Latest Updates from Industry
With regard to the mood on the overall business environment and reducing blockages...
While the government is putting a lot of effort in removing blockages with a host of announcements, so that companies can move with speed, execution continues to remain a challenge. The bureaucracy must also get their act together and speed up the process of execution. The government must devolve more powers to the bureaucrats and encourage them to take quicker decisions so that the ease of doing business in India becomes a reality. A case in point in the general insurance sector is the insurance schemes supported by the government. These schemes are extremely laudable. However, to make the scheme more attractive, the government must ensure much faster transmission of the premiums to the insurers.
With regard to the liberalization in the FDI policy in insurance sector...
Quite clearly there is interest in the general insurance sector as well as the reinsurance sector. India must develop into an attractive market for reinsurers and the liberalisation in the FDI policy will go a long way in this process.
With regard to the penetration of insurance sector in India still being very low....
One of the reasons for low penetration of the insurance sector is the lack of awareness of the benefits of taking insurance. Natural calamities cannot be the advertisement for buying insurance. The price individuals and families are paying during these calamities are extremely severe. For a small premium individuals / families can protect their livelihood, homes, health etc. For this the government, the industry and the regulator must commence campaigns encouraging people to be protected (insured). We have seen how sustained campaigns have helped in eradicating polio. Once people are aware and have insured themselves everyone benefits – insurance companies, families and the government. Insurance companies can invest these premiums in the infrastructure / housing sectors which need capital for longer durations, which cannot ideally be serviced by the banking industry.
The innovative things that India needs to do to spur its economic growth on the back of the global economic slack...
I am a firm believer that if we address some very basic issues in the Indian business environment it will undoubtedly spur growth
- Ease of doing business - This is the government is very focussed on. However all stakeholders - centre, states and the bureaucracy must participate in it
- Remove uncertainty - Investors must feel assured that there is certainty in tax and business laws so that they know in advance what they are getting into
- Invest in infrastructure - The government must start investing in top class infrastructure to attract investments. Most of Indian cities are crumbling owing to infrastructure that cannot sustain the growth that they are burdened with
Other general industry expectations for the budget 2016-17...
- The government must put a road map for introduction of the GST so that there is clarity on the date on which GST would come in place
- The government must put a roadmap for converging the tax laws with the proposed Ind AS (Accounting standards)
- The government must fast track the Universal Health Schemes and spread to as many states in India as possible
It is but quite natural for our expectations to be high from this year’s Union Budget given the progressive mindset of our current Government and the critical reforms introduced by them across sectors. This has clearly brought in the India growth story under global spotlight.
This year, the introduction of social security schemes by the Government has been a great move in deepening the penetration levels of insurance in India. These schemes have helped spread awareness about insurance especially in the rural landscape. With increased awareness and penetration level coupled with the GDP growth, the General Insurance sector is poised for a growth of around 12% in 2016.
I am confident that the Budget this year will lay out a clear roadmap to set the right vision for Indian economy. Let me briefly share my thoughts on the focus areas for the General Insurance sector.
Increase in the limit for Income Tax (IT) exemption in health insurance premium for self and family
Increase in the limit for income tax exemption in health insurance last year, was a welcome move wherein we saw a considerable increase in the number of people / families opting for policies with up to Rs. 10 lakh cover. However, there is an impending need for further tax exemption as health insurance is still not adopted as a necessity for one’s self and family. Further exemption will encourage people to get a health insurance policy with extended covers which is a necessity in today’s time given the current medical inflation in the country.
Introducing Income Tax (IT) exemption for premium paid for Home insurance and introduction of compulsory home insurance for a minimum basic sum insured
The data on the frequency of natural calamities hitting the country has revealed very high number of losses to property, assets and lives. While one protects family with life insurance and health insurance, people tend to overlook the need for home insurance. A natural calamity or any other misfortunate incident is not something one foresees. Since, a house is one’s biggest financial asset, introducing IT exemption on premium paid, we believe, will push more people to opt for home insurance.
In the wave of natural calamities over the past year, the worst hit was property / home. We strongly believe making home insurance compulsory for a minimum basic sum insured will lessen the burden on individuals / families, especially for those staying in calamity prone areas. This way, people need not run from pillar to post after their property / home has been damaged in such a situation.
Continuing the reforms agenda to bring more growth in the industrial sector
Significant initiatives are needed for realising financial inclusion and delivering financial services to the poorest section of the society. While the FDI in insurance has been a great move, Insurance and Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI), should come out with the finer aspects of the regulation.
Overall, the bar was already set high in last year’s Budget. In this Budget, we expect the government to take strong steps that will be the driving force to create and sustain high growth.
