The Edelweiss group took some major technology initiatives in 2020. As a result, the group has been able to register industry leading growth in the past few quarters primarily due to the high digital maturity of its businesses. In a detailed interview, Nitin Agarwal, President & Group CIO, Edelweiss Group, describes how his group is taking advantage of implementing emerging technologies such as AI and RPA to accelerate automation.
Some edited excerpts:
As a group, what are some of the leading technology initiatives taken in 2020?
2020 has been the year where we built upon the cloud foundations laid last year and quickly scaled up our cloud footprint. Edelweiss now has a cloud first, mobile first policy. Any new technology initiative has to essentially follow this principle. Our businesses have become highly agile and we are able to quickly launch new products and services into the market. Also, cloud has enabled us to embrace the principle of “fail early, fail fast” and has fostered a culture of innovation within the organization.
We have developed the API management platform to seamlessly integrate not only our internal systems but also our partner systems. Data can be exchanged quickly and securely within the ecosystem. We also extensively used low code software development tools, which have helped us develop new experiences and deliver new process changes extremely quickly.
We have deployed over 20 AI models across our business lines.Leveraging advanced Machine Learning algorithms, these models are being used for evaluating risks, performing AML checks, doing customer KYC,identifying frauds, etc. thereby building efficiencies in our business processes and providing a seamless user experience.
By building an enterprise-wide data platform, we have been able to provide a real time, unified view of information which was previously spread across the businesses in silos. Further, through the use of business intelligence and analytical tools, we are now able to gain insights from the vast stores of data and leverage it for effective decision making.
What has been the impact of these initiatives for your organization? Please explain some major benefits?
Both of our insurance businesses, viz. life insurance and general insurance, have been able to register industry leading growth in the past few quarters primarily due to the high digital maturity of these businesses.
Our broking business has been able to quickly onboard new retail investors and open their demat accounts with relative ease through e-KYC eliminating the need for manual interventions and the requirement to submit any physical documents. Our Asset Management division is using an AI-led e-KYC solution for quickly onboarding new investors for their mutual fund investments. We raised over Rs 11,000 crores in the Bharat Bond ETF series 2 during these pandemic times in just 5 days. With the API platform, we are able to onboard our digital partners seamlessly within days compared to few months earlier. Our General Insurance business recently launched India’s first open API gateway for insurance products.
Biggest impact of the Covid 19 crisis on your technology initiatives? What has changed and how will this impact your technology strategy in 2021? Which technologies will grow in prominence in 2021?
Our preference for our technology spends is heavily towards pay per use model. With the fast changing ecosystem, customer preferences and technology, CapEX spends which consider planning and investment on technology for 3-5 years are increasing becoming difficult. We like to believe technology needs to change every day and you need to be able to change without making huge locked in commitments to a technology system.
Covid-19 has been a blessing in disguise. It helped to not only accelerate the rollout of our collaboration suite but also ensure quick adoption by our employees.This has been visible in the form of increased employee productivity.
We have redesigned our IT networks and security for the new cloud first, mobile first world. By adopting Zero Trust security architecture, we have moved away from the traditional castle-and-moat perimeter security model. This has enabled faster and secure access to applications and the Internet from anywhere, any device at any time essentially paving the way to Work from anywhere model. Through the Branch-in-a-Box model, we can rapidly provision new branch offices as the only necessity now is a laptop and an Internet connection.
Major technology initiatives planned in 2021? Please describe in detail
Some of the major technology initiatives include:
• Serverless architecture –Our belief is that the IT infrastructure should be agile and nimble. It should be more software defined rather than hardware enabled. Going serverless is the end goal of this journey.
• Innovation – With a focus on simplifying the IT landscape, we are continuing with the applications rationalization exercise leveraging the 4Rs (Retire, Replace, Refactor, Retain) framework. The plan is to channelize the savings made to focus on innovation.
• Self-service – We plan to encourage the self-service/DIY concept by promoting low code software development tools as well as our unified collaboration suite.
• Cloud optimization –Since now majority of our application workloads have moved into the cloud in this year, optimizing the usage of the various cloud services will be a key initiative for 2021.
• Personalization – Providing a highly personalized, consistent experience to our customers across channels will be our prime focus area for the next year.
Role of AI and RPA for your industry. How are you using it today, and how do you see it’s role changing in the future?
We have deployed over 20 AI models across our business lines. Leveraging advanced Machine Learning algorithms, these models are being used for evaluating risks, performing AML checks, doing customer KYC, identifying frauds, etc. thereby building efficiencies in our business processes and providing a seamless user experience. We do not view automation in isolation. Automation is baked into all of our technology solutions. Our vision is to embed AI and RPA in the entire process lifecycle rather than providing just point solutions.
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