CEO: PASHA Life is gradually transforming into an IT company -INTERVIEW

Niyaz Ismayilov, CEO of "PASHA Life Insurance" OJSC

© APA | Niyaz Ismayilov, CEO of "PASHA Life Insurance" OJSC

# 02 January 2024 14:28 (UTC +04:00)

APA presents to you the traditional final interview of the CEO of the country's leading life insurance company - OJSC "PASHA Life Insurance" Niyaz Ismayilov.

Dear Niyaz Muallim, what goals has PASHA Life reached by the end of 2023? Could you list significant moments?

2023 marks the final year of the current strategic period for PASHA Life. I want to note that 2023 has become outstanding for our company. I would like to emphasize that this year has been exceptional for our company. Primarily, in terms of numbers, we achieved record profits not only in the life insurance, but also in the general insurance market. According to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), by the end of 2023, our profit will exceed 40 million manats. We anticipated that the last year of the strategic period will be successful, since in 2021-2022, significant work was done in our business, such as Agile-transformation, development of individual products, automation of processes, as well as significant investments in the field of data analytics.

Last year, we reported a nearly 25% increase in insurance premiums by applying the Agile methodology in the sales department, which is a traditional structure in the company. Overall, we implemented Agile methodology in some back-office structures, and since the results were successful, the specified methodology will be applied in other structures over the following years.

Regarding products, the company achieved commendable results with only 4 products. We also established a laboratory for the development of other types of voluntary insurance products, resulting in insurance premiums of 7.5 million manats for the "Corporate Life Insurance" product. This indicates a solid foundation for the development of voluntary insurance, and we will continue to increase sales in the coming years.

Also, in 2023, PASHA Life announced the opening of a representative office in Nakhchivan. The representation in Nakhchivan will have a greater impact on our portfolio in the field of compulsory insurance, and in the coming years we will work on other types of voluntary products in this region.

As part of enhancing the ecosystem in the public sector, efforts on integration with the relevant systems of the Administration of the Regional Medical Divisions of Azerbaijan (TABIB) have begun. This initiative, implemented only by the PASHA Life, reduced the time of investigation time for insurance cases from over 10 days to just 10 minutes. Such changes not only increase customer satisfaction, but also contribute to the optimal use of human resources.

Speaking of optimization, new systems have been created to optimize our business processes. Customer satisfaction is our top priority. The Lead Management System (LMS), which includes the implementation of the on-site sales process when attracting new customers, was implemented at the end of the year, and is planned to be put into operation at the beginning of the new year. So, contracts will now be concluded during the sales process, reducing the contract execution time from 1 day to the on-site process.

To ensure customer satisfaction, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system has been created. With this system, we aim to address any customer queries from the first call. Also, our roadmap in the field of information technologies and network architecture is completed, and we have defined the structure for creating a Data Warehouse. One of our main goals in 2024 will be the migration to the newly implemented technologies. The introduction of new systems and technologies will lead to positive results, such as better software quality, minimization of errors, optimal resource allocation, technological autonomy of Agile squads, and instant decision making.

It is also worth noting the implementation of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for more efficient organization of business processes. Some processes are already automated by computer programs.

These achievements encompass the highly successful results of 2023, thereby completing the strategic period 2021-2023 of PASHA Life. Completing this stage, we look ahead and are ready for the next strategic period with an emphasis on digital transformation and optimal resource utilization.

In general, how did the strategic period 2021-2023 go for PASHA Life?

The strategic period of 2021-2023 became the period of Digital Transformation for PASHA Life. During this period, PASHA Life carried out numerous initiatives on digitization, optimization of processes, and innovations. I have shared detailed information about these initiatives in my previous annual interviews. In the next strategic period, we strive to maximize revenue with minimal resources. This means that we will do even more in the field of digitalization, responding to market demand, and the environment, as well as to the needs of customers. The primary focus here was to create a foundational system, which has already been implemented in the strategic period from 2021 to 2023.

So, in the next strategic period, maximizing the figures with minimal resources, I can say that PASHA Life will gradually become an IT company.

We know that PASHA Life places special emphasis on corporate culture. How does it impact the business?

Yes, corporate culture plays a key role in shaping a successful business. PASHA Life is one of the few companies on the market that has implemented an Employee Engagement project. In my previous interviews, I mentioned that we measure the Organizational Health Index, which is an indicator of the level of corporate culture and the overall working environment. This tool helps us understand how healthy the internal environment and culture are, and the formation of a healthy environment in the company is directly proportional to its success. Now, thanks to the Employee Engagement survey, which we conducted as part of the project, we have identified details that might have gone unnoticed before. The survey results became the basis for curated workshops involving members of the Management Board, committing to addressing the identified issues.

We also successfully implemented a project based on Patrick Lencioni's "5 Dysfunctions of a Team" principles. This project was carried out among Board members and contributed to the development of a feedback culture and improved team efficiency. In the next strategic period, we plan to extend the application of this approach to other structures within the company.

