Vineet Maheshwari: Talking The Efficient Business Talk Leading Organizational Business Growth

Vineet Maheshwari: Talking The Efficient Business Talk Leading Organizational Business Growth

Vineet Maheshwari, CSO

Vineet Maheshwari


Previewing the increasing complexity of running a business thriving in today's fast-paced disruption-laden digital economy that is agile, forward-thinking, global, and subject to regulatory changes, while organizations strive to lay a great emphasis on the effective growth of businesses, they are the Chief Strategy Officers who take the lead to help realize it, through positive initiatives.

A Chief Strategic Officer (CSO), a C-level executive helps to formulate, facilitate and communicate an organization's strategic initiative and future goals to make the business more competitive. Vineet Maheshwari, Chief Strategy Officer at PNB METLIFE India Insurance is also one such remarkable strategy leader who with unflinching determination is leading the company, analyzing business threats and opportunities through efficient strategy devising and implementation for business development. Vineet is a seasoned Finance and Strategy leader bringing over 20 years of experience working with Insurance multinationals in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa markets, transforming ideas into real results, driving value and growth. In an exclusive interview with CEO Insights, Vineet talks more about his professional journey and the unique strategic business initiatives that he has taken to lead PNB METLIFE India Insurance to the next phase of growth.

Give a brief account of your professional journey. Also, enlighten us with your leadership approach and success mantra.

I am a Chartered Accountant by education and currently serving as the Chief Strategy Officer for PNB METLIFE Insurance Company, India. Harbouring around 20+ years of global insurance experience (India, Middle East, Asia), I am someone who enjoys working with cross-cultural teams, and loves taking on new challenges with entrepreneurial passion. My experience includes managing diverse finance roles, solving business problems, driving strategic initiatives, strategy, data science, and analytics, and building a culture of experimentation and innovation by collaborating with new-age start-ups. To me, growth is a continuous process. I have been both fortunate and probably courageous enough to take on different roles, work in different geographies and execute some unconventional tasks and challenges. The people I have worked with have helped me grow as a person. While my C.A. education helped build a sound base, instilling discipline and persistence in me, my years in finance roles helped me focus on details and understand the economics of business decisions better. Driving business strategy and initiatives has helped me gain a 360-degree perspective, and look at the bigger picture and context. The globally gained exposure, and working with cross-cultural teams have made my management style much more inclusive and flexible. To me, actions speak louder than words and I enjoy working with diverse people and understanding their perspectives and motivation on the job. I leverage my sense of empathy and inherent drive for action to drive results, thus defining change that leads to responsible growth and progress.

Define PNB METLIFE Insurance’s role in catering to the insurance industry.

PNB METLIFE Insurance is a Life Insurance company (since 2001) that is helping drive financial inclusion in 750+ districts of India through a robust multichannel distribution (access to 17,000+ partner bank branches, proprietary channels), need-based financial products covering all stages of life, digital capabilities, and over 20,000 employees. PNB METLIFE brings together the financial strength of a leading global life insurance provider, MetLife, and the credibility and reliability of PNB, one of India's oldest and leading nationalized banks. The vast distribution reach of PNB together with the global insurance expertise and product range of METLIFE makes PNB METLIFE a strong and trusted insurance provider. Having acquired a prestigious position among the Top 10 Life Insurance Companies in India, it is growing faster amidst the industry in an exciting, underpenetrated market with huge potential.

Could you reflect on some of the toughest challenges you have encountered in your journey so far? How did you overcome them and what did you learn from them?

What was tough a few years back, feels not so difficult now, in retrospect. If I reflect and choose one such challenge, then my stint with a global Insurance Company in Dubai had quite a few changes at a very fast pace, testing me personally and professionally. The business was re-structured overnight, most regional and country positions were made redundant, and the UAE business was put into a runoff mode effective immediately. This is a very rare event when a life insurance company refuses to accept a new business premium. I had to step up overnight to assume leadership responsibility to drive this change, assume the CFO role for the UAE business and help restructure the Egypt finance team. To name a few challenges, this meant dealing with regulators, maintaining motivation in the skeleton staff left, manage audit issues when I had little background in view of most staff not being there. This experience impelled me to make some very tough decisions and carefully evaluate my personal and professional priorities. My biggest learning from this challenge was that opportunity often comes in the disguise of adversity and how we respond to challenges shapes our destiny.

The vast distribution reach of PNB together with the global insurance expertise and product range of METLIFE makes PNB METLIFE a strong and trusted insurance provider

You also head the data sciences and analytics function of the company. How do you guide your team to extract meaningful insights and identify opportunities to contribute towards the company’s growth?

Investing in both people and technology, we have a balanced mix of in-house data scientists and data analysts at PNB METLIFE. The data sciences and analytics teams work in collaboration with the strategy and business teams to constantly challenge and discuss results from a business lens. My instruction to the team is – ‘Just because you can build a complex model, do not build one, build it only if it adds value to a business’. I lay a lot of emphasis on data quality and data governance which requires a cultural mindset shift. We are experimenting in the domain of deep learning and AI which is evolving at a very fast pace. Today, we have already deployed several advanced propensity models which are helping drive better cross-sell ratios, improving customer persistency, managing the risk of early claim frauds, and helping understand our distributors, and customers better. We are increasing our reliance on self-service analytical tools to be more agile in decision-making and experimenting with artificial intelligence capabilities.

Going forward, what are the changes in market behaviour that you anticipate and what are the opportunities that you foresee?

India is a huge market and looking at the tremendous scope for insurance growth in the country, I believe the Insurance industry in India is yet again at the cusp of a significant transformation. This is driven by an increase in insurance awareness post-pandemic peaks, accelerated digital adoption in a fast-evolving digital ecosystem, and regulatory reforms backed by the Government’s vision of Insurance for all by 2047. This is an interesting time – clearly, the opportunities outweigh the risks. India has primarily been a savings-oriented market for insurance. While I expect that to remain strong, customers’ need for adequate death coverage needs to be better fulfilled by the insurance ecosystem in India. In the digital age, products, and services will need to be simpler, faster, and more transparent. Success will need all insurers to re-imagine distribution, products, and solutions, change the way insurance is fundamentally perceived by customers, and be more agile. Financial literacy and digital will play a big role in increasing insurance penetration in rural India in an efficient way.

What advice would you give to budding industry leaders?

We often have a fixed idea of what success looks like; life does not work that way. It is important to constantly re-evaluate priorities in life, take calculated risks, stretch beyond comfort levels, and be flexible to have a better chance at success. Also, success is not achieved in silos, it comes by sharing it with others who have contributed towards it, collaborating with others while delivering outcomes. I think learning from failures and how we respond to failure is important. The ultimate goal should be to find your Ikigai and pursue it.

Vineet Maheshwari, CSO, PNB METLIFE Insurance

Bringing over 20 years of professional experience working with Insurance multinationals across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa markets, Vineet as the CSO, drives business performance, market competitiveness, and execution of enterprise purpose and strategy. He also heads the data sciences and analytics function and is responsible for building a culture of experimentation and innovation.

Quick Facts:

•Hobbies: Photography, Travelling

•Favourite Cuisine: Simple homemade food

•Favourite Book: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

•Favourite Travel Destination: Europe

•Awards & Recognition: METLIFE Global Purpose Award 2022

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