The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Act, 2015, passed during Parliament's budget session, allowed insurance companies to raise their foreign ownership from 26% to 49%, with the requirement that the company be Indian owned and controlled.
IRDAI said the majority of directors, excluding independent directors, will have to be nominated by Indian promoters or Indian investors. According to the guidelines, even the appointment of key management persons that include chief executive officer, managing director or principal officer in case of an insurance broker will have to be through them or the board of directors.
The guidelines, however, allowed for the nomination of key persons except the chief executive officer by foreign investors, provided such appointments are approved by the board, which must have a majority of directors that are the nominees of Indian promoters or investors.
"Now that Irda has clarified the management controls, the process of approving foreign direct investment (FDI) hike will be quick," said Anuraag Sunder, director, insurance, PwC India. "FDI hike has to be approved by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) first, then the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and, ultimately, Irda.
According to Sunder, when the sector opened up to private insurers, Indian promoters didn't have the expertise to run the insurance business.
Insurance regulator IRDAI set up a seven-member committee to suggest ways to bring transparency in payouts made to the auto dealers by the insurers for getting motor insurance business.
The committee would be headed by a senior official of IRDAI and will comprise members from insurance companies and auto industry.
The IRDAI said it "proposes to bring clarity and transparency in payouts made to the auto dealers by the insurers for getting motor insurance business" while announcing setting up of the panel.
The panel will study the "existing practices in the industry on the payouts made to the motor dealers on motor insurance business" and also "examine the deviations from the existing norms". The committee has been "advised" to submit its report within two months.
Insurance regulator Irda will take up with the government the issue of 2 per cent income tax deducted at source (TDS) by life insurers from maturity proceeds, a senior official said.
The tax has been imposed on life insurance products only, and hence Irda has favoured its removal to bring parity of such plans with other financial instruments.
"Out of various gross domestic saving (GDS), which comprises financial instruments like MF and insurance, it is the life insurance products only which are taxed on maturity. This was not justified keeping in view the fact that insurance is a 'pull' product," Irda Member (life insurance) Nilesh Sathe said.
The watchdog will take up the issue with the government and push for removal of the tax, he told reporters on the sidelines of CII Financial Distribution summit. Moreover, Sathe said, the 21 lakh agents working for the insurance sector need to be incentivised through commission.
Insurance penetration in India at 3.9 per cent was below the world average of 6.3 per cent in 2013, the Parliament was informed recently. Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said the level of insurance penetration depends on a number of factors like, level of economic development of the country, the extent of savings in financial instruments, and the size and reach of the insurance sector.
In relation to BRICS countries, India's insurance penetration was better than China and Russia, but well below South Africa, and only a tad lower than Brazil.
Global insurers with the greatest ties to the financial system would face an average increase of 10 per cent to capital requirements under new standards proposed by a group of regulators.
The increase would be as high as 18.75 per cent for unregulated-banking activities by firms deemed to be in a riskier tier, according to documents released by the International Association of Insurance Supervisors.
For traditional insurance products sold by safer companies, it would be 6 per cent. Global regulators are seeking to limit risk at the biggest financial firms to avoid a repeat of the government bailouts that were required in the credit crisis.
While more rescue funds went to banks, the US had to prop up insurers led by New York-based American International Group Inc, which was hobbled by losses on derivative bets on sub-prime mortgages.
The potential for systemic risk in insurance may become relevant where insurers significantly deviate from the traditional insurance business model, the association said in a fact sheet. The rules are designed to reduce the probability and impact of distress or failure at a major firm.
The Indian Super League, which has attracted some of the top - though mostly retired - footballers in the world, has led insurers to chase the teams and organisers for business. According to sources, the total insurance cover for the eight-team ISL is Rs. 600 crore.
"Each franchise has taken an insurance cover of Rs. 50 crore for loss of pay, personal accident and public liability," an executive said. The organisers have taken an event cancellation insurance of Rs 200 crore to cover against any loss of revenue from advertisements. Players are insured against loss of fees, accidents and also have travel insurance.
Most of the players are covered for loss of fee. It gets triggered when a player gets injured and faces loss of remuneration. The cover for each player depends on the contract value. Marquee players command $600,000 and above. The season kicked off on October 3 and will end in December.
A large part of the cover will be reinsured within the country, primarily with state-run General Insurance Corporation. Apart from writing direct insurance, the four public sector insurance companies - New India Assurance, National India, United India and Oriental Insurance - also reinsure policies.
