PSU insurers low promotion barriers sparks debate

India’s public sector insurers have come up with a new promotion policy, which is being contested within the industry even before its implementation. The General Insurance Public Sector Association (GIPSA), the body framing guidelines for promotions, postings, transfers and benefits has slashed the minimum passing marks required for promotion from Scale I to Scale V. The minimum passing marks earlier were 50 per cent for the general category and 45 per cent for the SC/ST/OBC categories, which have now been reduced to 35 and 31.5 per cent respectively. This has sparked off a debate within the four public sector general insurance companies New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance, National Insurance and United India Insurance. Those opposed to the lowering of passing marks say that the move would dilute the quality of the workforce. A senior official at New India Assurance said on condition of anonymity: Insurance companies train ordinary people to become their agents, who then work on a commission basis. The passing mark for an agency licence is 48 per cent. And for its own workforce, which will impact its productivity, they feel a dismal 31.5 per cent and 35 per cent will do? The agency programme was started in 2008 on the recommendation of the Boston Consulting Group to strengthen PSU insurers to face the threats posed by the private sector insurers. How do we expect to match up with private players when our workforce is expected to secure barely 30-plus marks in a promotion test? the official added. Another official at National Insurance requesting anonymity, said that the change has been effected with the motive of accommodating some blue-eyed boys who would not clear the test when the barriers were set at 50 per cent. The exercise is held every year, where one has to appear at the test to get promoted. Only a small percentage of aspirants clear the test. The next test is scheduled for September 9. On account of the sensitivities involved very few officers were willing to come on record. The Indian Express contacted senior officials at the four insurance firms and the GIPSA over a span of a month. One officer who did come on record is P Nayak, personnel manager at New India Assurance, who in an email reply said, We analysed the difficulty level of the exam and thought relaxation in the minimum passing marks was warranted. Most employees, when contacted, requested anonymity for fear of offending their superiors. Their insights point to a disconnect between a weakening industry and its soaring ambitions. An employee said that the industry is trying to bridge the shortfall of officers by 2015, after those who joined between 1978 to 1983 retire. If there are a few officers who are capable of staging a turnaround, they lack decision-making powers. Those at the top have no new ideas and also do not want to risk losing their sleep at the fag end of their careers, the employee said.

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