In a pandemic-ridden environment that was uncertain, complex, and fast-evolving, a handful of organizations have shown true resilience and business success in 2020 under the guidance and navigation of leaders who have broken away from the archetypal ‘command-and-control’ mould of traditional leadership. Jude Gomes is among those leaders. He draws from a highly accomplished career in financial services spread over three decades with experience accrued across key Asian markets and key global financial institutions

Currently, Jude is at the helm of Union Assurance PLC as the Chief Executive Officer. With over three decades of industry-leading success, Union Assurance (UAL) is the country’s oldest private Life Insurer empowering the Sri Lankan dream, offering a range of insurance solutions covering education, health, protection, retirement, and investment needs of Sri Lankans. Powered by a network of 76 branches and a 3,000-strong team that shares a customer-centric approach to business, the company continued to invest in people, products, and processes to remain agile and responsive to emerging and unprecedented changes under Jude’s guidance and visionary leadership.

Under the banner ‘Your life, strength,’ the company has nurtured the Sri Lankan dream in unique and personal ways to support our policyholders and the people they love. Excellence, ethics, integrity, innovation, and a customer-centric mentality are the heart behind day-to-day operations at Union Assurance.

Acting as a Catalyst

The coronavirus pandemic broke out just a few months after Jude took the reins as the CEO of Union Assurance. However, he guided his team on a journey of transformation, positioning the Company as a modern, customer-centric, digital life insurer to address the lag in technology adoption within the industry.

With the mission of simplifying insurance and empowering customers, the Company shifted its focus towards digitisation during this time. The transformation was initiated by simplifying, innovating, and digitizing complex processes.

The Company’s readiness in digitisation also augured well for promptly adapting online training for the advisor force to service customers using digital platforms at the onset of the pandemic, culminating in an overhaul of its operating system to a digital model.

To provide uninterrupted service to its policyholders, the Company established a trilingual call centre that operated 24/7, an online chatbot, and WhatsApp, to meet the growing demand in customer queries. Furthermore, Union Assurance disrupted the future of Life Insurance by adding a dynamic facet to its digital experience with a 100% digital product – Clicklife, along with the Clicklife App, as part of its end-to-end online insurance solution, allowing customers to buy protection online and self-service their policy in real-time. The app features World Health Organization approved challenges, rewards, and other exciting in-app features.

Navigating Through Challenges

Speaking about challenges, Jude mentioned that the industry, in general, has its own set of issues, such as slow transformation, complexity, tedious processes, transparency challenges, and low product innovation. These factors, combined with low market penetration, account for many of the challenges it faces on a daily basis.

As for the COVID-19 pandemic and understanding the shifts and changes that were about to take place, Union Assurance was able to leverage its digital capabilities in order to stay connected with policyholders and tackle the challenges at hand in a successful manner.

People Empowerment

Jude is an ardent believer that leaders should constantly challenge themselves and their teams to exceed expectations and embrace new opportunities. Empowerment is a key criteria of leading people and organisations to success.

To this end, Jude nurtures a workplace environment in which safety and trust are prerequisites for people’s empowerment. When people feel empowered and safe in the workplace, it paves the way for more innovation and advancements to take place. He believes in cultivating a culture where employees learn from mistakes and strive towards excellence.

Accelerating Growth through Digitisation

Union Assurance embarked on a journey of digital transformation much before the pandemic, in an attempt to offer modern and novel solutions for selling and servicing insurance. This readiness augered well during the pandemic. In an industry that focuses largely on face-to-face interactions to sell its products, the Company had to relook at its capabilities and adapt to an evolving environment.

Jude opines that for years, the industry has lacked innovation and technology advancements. Therefore, Union Assurance is making feats in bridging the gap between tech-savvy consumers and the industry.

Union Assurance rose to the occasion to transform its business operations to a 100% digital operating model to provide revolutionary end-to-end digital solutions and a seamless digital experience to its customers. To stay connected and relevant to the new-age consumer, the Company’s customer-centric approach drove a vigorous overhaul of its operating model, enhancing digital infrastructure, transforming transactions and training to a digital platform, and implementing customer-centric initiatives. The company’s readiness in digitisation enabled customers to transact with the Company from the safety of their homes during the pandemic and beyond. Union Assurance has been a trailblazer in the Life insurance industry, pushing boundaries with innovative solutions and processes.

The Company went the extra mile installing a fully-fledged complaint management system to ensure customer queries were resolved within a record period of time, and set a benchmark by maintaining an 85% success rate for one-day servicing of policyholders.

Looking forward, the Company has made investments into new digital channels and analytics that will accelerate growth and open new avenues for selling and servicing insurance.

A Note to Emerging Leaders

“When you’re in a leadership role, developing your intuition plays a big part as your employees rely on you to make trustworthy decisions.

“It is important to note that staying true to your values and morals is key in your journey. Understanding that you don’t know everything is a very valuable lesson to learn early on. Admitting to failures, taking accountability, and making necessary changes is what is important.”

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