The life insurance industry is bearing the brunt of a 90 per cent fall in pension business due to a special tax treatment for the New Pension System and a regulatory clause that makes it mandatory for life insurers to offer guaranteed returns to subscribers. The pension business of life insurance players is down to a meagre Rs 2,000 crore in 2014-15, from Rs 20,000 crore in 2009-10.
Pushed to the wall, the industry has called for a level-playing field. The plunge has been more pronounced since the introduction of the clause in 2009-10 which made it compulsory for life insurers to offer guaranteed returns on pension products.
The Budget provision of Rs 50,000 worth of additional tax-free incentive to NPS investment over and above the existing Rs 1.5 lakh has only made their life harder.
Future Generali India Insurance Company, a joint venture between retail giant Future Group and Italian insurance major Generali, expects to post a 20-25 percent growth this fiscal, said the company's MD and CEO K. G. Krishnamoorthy Rao. This will be well above the expected general insurance industry growth of about 15 percent this fiscal, he added.
Last year, the company grew at 14 percent even as the sector recorded its slowest growth in several years, at 9 percent. The pickup in the economy and a couple of regulatory changes are expected to usher in faster growth this fiscal Rao said.
This is contingent on auto sector sales reviving since motor insurance premium contributes about 55 percent of the company's revenue. Last year, Future Generali had recorded a 50 percent jump in profits at Rs.60.9 crore on a gross premium income of Rs.1,480 crore.
Solvency ratios are comfortable and there is no immediate requirement to infuse capital, Rao said. He expressed hope that insurance regulator IRDAI will lift the current cap on commission payable to intermediaries to reflect current realities. The surveyor fee which has remained fixed at Rs.20,000 for very long, now needs a change and an upward revision would actually help the industry and customers to complete claim settlements quickly, he said.
Rao also called for a standardized approach for providing awards/compensation for road accident victims. Besides, the lack of any time bar for filing third party claims often creates problems, Rao said, adding that there is a need to limit both the time within which a claim can be made as well as the amount.
Future Generali India Insurance MD and CEO K. G. Krishnamoorthy Rao called for a standardized approach to providing compensation for road accident victims.
The country's biggest banking network SBI along with its insurer is planning to expand bancasurance channel by 50% alongside raising the field force by about 10% to push business growth. The company aims to grow business by 30% this fiscal. SBI has a 16,333 strong branch network with 50% of it selling SDBI Life's policies. SBI Life's Managing Director Arijit Basu said that, its average business per branch is about Rs.8 lakh while it would be around Rs.50 lakh for its nearest rivals.
SBI Life, the 74:26 joint venture between SBI and BNP Paribas Cardif was the largest private insurer in terms of new business at the end of March 2015 while it was third among private players in terms of total premium collection, the company official said.
It plans to raise the number of agents to 90,000 by the end of this fiscal from 83,000. According to Basu, SDBI Life's existing agents are running in highest productivity and therefore, the company needs to expand the team to push growth.
The company's bancassurance model accounts for 55% of its business with the balance coming through retail agencies. It reported a total business of Rs.12,867 crore in 2014-15, with the first year premium collection growing 18% to Rs.5,528 crore and the balance coming from renewal premium.
SBI would have 10% of its stake in the insurance company in favour of BNP Paribas Cardif as the government allowed up to 49% foreign holding. SBI Life has an authorized capital of Rs.2,000 crore with a paid up capital of Rs.1,000 crore.
The Life Insurance Council, an apex industry body of life insurance companies, is planning to put in place a centralized database of insurance policies by December to detect and prevent fraudulent claims. "We are working on a fraud monitoring framework for the life insurance sector. It is expected to be ready by December", said V. Manickam, secretary-general of the Life Insurance Council.
According to him, the council was in the process of short-listing the vendor who would offer the technology to build and maintain a common database where all 24 life insurance companies can share their policy data. A meeting is scheduled to finalize the terms of reference.
As banks get benefits from Cibil, this proposed fraud monitoring mechanism will help insurance companies get details of customers and detect any fraud in disclosure and claims by policyholders. The database could also help the council to study claim patterns.
The Life Insurance Council also plans to approach the State Governments to request waiver of stamp duty on the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana. However, as insurance is a state subject and they needs to be a discussed with the State Governments. Of 24 life insurance companies in the country only 10 have joined the scheme so far according to Manickam.
Insurance companies are getting ready to bid aggressively for Air India $9 billion (around Rs.57,420 crore) cover, coming up for renewal on 1 October. State-run Air India, which floated a global tender for the policy to cover its 126 aircraft expects to buy the policy at a reasonable discount, given the rise in the number of underwriters and its safety record, said two Air India executives.
