Reliance Life Insurance counts on healthcare policies to ride out slump

Reliance Life Insurance plans four new products in health and annuity segments, as it expects the industry to limp back to growth in  third and fourth quarters, with savers queuing up to buy policies to avoid taxes.

The company will aggressively push its healthcare policies to overcome the sluggishness in the overall market, a top company  executive said.

The life insurance sector was facing a slowdown which Reliance Life’s ED Malay Ghosh attributed to reasons, including sluggish  growth, inflation, high deposit rates and changes in prudential norms. “Insurers are taking time to adjust and adapt to the changes,”  Ghosh told ET. “A lot of catching up is required,” he said.

The first-year premium of life insurers fell 4.25% for the six-month period to September 2012 at Rs 46,963 crore over the year-ago period. The private insurer group saw a larger 5.7% fall at Rs 11,621 crore. LIC, which corners three-fourth of the market, saw a 3.8% drop at Rs 35,342 crore.

“I was expecting positive growth in the September quarter but that did not happen. It will take another quarter as the panic about how the economy will perform has now gone,” Ghosh said.

Life insurance schemes offers tax benefits to salaried people and insurers typically do maximum business in the last three-four months of the fiscal. Reliance Life has sought clearance from IRDA for two schemes each in health and annuity segments to boost growth.

“We are expecting to improve the share of our health portfolio to 5% in two years from the current 1%,” Ghosh said.

The company enjoys a 4.8% marketshare at present among private players. It has also lined up a new limited payment endowment product with maturity guarantee early this month.

Its first year premium collection fell 15.5% year-on-year at Rs 570 crore in first half of the current fiscal. About 80% of its new business are coming from tradition products while unit-linked products accounted for 90% of the schemes sold three years back.

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