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Interview with Binayak Dutta - Group Chief Distribution Officer at FWD

When it comes to distribution, insurers choose various strategies to stay ahead from the competition. Some of the major distribution challenges are:

  • Ways to ease the life of distributors (agents, brokers & partners),
  • Key success factors to improve Customer Experience and satisfaction.


1] Sia Partners (S.P.): What is your role at FWD Group?

Binayak Dutta (B.D.): After various Senior Executive roles with Prudential (CEO of Thailand and Vietnam), I moved six months ago to a regional position with FWD as Group Chief Distribution Officer. I oversee our distribution channels and intermediaries across Asia. 


2] (S.P.): What are your distribution mix and specificities?

(B.D.): FWD is quite young, with less than four years of operating history, which, in the context of insurance, is nothing. Our culture is evolving and we rely on the entrepreneurial ability of our country CEOs. We are a challenger brand, on its way to becoming a major Life insurer in Asia. 

Three structural pillars sustain our culture:

1. We rely on a hybrid FEDERATED STRUCTURE with multi-country operations. The group oversees verticals (Finance, Marketing, Distribution, etc.) through a set of standards. We partner with countries to uphold these standards and work in line with our brand vision to “change the way people feel about insurance”.

2. Our country balance is evolving, from the ING acquisition to eight markets today. Our ability to tackle new markets, to move away from legacy systems and to leverage mobility have all been key to our success. Given this ASTRONOMICAL GROWTH, our culture and model will continue to develop.

3. BACKED BY PCG - Our distinct advantage is being part of Pacific Century Group (PCG) alongside PCCW and HKT. Our Group Chief Executive, Huynh Thanh Phong, is passionate about technology and hence we are privileged in terms of our systems capability (for point of sales, back-end quote, policy management or distribution management). 

The distribution piece is core to our vision. We define distribution excellence as providing a superior customer experience across our omni-channel distribution platform. 

FWD relies on a combination of regionally spread channels (brokers with pan-country presence), local distributors (agencies, bank partnerships), along with online channels. We are neither an internet company, nor a traditional insurer. It’s about building up the foundations of our distribution platform in Asia.



3] (S.P.): Could you share the drivers of your distribution strategy?

(B.D.): I don’t believe in channel supremacy as it would mean having prejudices. Therefore, you have to offer the entire range. But within the catalogue, you can create differential customer experiences. That’s the emphasis.

1. AGENCY DIFFERENTIATION - We believe in digitisation to drive the change. 85 to 90% of our agencies have from day one applied paperless prospecting, financial analysis and planning, application and proposal processing. Everybody is on tablets, no more paper forms! Using tools to enhance productivity while keeping the human touch is hybrid distribution to me.

2. MOBILE FOOTPRINT - In Asia, it makes sense for customer and distributor solutions to be offered on mobile platforms, given the mobile penetration rate. All of FWD’s distribution management tools, training, customer servicing are available on iOS and Android. This is a distinct advantage for us.

3. MULTI-CHANNEL COMMUNICATION - There are large number of users who are accessing Facebook through their mobile. Insurers, unless they engage in the same manner, will miss the proposition opportunity. FWD already offers such channels, relying on both proprietary and partnership solutions (e.g. LINE in Thailand).



4] (S.P.): What is the role of Distribution in improving the Customer Experience?

(B.D.): Developing trust in the minds of customers and distributors is key. As a challenger brand, we have to live up to their expectations and stick to our mission to change the way people feel about insurance. Are we there yet? Of course not after only 3.5 years, but we are building the track record and believe in proofs of concept. One talks, the other delivers. 


5] (S.P.): How does FWD manage their Customer Experience consistency? 

(B.D.): Ultimately, the consumer decides, but there is an element of product fit per channel. We have, for instance, composite licenses for direct-to-consumer in Singapore, but GI sales prevail due to higher commoditisation. Only simple Life products surface onto pure digital channels. For advice-intensive products, we developed a hybrid distribution, with face-to-face steps backed by digital tools to simplify the F&A process. The product mix per channel depends on markets, but our focus remains on developing all channels equally well.

At FWD, we are serious about the customer experience and hence relevant measures have been incorporated into our performance metrics. In the group, we are regularly monitoring the customer experience in each of our countries to ensure they are improving and that they are aligned with our brand.


6] (S.P.): How do you integrate the Distributor Experience in FWD’s strategy?

(B.D.): We have a segmented approach per channel. We have developed an Elite Program for agencies, bancassurance, IFS, Corporate Care, etc. For agencies for instance, we look at the building blocks, i.e. product and performance management, training, etc. For us, the attempt is to make Digital the unique selling proposition.


7] (S.P.): What will help you to ease your distributors’ life? 

(B.D.): We focus on designing digital enablers to help agencies become more productive and serve the customer better. Digital fluency is a critical part of our DNA.

8] (S.P.): Given the tech and societal changes in Asia, how will FWD adapt their distribution?

(B.D.): We focus on enhancing our traditional distribution effectiveness. Easier said than done! It is all about how to empower the agents, combining classic and digital tools. Our objectives: 

1. Enhance pre-customer relationships while prospecting;
2. Streamline underwriting and policy issuance experiences; and
3. Simplify post-sale journeys.





1IFS = Intermediary in Financial Services
2More on FWD Max Platform: https://www.fwd.com.hk/en/press/2017/FWD-Hong-Kong-Launches-FWD-MAX-Expe...
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