While analyzing customer feedback, we have seen that customer service optimization has a very positive impact on portfolio, customer behavior and new sales. We have been working in this direction for a long time. As for sales, I would not say that the current situation has led to a trend change, so that some channels are replaced by others, etc. Efforts to simplify and digitalize have affected all channels used by insurers: bank insurance, agent networks and direct sales.
Being an agency company, we tried to quickly implement an online sales system in the agency and provide agents with an electronic analysis and insurance application system. Thus, the client is able to purchase the policy electronically. It is clear that the issues of underwriting and customer identification still need to be worked out. The main trend is to introduce some intelligent, robotic approaches in underwriting. This is already a matter of the near future that will simplify the process and shorten the time between the decision to buy and policy emission.
Another large block of operational work that has been transformed in our country is avoiding paperwork and reducing the time it takes to settle claims. We now review up to 85% of all our insurance claims on the basis of scanned copies and make payments without requiring originals. The only issue that cannot be avoided is the client identification; we are trying to cope with it.
There is one more important circumstance during the crisis. It is known that some clients with financial difficulties stop paying their fees. Insurance is not an essential product, and during all crises, additional efforts have to be made to keep the portfolio. The current situation with pandemic is, in this sense, a definite exception. This crisis, on the contrary, made people realize that insurance was necessary. Therefore, the number of policies, which people stopped paying for, decreased but not without efforts on the part of the company and distribution aimed at convincing the client not to terminate the policy and stop paying regular premiums, and that having a policy was important and necessary. The persistence rate of our portfolio is now quite high, 87-88% on average.
We also introduced electronic document flow in the corporate segment. There have been such solutions for B2B on the market, no need to invent anything. We have had to work a little with corporate clients and convince them that electronic document management with a qualified digital signature is good; it is cost, effort and time saving, reliable, complying with legal requirements.
What awaits us in the near future? Firstly, I believe, we will have a complete, almost 100% exclusion of paper workflow. Secondly, we are waiting for the introduction of smart tools for underwriting and claims settlement, robotization (solutions based on machine learning). In this regard, we need to support initiatives to simplify legislative regulation in the field of customer identification, online work, and digital solutions.
Besides, the dynamics of insurance payouts is important, and so far we see a slight increase in payments in some lines of business in our company compared to the same periods of the previous year. However, working under pandemic forces us to optimize processes, and this, of course, is a source of savings that has a positive effect on the financial result. As for investment income at falling guaranteed rates, we strive to optimize our portfolio in our investment strategies to the fullest extent. As always in a crisis, we try to work with our suppliers, vendors and optimize services; which is also a positive factor.
Photos are from open sources.