Interview with Mr. P. Venugopal, Secretary General, Insurance Institute of India
After taking over as the Secretary General of the Insurance Institute of India what is your vision and priority for the institute in near future?
The future of any sector, be it the insurance or any other, largely depends on the quality of work force employed by them. The quality of the work force depends on the training and knowledge they have gained. It is the role of the training institute to not only equip the candidate with basic working knowledge but also acquaint them with values like honesty and integrity.
Insurance Institute of India has played a huge role in spreading insurance education across the country during the last 60 years. After opening of the Insurance Industry, there was need for a centre for excellence in insurance education and I believe that the Insurance Institute of India has been able to fulfill the need. We are moving towards that goal and that is also my personal priority at this moment.
You are celebrating your diamond jubilee in 2015. What is your plan to celebrate this grand event?
We have conducted Seminars and Workshops on different themes during the last 6 months. The culmination of the celebrations was in August, 2015 with an international Seminar in Mumbai.
We have already announced an All India competition on presenting papers on different topics of Insurance. The top three winners in the competition were invited for the Annual General Meeting in August, 2015 to present their prize winning paper. The Associated Institutes of III are also conducting insurance awareness campaigns as a part of the Diamond Jubilee celebration in various schools, colleges and other institutions. We will also be publishing a coffee table book on “Journey of Insurance Institute of India”.
What impact do you visualize in the insurance industry with the recent ordinance passed for the increase in FDI in insurance?
I feel there will be consolidation in industry. The joint venture may undergo changes, new players can come in, the existing foreign partners may increase their stake. The stand alone companies can discuss merger and acquisition. There are few companies with multiple portfolios who may like to diversify.
The IT industry may be in demand to develop new ways and reach to customer, better service, quicker settlement of claims etc.
What has been the response to your Accredited Learning Centers? Do you think ALC’S should be more strengthened so that your courses are promoted more vigorously?
The response we have received for our Accredited Learning Centers (ALCs) is good. ALCs have a crucial role to play. Face to face coaching to the candidates appearing for the professional examination is an important activity for the ALCs. We will be supporting the ALCs by way of ‘Train the Trainer’ programmes.
Having said this, my priority would be capacity building of Associated Institutes. We wish all Associated Institutes to be reputed centers of insurance learning. This is not easy to achieve in a short time. This includes re-training local resource persons in insurance academics and providing effective delivery. This phase is on and around 40 local resource persons have already been trained at College of Insurance, Mumbai. We are also providing Associated Institutes with academic support by sending specialists from College of Insurance and other sources as and when needed.
In addition, we have to augment their academic activities with specialized academic, strategic and financial support. We would like them to reach out and associate themselves with local centers of excellence like Universities, Colleges, institutes, actuaries, retired and serving insurance practitioners, etc.
This way, all Associated Institutes should aim at being centers of excellence in Insurance Education.
With the awareness and growing need of insurance do you think that there is a need to increase the visibility of Insurance Institute in Indian market? What are your efforts in this regard?
Our focus is on building academic competence to all those interested in insurance and related fields, thereby building professionalism in the insurance industry. We would reach out within this framework. Doing more than that would be commercializing insurance education. We would rather prefer to improve quality standards, systems and relevance to the industry and wait for those who are interested in insurance to seek support of Insurance Institute of India.
We have new courses and strategic tie-ups on the cards. But then, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Today, I would rather talk of things that we have implemented.
Seminars are one such example. At a time when the industry is trying to figure out how to look at the big Natural Catastrophe events India faced in 2014 in the form of Hudhud Cyclone and J & K flood, we joined hands with SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC) and came up with a seminar on Building Financial Resilience of SAARC Countries against Natural Disasters on 3rd December 2014. We had Insurers, reinsurers, NGOs and Government authorities discussing and deliberating all day long and understanding financial implications of such Natural catastrophe in the right perspective. III’s importance in this event is that it was not a commercial venture; we did not try to convert it into a mega event. It was a quiet gathering of serious minded people discussing on a serious issue and learning from one another.
In all that we do, we want to build a new generation of academically capable professionals in the insurance industry.
Insurance Institute of India is evolving into a thriving active and alert professional institute. Do you have any plans to extend certificate or diploma courses for working professionals as well as freshers?
Yes, we have already taken steps in that direction. I would call them Specialized Certification Courses – we have them in Marine, Fire and Casualty Actuarial Science. We have also launched courses on Health, Marketing and Life Underwriting.
We have established a Research Centre which is approved by the University of Mumbai for Ph. D. level research. The College of Insurance conducts a Post Graduate Diploma in Health Insurance in collaboration with Department of Economics, University of Mumbai.
Do you think the courses of licentiate, associate and fellowship needs updating or improvement?
Revision of study material should be a regular process for any academic body that deals with professionals. The scope of study gets wider and wider by the day with changing regulations and market practices. Our Syllabus Committee is a body of experts that keeps their ears to the ground and advises us whenever revisions are due. We have no plans to upgrade syllabus immediately. However the presentation of the books will be changed on the lines of new Licentiate study material.
How has been the response of online examinations and what is the strength of candidates appearing in online exam in a year?
The response for the online exams is very good. We are presently conducting online examinations at 106 centres in the country. The popularity of the online examinations is visible in figures. Of the 27,263 registrations in the current year, 24,110 candidates (constituting 88.4%) have opted for the online mode. That is, out of the 69,659 subject-wise appearances, 62,901 are on the online mode, which translates to 90.42%.
Do you think the Insurance Institute should launch international diploma courses?
Regarding future overseas expansion plans, already a lot of candidates from overseas countries are appearing for our professional exams. We are also conducting our offline exams in 15 overseas centres. Going forward we are planning to conduct online examinations in all these examination centres. We are also looking at possible tie-ups with educational institutes in Bangladesh, Nepal and the Middle East to promote insurance education in training.
The Institute has also a mandate of bringing in the globally best practices to the country. We achieve this by our active global presence. We are one of the Founder Members of the Institute of Global Insurance Education (IGIE) and a Member of the International Insurance Society. We have been granted Observer status on the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) and a ‘Supporting Institution’ of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance movement of the UNEP-FI.
What is strength of members enrolled with the institute?
The Institute has 91 Associated Institutes across India. Sri Lanka Insurance Institute and Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited are affiliated members of the Institute. As on 31st July 2015, the life membership strength of the Institute is more than 2,94,409. There are nearly 39,519 Associates and 22,016 Fellows of Insurance Institute of India.
Is there any other development that you would like to share?
We are working on a Research Framework, which will formalize our research activity. We intend to promote research on issues that are of use and relevance for the industry. Whilst on this, let us remember that good studies take time and would require a lot of support from the industry as well.
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