In an exclusive interaction with 4ps b&M, mario perez, director – marketing & sales, canara hsbc obc life insurance discusses why segmentation plays a crucial role when it comes to selling insurance and why he STILL doesn’t have to WORRY about it
June 16, 2008 was the day when you commenced operations. How have the past two years
(smiles) Amazing journey so far...

Life insurance as a product is pretty confusing to most individuals and as such many Indians remain inadequately insured. What is your company doing to overcome this challenge?
We have different types of customer profiles. The first one is the HSBC customer – they are more savvy. And therefore the amount of coaching that they need is less. The Canara-OBC customers are less savvy so we have to do a lot of coaching. In this case, the branch manager plays a very crucial role. He interviews the client and gives a custom-made solution to the clients.

A marketing plan or product launch cannot be successful without proper segmentation. Market segmentation is perhaps the most difficult and complex decision a company must make when deciding its market strategy. Did you also undertake such segmentation studies prior to launching your services? What were the results?
Definitely, segmentation plays a very important role. We sell through the bank so we know the customers’ needs. I know the customer’s spending pattern. I know his financial profile, so that’s how we segment the market. And since it is a partnership, it becomes even easier because HSBC has a completely different clientèle and Canara-OBC is again different. We have a CRM department that is completely computerised and we analyse trends according to our analytics databases; our segmentation is based purely on these trends.

Any plan of selling through the direct route rather then the bank route?
No, we don’t have any such plans. However we do have plans to expand our business through the other distribution channels that are part of our group.
Could you elaborate on your distribution strategy? How many channel partners are you selling through currently?
Apart from selling through the three banks, we have a strategic distribution tie-up with HSBC InvestDirect. We also have strategic tie-ups with two Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) – Shreyas Gramin Bank in UP & Pragathi Gramin Bank in Karnataka. The two RRBs are sponsored by Canara Bank. Along with the three shareholder banks, the RRBs too will function as our corporate agents to sell products. Saral Bima, one of our flagship products will be sold through these RRBs. The low premium product is tailored to meet the investment cum insurance needs of customers in the semi-urban and rural cities.

Is that the reason you are not a heavy advertiser as compared to competition like Max New York Life Insurance?
In part the answer would be yes. But you need to know that being a player who is two years old in the market it will take us some time to grow and probably then we will be a heavy advertiser. If you saw our [initial] TV ads, you’ll notice that we were trying to tell our own customers that we have expanded to selling insurance as well.

HSBC’s global brand proposition is ‘Insuring your emotions’. Is that also the brand proposition of HSBC-Canara-OBC?
Well, yes it is. We needed an identity for this new set up and this proposition is perfect to establish this identity. We have not just segmented the customers based on the databases, but have also segmented the communication. If you see our ads, they are in different languages like Punjabi, Hindi and Tamil.

Have you planned some ATL/BTL activities to increase your presence?
The most crucial part of our strategy is that I have a bank. So to advertise, I don’t have to go to a mall, I don’t have to go to billboards. The customer will walk into the branch and that is where the communication takes place. We have a lot of BTL happening inside the branch. For instance, a financial planning meet is called with 14-15 customers and while the discussion is on, a pitch for insurance is also made. In short, I don’t want to be in the supermarket, but I want to be where my customer is.

Yours was the first company to launch the scheme ‘Immediate Payouts on Death Claim,’ so that the deceased’s family will receive the fund value immediately on registration of death claim under unit-linked policies. Could you elaborate on the scheme?
This is a very viable strategy from a business viewpoint. What we do is that we release one part of the cover without any formalities and for the other part after the whole process has been undertaken. And because of this, the customer feels satisfied.

In a service industry, customer relationship management is of utmost importance. How are you training your staff to fulfill this requirement?
We have a separate team of people who are sent to the bank branches for training. If I were to give a number, we do about 5,000-6,000 individual trainings per year. And this number would probably double in the next year. Further, we don’t train once, we train at least three times a year.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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