Retaining a skilled, loyal agency force

SkillingIndia on September 12, 2012 Comments
Skilled agents can increase penetration in the market with right knowledge & information.


Gaurav D. Garg, Managing Director & CEO of Tata AIG General Insurance Co. Ltd. feels, “Skill is a bigger issue than employment.”

SkillingIndia: The insurance sector is growing fast, what is your assessment on the demand of skilled insurance agents?

Gaurav Garg: The general insurance industry (GI) is growing at a pace of 18%; however the current penetration of GI in India is only 0.7%. There, thus, lies a potential in creating awareness amongst the Indian masses on the dire need of availing general insurance to protect their assets and themselves from an uncertain tomorrow. We believe that this awareness is best created by the agents on the field itself.

Further, we have seen that there exists a knowledge gap between the companies offering the insurance product and its delivery to the final consumer. We feel that the distribution through Agency will effectively reduce this gap. Tata AIG is one of the few select companies to have invested heavily in the training of its Agents. The Company is renowned for its process and selling skills training programs for agents. We believe that skilled agents will not only succeed in this sector, but will also be an effective medium in imparting awareness and knowledge to the customer.

SkillingIndia: In order to be successful in the general insurance sector today, which are the key skills required in insurance agents? Why?

Gaurav Garg: To be successful in the general insurance sector, it is necessary for the agent to understand and have knowledge of the entire life cycle of GI products, company philosophy, products, selling process, documentation process, claim process etc. Good communication skills, an intuitive understanding of the customers’ needs, ability to sell in a competitive market are additional skills which would also assist in the agent’s success. We also believe that the agent can develop his or her talents to assist the customer with a product that matches his or her requirements; this will reduce the instances of not just mis-selling but over-selling as well.

A good agent must also have excellent networking skills to continuously grow his or her customer base. In the present digital age, it is important for agents to be internet savvy and have the expertise to conduct their business online. We have seen instances of agents utilizing social networking sites to develop new clients!

SkillingIndia: What are the skills deficits you find in insurance agents? What do you propose can be done to improvise the situation?

Gaurav Garg: We have seen that a majority of energetic new agents are not willing to invest too much time in product and process training. Another area of concern is the selling skills of existing agents. It could lead to mis-selling due to lack of understanding of the product or the customers’ requirements.

To overcome these challenges, agents at Tata AIG are required to undergo a stipulated training program, which is in addition to the IRDA licensing training. All Tata AIG agents have to be certified by our trainers before they are sent on field. This ensures that when customers opt for policies from Tata AIG Agents, they are given the right information and the right product.

SkillingIndia: In terms of priorities what should be tackled first – employment issues or skills deficits? Why?

Gaurav Garg: In my view skill is a bigger issue than employment. In a growing market, it is important to have skilled agents who can increase penetration of GI with the right knowledge and information. Skilled agents or employees will add value to existing business and to customers.

SkillingIndia: What challenges does Tata AIG face in getting skilled manpower?

Gaurav Garg: We believe in equipping our agents with the required skills to ensure their success. Since the earnings of agents is based on variable commissions; it sometimes acts as a deterrent for skilled individuals in opting Agency as a career option. The insurance industry as a whole faces a challenge in finding and retaining good agents. While being an agent is a rewarding career, we have seen that good talent is moving towards more fashionable jobs in ITES and BPOs.

SkillingIndia: What initiatives does Tata AIG have in terms of developing and retaining skilled manpower?

Gaurav Garg: Tata AIG’s reward and recognition program is considered a benchmark in the insurance industry. We have a three stage agent development program designed to equip our agents with professional skills and expertise that would help them run a large agency that employs a large number of people. Tata AIG’s team ensures that our agents get the right guidance and direction to develop their business, month on month. Our team works closely with each of our agents to train them on their specific development needs. As agents mature on field, we upgrade their knowledge by providing personalized training on specific products. We believe that these initiatives and our training program help us in attracting and retaining a good and loyal agency force.

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