Thus, creating a healthy environment and culture becomes a crucial tool for our success. We are convinced that without a healthy corporate culture, achieving outstanding results is impossible.

As far as we know, the development of employees also has great importance in the company. What do you expect from a professional?

Employee development is a key aspect of our corporate philosophy. The "Integration of Talents" project will be one of the most important directions in the upcoming strategic period. Within the framework of this project, we plan to implement new methodologies, including the reassessment of managers to identify and develop Talents, as well as to develop new competencies. Based on this data, development programs will be created for the respective employees. The presence of Talents plays a crucial role in achieving our ambitious goals, as maximizing revenue with minimal resources can be achieved through talents. Talent development also contributes to creating a healthy and dynamic business environment, which undoubtedly promotes the success of our company.

As a company, you strive to be a catalyst and innovator in the market. How do you plan to achieve this?

Indeed, we aspire to be a catalyst and innovator in the market, and to achieve this, we have set ourselves the goal of further improving in some areas within the company. One of those directions is enhancing Customer Experience (CX). Client experience includes the experience that the customer has with our company from the first encounter and throughout the entire subsequent engagements in accordance with his needs. Transformation of Customer Experience has become an important competitive advantage in modern business. With the advancement of technology, customer expectations have risen, demanding simplicity, convenience, promptness from products, they expect high service and products that meet their needs.

Another focus is the cultivation of a Data-driven culture – making decisions based on data; Agile methodology, used in our company in Sales and back office; Innovation - creating an innovative environment within the company, encouraging employees to work on new ideas and products. Overall, these strategic directions enable us to play the role of a catalyst in the market, providing modern and innovative solutions for our clients.

You are entering a new strategic period. What are your goals for the first year? Will the vision of the company change?

I spoke about some initiatives, but I would like to note one thing: all the listed steps will be implemented within the framework of a special approach. This approach is based on three key points: our inspiring goals, our strengths, and our economic model built upon them. That is, as a PASHA Life company, we strive for perfect customer service, relying on our strength in customer experience. All our initiatives are developed considering this economic model. Within this economic model, revenue per employee will be calculated to measure business efficiency.

In your opinion, in what direction do you foresee will the life insurance market evolving in the future?

I have great confidence in the development of the overall insurance market due to new initiatives undertaken by the regulator, in this case, the Central Bank, in recent times. The regulator has been actively involved in market development and ensuring financial stability, through close and constructive discussions and swift responsiveness, which is vivid evidence of this.

In addition, I would like to emphasize another positive point: the 'Bancassurance' model was introduced for the first time in the history of banking and insurance through the regulator's initiative. As part of the collaborative efforts between the Association of Insurers of Azerbaijan (ASA) and the Association of Banks of Azerbaijan (ABA), a unified working group was established, and a work plan was prepared for the implementation of sales through banking channels. This, in turn, will contribute to the growth of insurance culture, and will also play a direct role in the development of voluntary life insurance products.

Can you provide an overview of the company's initiatives in corporate social responsibility (CSR) for the past year?

Of course. Our commitment to corporate social responsibility remains the cornerstone of our company's values, and I would like to share some key highlights from our CSR initiatives in the past year. Our focus has been on three main areas: supporting the relevant sectors of our society, preserving cultural heritage, and contributing to the development of sports.

First, we continued our efforts to support the communities in which we operate. On the eve of the holidays, In collaboration with the International Red Crescent Society, we conducted social campaigns targeting all segments of the population, for which we were awarded an Honorary Diploma. Remembering the children of martyrs for the sake of a bright future, together with PASHA Insurance, we held a special event on June 1 for the children of veterans and martyrs in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. In addition, this year we supported the organization of the “YASHAT” camp for more than 300 children of martyrs.

Also, this year, PASHA Life began to cooperate with PFC "Sabail" and the Azerbaijan Boxing Federation, supporting the development of sports, and we have been cooperating with FC "Sumgait" for almost 8 years. As for our contribution to the cultural heritage, I would like to note that PASHA Life has been cooperating with the IRS Publishing House for more than 10 years and publishes international books on the history and culture of Azerbaijan. In this year, our new books - "Hidden seeds of death," "Revival. Beginning," "Shusha. A Sacred City" in Turkish language, "Millennium of the Shirvanshahs," "Kalam and Brush" were presented in Azerbaijan, Türkiye, and Italy.

Thank you, Niyaz Muallim. What would you like to say in conclusion?

Summarizing the results of the year, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to our dedicated team, loyal customers, and respected partners. Together we have achieved significant success, and your trust has played a pivotal role in our progress. Thank you for being with us on this journey. One more year of prosperity and shared success lies ahead of us.

I also want to congratulate everyone on the International Solidarity Day of Azerbaijanis. I wish that our solidarity always remains at a high level. Additionally, I extend my congratulations to our compatriots on New Year! May the year be filled with joy, successes, and new opportunities for all of us.

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