Balkrishna Singhania, Executive Vice-President and Head, Digital, HDFC Life Insurance Company Limited

The banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector is at the forefront of digital transformation. The proliferation of digital and mobile banking, rising customer demand for hyper-personalised services, rapid technological advancements and strict data compliance requirements have driven this shift. Industry leaders share their views on the key technological trends, digital initiatives, emergence of digital currencies and future outlook…

What is the current state of digital transformation in the Indian BFSI sector? What are the key trends shaping this transformation?

India is witnessing a paradigm shift, where traditional business models are being disrupted and customer expectations are evolving faster than ever. Today’s customers want personalised experiences, real-time interactions and seamless enga­ge­ments across multiple touchpoints. That is where digital transformation comes in. However, it is not just about adopting fancy technologies. It is about changing the way we think, collaborate, and deliver va­lue to customers. And that is exactly wh­at we do at HDFC Life — we leverage digital technologies to create a culture of innovation, experimentation, and continuous improvement.

What are the use cases of new-age technologies such as AI/ML, blockchain and cloud in BFSI? What factors are driving the adoption of these solutions?

We are leveraging AI/ML to enhance customer experience, automate processes, and improve risk management. For ins­tance, our AI/ML-powered chatbots as­­sist customers with quick queries and reduce the load on our call centres. We are also using AI/ML to detect frauds and predict customer behaviour, which, in turn, helps to reduce the customer churn rate. Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the insurance industry. We are exploring its potential in creating tamper-proof re­cords, reducing fraud and increasing tra­nsparency. We are leveraging cloud to host and manage our applications, store data, and enable re­mo­te work. Cloud has im­proved our scalability, flexibility, and cost savings.

What are the digital banking and tech initiatives taken by you? How has it benefitted your business and customers?

We have been partnering with various start-ups in the fintech and medtech space and integrating their solutions into our product offerings. For instance, one of our applications allows customers’ medical vi­tals to be captured from a 60-second video feed. This has the potential to disrupt the industry at large, particularly the underwriting process.

We have deployed AI/ML solutions and over 300 bots to enhance customer experiences, detect fraud, and optimise our operations. For instance, our Whats­App chatbot, “Etty”, uses the latest natural language processing algorithms to address customer queries and provide personalised recommendations. We are also leveraging these technologies to improve our underwriting processes, persistence, etc. By analysing vast amounts of data, we are able to identify patterns and trends that help us make more informed decisions. With the advent of generative AI (GenAI), we are deploying a tool to summarise past customer interactions in order to serve them better.

“There is immense potential for new-age technologies such as AI/ML, blockchain, and cloud in the BFSI sector.” Balkrishna Singhania

What are the cybersecurity trends in the sector? How do you ensure data security amid rapid digitalisation?

Cyber security is a top priority for our organisation, given the rapid digitalisation of the sector. Some of the key cybersecurity trends include increased use of AI/ML to detect threats more quickly; implementation of cloud-based security solutions to protect against data breaches and unauthorised access; greater emphasis on encryption to safeguard sensitive data both in transit and at rest; use of advanced threat protection technologies such as sandboxing and behavioural analysis to detect and prevent sophisticated attacks; and focus on endpoint security to protect against threats that may originate from employee devices or other endpoints. To ensure data security, we conduct regular security audits and vulnerability assessments to identify and remediate potential weaknesses.

How is eRupee expected to transform India’s financial sector? What other technology trends will emerge in the future?

The adoption of the eRupee will have a deep impact on various areas. eRupee will enable seamless transactions between individuals, businesses, and governments, fostering financial inclusion and improving efficiency in the payment ecosystem. By reducing reliance on cash, eRupee can increase transparency and streamline government processes. It can also aid in the disbursement of subsidies and pensions directly to beneficiaries’ digital wallets.

Other technology trends that are likely to shape the future of India’s financial sector include:

  • GenAI: GenAI can usher in a revolution in the customer service space by providing a significantly better customer experience through interactive chatbots, personalised product pitches and faster complaint resolution.
  • Cloud computing: Cloud computing is becoming increasingly relevant in the BFSI sector, enabling institutions to sto­re and process large amounts of data, reduce infrastructure costs and enhance scalability. This helps in infrastructure modernisation, which facilitates the adoption of advanced technologies such as AI, ML and blockchain.