsuranceInspired
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