An Interview with Kalpana Maniar


FST Media: What are your IT priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?

Maniar: Our top IT priority is to provide valuable partnership to our businesses and deliver innovative IT and process solutions that will help them scale, operate with high efficiency, reduce risk and enhance customer connect and experience. All technology initiatives for next 12 to 18 months will be focused on making our IT infrastructure scalable, service delivery efficient and provide automation for straight through processing such that technology becomes a significant vector of growth and scalability for our businesses.

FST Media: What technology or innovation is proving to be the single biggest game changer for the insurance industry?

Maniar: In my opinion data analytics and mobility are the biggest game changing new technologies that will have impact on BFSI business models and create new opportunities. Insurance continues to be a data-driven industry that creates huge volumes of structured and unstructured data.  Harnessing this data will provide Insurance companies with valuable and actionable insights. As regards mobility 70 per cent of property casualty insurers predict that they will offer mobile capabilities by 2014. Mobility-enabled tools for sales and agent productivity and customer engagement will also be large value creators for business. 

FST Media: How has your Unified Trading and Services Platform delivered value to the business and how will you measure success?

Maniar: Our Unified Trading and Servicing Platform is aimed at harnessing diverse operating business lines into a single unified customer experience with the objective of creating multi broker, multi exchange, multi asset class online trading and servicing platform for use of Edelweiss Group entities. The project entailed consolidation of multiple trading systems to enable different Edelweiss group entities to use a highly available and extensible common cutting edge technology infrastructure. The users have derived following benefits:

– Transaction processing capabilities have gone up by 400 per cent
– Number of concurrent users has gone up by approximately 250 per cent
– Reduction in costs for maintenance, support and enhancements to the tune of 30 per cent
– Multi-channel customer interface for information, transaction and servicing
– Uniform experience to Edelweiss retail clients across different entities and channels by offering single sign-on to the customers

FST Media: What role has data and analytics played in the consolidation of Edelweiss’ infrastructure, and how will you continue to build on the success of this project?

Maniar: This Unified Trading and Services consolidated application platform provides for a unique identity to each customer across different asset class and product relationships. Customer analytics is possible across different customer relationships and a 360 degree unified view of the customer with respect to his needs and service requirements is available.

FST Media: What is proving to be your most effective customer acquisition channel and why?

Maniar: Different business at Edelweiss use combinations of offline and online channels based on their target customer segment.

FST Media: As digital insurance emerges, what role does it play in acquiring and retaining the growing Gen Y customer base?

Maniar: Gen Y may not currently constitute a high economic impact market segment for the insurers. We all know that Gen Ys use of new technologies such as social networking, chats, blogs and virtual worlds is higher than all other generations.  As Gen Y comes of age and goes through new life events (such as marriage, new home, new car) that trigger financial decisions, use of digital insurance helps insurers to reach out to this group. Insurers have an opportunity to educate and bring awareness in this segment to understand the risks and the value of financial protection and sell products to meet with these needs. 

Use of digital channels also offers a useful medium through which insurers can gain insight on customer expectations across Gen Y and other customer segments. What is more important is to leverage digital technologies to improve the quality of customer experience and engagement for all customer segments including Gen Y.

FST Media: What information sources do you consider invaluable for your job, and why?

Maniar: First and foremost, a valuable ‘inside-in’ source of information is our business teams. In addition to that peer interactions, vendor partner presentations, conferences, reading about technology developments and use cases provide me an outside in perspective.

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Maniar: At Edelweiss we believe the more engaged the team members are, the more they will innovate. We have created an environment that welcomes new ideas and makes engaging employees a key component of our growth strategy. In our technology teams we share the priorities and objectives of the company and value that technology teams can provide so as to create a shared vision and bring the necessary energy and ownership to be a part of the bigger picture. We also encourage a climate of openness in the team and invite suggestions. This has generated many innovative ideas and helped in generating solutions to cut costs, streamline processes and introduce new products and services.

Sharing workshop sessions are conducted where team members are encouraged to showcases their smart work and innovative ideas. Collaborative efforts in innovation are encouraged to improve cross team communications. Last, but not the least, is to recognize, reward and nurture innovation. It is equally important to recognize efforts even if innovation is unsuccessful.

FST Media: What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career to date?

Maniar: The greatest achievement for me has been my ability and orientation to re-invent myself continuously. Starting from being a chartered accountant to a capital markets practitioner to becoming a techno functional expert and now reinventing myself to leverage digital technology in creating value for business, the journey has been extremely exciting and fulfilling. 

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for, what is yours?

Maniar: Leadership to me is essentially about weaving together pools of excellence and creating a masterpiece. My fundamental belief is most people have a natural curiosity and creativity within them which is waiting to be unleashed. Good leaders can harness and leverage this in creating value both for the company and the individual employee. While most leaders concentrate on the former, the aspect of helping team members grow on their personal side is not given adequate time and attention. I enjoy working towards nurturing and guiding personal growth of my team members and encourage them to break their limitations and re-invent themselves. I have experienced that this automatically brings professional growth and value to the organisation. I feel a personal high when I experience an environment of positive energy and accomplishments among my team members. I would be happy to be remembered as someone who inspired high energy, growth and developed good leaders.