AMITABH CHAUDHRY


AMITABH-Managing Director & CEO
HDfC LIFE

Describe your business in 10 words or fewer.
We are in the business of providing financial protection for people.

What is the big idea behind your business?
The way life insurance sells today has an important technology element to it. We envisage a world where we can become a technology company selling life insurance. This aspiration drives us towards creating capabilities that transform the way we do business across our value chain.

It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
The operating business environment for financial services across the world changed post the global financial crisis. Governments and regulators became extremely stringent and customers shifted swiftly back towards safe havens. The life insurance sector in India was no exception. In 2010, the new products regulations brought in far and wide reaching changes to the industry in India. The industry experienced all elements of a ‘VUCA’ world as volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity became all pervasive. While the life insurance industry grappled with these changes, the evolving customer behaviour and technology changes have created a dynamic environment where not just companies but industries themselves need to keep pace with time.
All these things result in the traditional planning cycles becoming shorter. Responsiveness and adaptability have become the key differentiators, as the sector operates in an environment of unexpected events. We track these day-in and day-out at multiple forums like internal reviews, partner discussions, vendor meetings and external meetings such as investor conferences. Market teaches us a lot of new developments and we try to incorporate these in the way we run our business.

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What is your prime focus for retaining customers?
Customer experience is becoming extremely critical these days with the rise of new business models in various industries. Life insurance is not left untouched in spite of the nature of business, with a large part of business done by intermediaries as corporate agents or individual agents. We realise this and keep evaluating various customer touchpoints where we can provide a seamless experience. Our direct and online business takes us directly to the customer in the market. Learnings from this get transposed to other parts of the business. Being in the financial services industry we identify our ‘moments of truth’ for the customer like claim settlement and work towards having a seamless process for these.

Your Favorite Book or Quote of all time?
I Am That: Talks On The Isha Upanishad” by Osho

What was your first paying job?
I started my career in 1987 with Bank of America.

Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
There are various mechanisms through which I stay in touch with employees across the hierarchy. Townhalls, Internal Councils, and Employee Celebration events are some of the formal forums where I get an opportunity to interact with the employees. I also travel extensively to meet the clients/ distributers and use that opportunity to visit the branches and meet employees. We have an open door policy and employees can get in touch with the Management and me through multiple touch-points. There are multiple instances where the employees have made use of this to highlight things.
Our customers write to me many times for positive feedback or for their concerns. I understand their views and send a response with the relevant information. For life insurance our distribution partners are also our customers. In various events that we organise for our partners, I get an opportunity to interact with the employees of my distribution partners. This is very important to me since they are a valuable part of the value chain.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
“Manage the cashflows well to run a successful business”.
What has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
As a CEO there are two things that keep surprising me. One is that every year the business is hit by something unanticipated. Secondly, the opportunities are only limited by ones’ imagination.

What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career progression?
I believe that the learning never stops and one always remains a student. The realisation is important and people who forget this are not able to make the most of the situations that life throws them into. One learning from the life insurance business has been building the business brickby- brick and the same applies to the career. There is a natural time frame in which certain progression happens and one needs to be cognizant of this fact. There is no magic wand but only continuous improvement. These aspects have helped me plan better and appreciate the developments around me.
I believe that the learning never stops and one always remains a student. The realisation is important and people who forget this are not able to make the most of the situations that life throws them into. One learning from the life insurance business has been building the business brickby- brick and the same applies to the career. There is a natural time frame in which certain progression happens and one needs to be cognizant of this fact. There is no magic wand but only continuous improvement. These aspects have helped me plan better and appreciate the developments around me.

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