"Air India's (including its subsidiaries, affiliated companies and joint ventures (JVs)) aviation insurance policies are due for renewal effective from October 1, 2015 for an agreed fleet value of around $9 billion. We invite technical bids in sealed envelopes from Indian insurance companies duly registered with IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India)" the airline said in its global tender posted on its website.
"Premium rates are softening in the international market as there were no major aircraft accidents barring German-wings. Also, there are more underwriters flocking to the international market. Therefore, we are expecting a reasonable discount in the premium", said the executive. Air India paid $24 million last year for its policy from state run firm New India Assurance Co. Ltd, which offered it in partnership with American International Group Inc.
Insurance premiums had increased for both aviation insurance and reinsurance following the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane in March, 2014 and the alleged shooting down of another aircraft of the same airline over Ukraine. On 24 March 2015, a German-wings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps while flying from Barcelona to Dusseldorf.
A joint study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Towers Watson has revealed that even though the upper limit of foreign direct investment (FDI) in insurance has been raised to 49 percent, the valuation of insurance companies is still a novelty for investment analysts in India.
According to the study, 'Indian Insurance sector: In Pursuit of Value', the sector faces challenges such as regulatory changes, growing competition, mis-selling and a prolonged economic slowdown, necessitating insurers to constantly reassess their business strategies.
It noted that insurers remain upbeat about the sector's prospects and seek growth momentum and value. Sanjiv Bajaj, Chairman, CII National Committee on Insurance and Pensions and Managing Director, Bajaj Finserv, said the government has created a positive environment for the sector to unlock value through FDI.
Vivek Jalan, director (risk consulting) at Towers Watson India, added how effectively insurers are able to utilize the expected capital infusion from foreign partners will decide the growth of the sector.
The Life Insurance Council has elected its first Executive Committee. The Executive Committee will have one representative each from Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), Reliance Life Insurance, Bharti AXA Life Insurance and PNB MetLife Insurance. LIC chairman S. K. Roy will be chairing the committee.
Secretary General of Life Insurance Council, V. Manickam said that these members were elected by ballot voting. He added Sandeep Ghosh, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (MD & CEO) of Bharti AXA Life, was elected in the first round, Tarun Chugh, Managing Director and CEO of PNB Metlife, was elected in the second round and Reliance Life CEO Anup Rau was elected in the third round.
"The executive committee will have nine members - four of whom have been elected and four will be nominated by the regulator (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India or IRDAI). One member will be from a self help group", said Manickam. LIC has been unanimously chosen the permanent representative due to its sheer size and volume of business. LIC chairman will be the chairperson of the council.
The four members nominated by IRDAI will be from four fields - one from agency, one from policyholders, one from intermediary and one eminent personality. Manickam said these members are expected to be nominated by the middle of August.
Till now, the council was led by D. D. Singh, member (distribution), Irdai, apart from V. Jayanth Kumar, Joint director (life), Irdai. The objective of the council is to create a positive image of the insurance sector and enhance consumer confidence.
The council will organize pro-active discussions with government, lawmakers and regulators on issues plaguing the sector. It will also conduct research on life insurance, publish monographs and contribute to development of the sector.
PNB MetLife India Insurance has strengthened its portfolio of online insurance solutions with the launch of a new term plan - MetLife Mera Term Plan (MMTP). The new term plan is available in online version only. It aims to enable customers to create their own financial protection plan and buy it online through a hassle-free process.
"We have gone forward in our online journey with the launch of MMTP. Our research showed that consumers value flexibility around products. It is this aspect that prompted us to have 'flexibility' in the core design of the product", Tarun Chugh, Managing Director and CEO, PNB MetLife India Insurance told.
MMTP covers a customer's need ranging from a simple term cover, monthly income for the family, child's education expense, joint cover for the spouse, option to increase sum assured depending on life stages, among other benefits.
Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) - India's top life insurer has emerged as the market leader in Bahrain, part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), despite tough competition from close to 60 global insurance companies. It has also emerged as the third largest player in the UAE with a strong presence in cities like Dubai.
LIC's Bahrain operations occupy the top position in the overall international operations of the corporation. As far as the new business is concerned, it contributes over 80 percent of the total share. India's top life insurer operates in five GCC countries - Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.
"LIC has 43 percent market share in premium income and 89 percent in policies in Bahrain. The customer base in the countries we are operating in the region mainly comprises of non-resident Indians, though we do sell to the local nationals wherever we are licensed to sell", according to Rajesh Kandwal, CEO & MD, LIC International, Bahrain.
"Despite the intense competition, we are the market leader in Bahrain. Brand LIC has a very strong connection with the NRIs and quite accepted in the region, thereby making NRI segment as a 'niche' market for us. There are around 60 insurance companies operating in the GCC countries", Kandwal quoted.
