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Changing the Landscape of HR in the Insurance Industry

30 January 2018

A few decades ago, the ‘Personnel’ department, as it was once known, was somewhere employees would go to seek help and support. Familiarly known for its ‘tea & tissues’. Today Human Resources is far more than a mere welfare department, but an entire sector dedicated to the task of ensuring the success of entire organizations by ensuring that employees are at the top of their game. However, with time as well as the introduction of innovation and technology, HR is destined for great changes and opportunities.

With an aptly selected theme, Changing the Landscape of HR in the Insurance Industry, the HR Sub Committee of the Insurance Association of Sri Lanka (IASL), held the first inaugural conference of the Insurance Industry’s HR Leadership Fraternity, on the 19thof January at the Movenpick Hotel in Colombo. Gracing the event as Chief Guest was the Chairperson of the Insurance Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (IRCSL), Mrs. Indrani Sugathadasa along with the Guest of Honor, Mr. Deepthi Lokuarachchi, the President of the IASL.

The knowledge and platinum sponsor of the conference was Aon Consulting, India. The gold sponsors of the event were, Janashakthi Insurance, Softlogic Life and Union Assurance PLC, while AIA Insurance, LIMRA, LOMA and hSenid took on the role of silver sponsors.

“The inauguration of today’s conference is an achievement of one of our primary objectives”, stated Mr. Muttiah, the Chairperson of the HR Sub Committee as he welcomed the gathering. Mr. Muttiah further emphasized the importance of the event as the first ever industry-based HR conference to take place in Sri Lanka, signifying the importance of building the competencies of HR professionals to manage challenges brought on by disruption, digitization, demographic, socio economic and regulatory changes that impact the Human Resource function.

The Chief Guest, Mrs. Indrani Sugathadasa, warmly congratulated the HR Committee and the IASL on the successful organization of such an event. Mrs. Sugathadasa presented the audience with 3 of her professional perspectives on the development of Human Resources in the Insurance industry – the importance of the development of knowledge, harnessing the talents of women and the integration of HR. According to the chairperson of the IRCSL, the definition of a HR professional is “a person who is willing to connect with people at all fundamental levels”.

Mr. Deepthi Lokuarachchi, the President of the IASL, thanked Mr. Muttiah and the HR Sub Committee for taking the initiative and organizing such an event to bring the HR professionals of the Insurance Industry together to exchange thoughts and ideas, and to learn the most trending practices in order to develop their places of work. “This is a unique event, specializing in one of the key professions of the Insurance Industry”. Mr. Lokuarachchi went on to discuss the role of HR within the Insurance Industry in-line with the economic development of Sri Lanka and other challenges and opportunities brought on by technology, innovation and the aspirations of customers. The President of the IASL also dwelt upon the vital role of HR in Insurance companies.

A technical session conducted by AON Hewitt Consultants’ Senior Consultant and Industry Lead for India and Emerging Markets, Mr. Prakhar Tripathi, shed new light on the role and value of compensation. Under the topic, New Age Rewards: Changing the Paradigm of Compensation Philosophy, Mr. Tripathi presented a series of slides containing data, statistics and facts to support his theory and insight. He also enlightened the audience of new and innovative practices of the HR Industry of the modern age.

Following a brief break, Mr. Roshan Kulasuriya, the Vice President/ Human Resources Director of Coats Thread Exports (Pvt) Ltd, invited five leading HR professionals to join him on stage for a panel discussion on The Role of Incentives in Driving Productivity. The members of the panel included, Ms. Chathuri Munaweera, Legal Director of AIA Insurance, Mr. Isuru Tillakawardena, the Deputy General Manager of HR at Commercial Bank, Mr. Aruna Dissanayake, the Director of HR at Ceylon Tobacco, Ms. Chandi Dharmaratne, the Senior Director of HR at Virtusa and Mr. Ranjeewa Kulatunga, the Chief Consultant at IIHRM (Pvt) Ltd. These five experts discussed a number of points under the given topic, including the necessity of long-term incentives when it comes to retention, the balance between short and long-term incentives, driving productivity via rewards and the contributions of IT.

A second technical session followed under the topic, Talent Management in the Era of Technology & Innovation, conducted by Ms. Prabhjot Kaur, the Senior Consultant and Subject Matter Expert in Organization Effectiveness at AON Hewitt Consultants. Ms. Kuar produced a number of examples of the changes brought on by technology and emphasized the importance of nurturing talent in the industry. Mr. Tripathi stepped up on stage once again after the 2nd technical session to present a Case Study of the Industry’s Best Practices: Learning from India Insurance Study. The case study depicted the manner in which business models in India were changing, what these changes were and the industry’s reaction to such transformations.

The final event of the program was the CEO’s panel discussion, which was moderated by Mr. Samitha Perera, the Director/CEO of CBL Foods International (Pvt) Ltd. Joining Mr. Perera on stage were Mr. Deepthi Lokuarachchi, the CEO on HNB Assurance PLC and HNB General Insurance, Mr. Ajith Gunawardena, the Managing Director/CEO of Ceylinco Insurance PLC, Ms. Surekha Alles, the Managing Director of Allianz Insurance Co Lanka Ltd, Mr. Iftikar Ahamed, the Managing Director of Softlogic Life Insurance PLC and Mr. Jude Fernando, the Executive Director/CEO of Janashakthi PLC. The CEO’s discussed a number of points ranging from the expectations of HR and what is required of its professionals to the importance of digital and innovation in the industry, and regional and global HR best practices recommended for Sri Lanka’s Insurance Industry.

The vote of thanks delivered by Mr. Thilan Perera, the past President of the HR Sub Committee concluded the day’s proceedings.