LIC has operations in 13 overseas countries, including Fiji, Mauritius, the UK, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Saudi Arabia etc. The major contributing factors for high performance are attractive products, high trust level of the brand and success of bancassurance in the UAE.
The firm has been doing very well in terms of new business in this year. According to the firm, it has already achieved total first premium income target of $299 million as in June 2015 and shall surpass out target in first premium income by a good margin at the end of the year.
"The year so far has been quite encouraging. In terms of number of policies, we are growing at the rate of over 12 percent and in non-single premium, the growth rate is over 36 percent which is satisfactory", Kandwal said.
The bancassurance partners play a significant role in selling to the other nationals, particularly locals. The firm distributes its products through tied channels, banks, brokers and corporate agents. BBK and SBI (in Bahrain), FGB, Emirates NBD, ADCB and RAK Bank (UAE) and Doha Bank (Qatar) are the major bancassurance partners. LIC has also signed an agreement with prominent a broker recently. Lastly, Kandwal said, "In order to deepen bancassurance relationship, co-branded credit card with our bancassurance partner First Gulf Bank (FGB) was launched".
With the growing demand of technology-based changes to make crop insurance full proof the regulator has sent communication to the State Governments of Madhya Pradesh and Punjab to launch field level pilot programs to test some new measures.
The government and IRDAI had commenced the exercise to address problems on the crop insurance from early this year and proposed the launch of a pilot programme. It is analyzed that, if things move ahead as planned, these two States will be roped in to introduce measurement of acreage or/and yield on the basis of satellite images in place of physical measurement being used now.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India has put norms against forced selling of insurance policies by banks. In a recent meeting, IRDAI decided to seek an undertaking from the CEO and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the corporate agent (including banks) that there is no forced selling of an insurance product to customers at periodic intervals.
This would be on the line of commission/remuneration received by these banks and other corporate agents that are disclosed usually on a quarterly basis. Often, banks and financial institutions that act as corporate agents force the customer to buy insurance from a particular insurer.
It was suggested that the head of the banks (and other corporate agents) should be extra cautious to ensure that no product is forcefully sold. This would be part of the regulations on registration of corporate agents. The head of a private life insurer said that there have been instances of banks trying to persuade customers to buy an insurance product. "It could be a life cover or a personal accident cover with low premiums that are pushed with a loan or account opening.
Unless a customer wants the product, they should not be made to buy it", he said. This would mean those insurers without a bank partner or promoter would still have to wait longer to get business from banc assurance. The regulator has said an insurer can have tie-ups with up to three insurers in any line of business-life, non-life or health.
The IRDAI is set to bring out a number of new rules to conform to the New Insurance Act which will be implemented from as early as December 2015. The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Act 2015 has made fundamental changes in the way insurance is conceptualized, sold and bought. It will bring out regulations on claim rejection, expense management, and solvency ratio too.
Adding further to the development, three committees on life, non-life and health have been constituted for speedier execution and finalization of new norms. These committees consist of members from the insurance sector to deliberate and come up with appropriate recommendations in their report on these issues.
"Now that the regulatory body has all full-time members, it is ensuring that all the new laws are brought out in time so that we have adequate time to adapt to the new norms", said by the CEO of a large private life insurer. However, there are divergent views on some areas such as expense management and claims rejection. For instance, the new Act says no claim, even if fraudulent, can be rejected after three years. Insurers say that fraudsters will take advantage of these norms.
Similarly, a new compensation and incentive structure will be brought out for agents, which might impact the outgo from customer premiums. Insurers also don't agree with the regulator's view that fixed remuneration would reduce agent attrition. According to sources the draft norms on agent commissions will be brought out in a few weeks.
By December, the laws on Indian Management and Control of Insurance Companies will be finalized. This will decide how an Indian insurance firm will run, the composition of its board and top management and what are the rights given to the joint venture partners. Several foreign joint venture partners had expressed their discontent on the restriction of their rights in board appointment and voting for strategic decisions. Insurers said that the regulator would take a middle path to ensure that the rights of both partners in an insurance venture were protected.
Impact of New norms on Policy Holders
- No claim rejection after three years: After three years of a policy being in force, the claims cannot be rejected under any circumstance. Hence, customers won't have to wait for the claim to be approved.
- Agent remuneration to be more balanced: Agent commission, deducted heavily from the first-year premium, will now be more balanced towards second, third and fourth year. More customer premium will go towards saving/investment component.
- Solvency ratio higher for some products: Since insurers would have to maintain higher capital for products such as group health, this would result in higher premiums.
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