Bancassurance: An Indian Perspective


By

Vikrant Sehgal
Rahul Abrol
IInd Year, MIB
IMT, Ghaziabad
 


The business of banking around the globe is changing due to integration of global financial markets, development of new technologies, universalization of banking operations and diversification in non-banking activities. Due to all these movements, the boundaries that have kept various financial services separate from each other have vanished. The coming together of different financial services has provided synergies in operations and development of new concepts. One of these is bancassurance.

Bancassurance simply means selling of insurance products by banks. In this arrangement, insurance companies and banks undergo a tie-up, thereby allowing banks to sell the insurance products to its customers. This is a system in which a bank has a corporate agency with one insurance company to sell its products. By selling insurance policies bank earns a revenue stream apart from interest. It is called as fee-based income. This income is purely risk free for the bank since the bank simply plays the role of an intermediary for sourcing business to the insurance company.

Bancassurance has grown at different places and taken shapes and forms in different countries depending upon demography, economic and legislative prescriptions in that country. It is most successful in Europe, especially in France, from where it started, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg. The concept of bancassurance is relatively new in the USA. As mentioned above bancassurance growth differs due to various reasons in different countries. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 prevented the banks of the USA from entering into alliance with different financial services providers, thereby putting a barrier on bancassurance. As a result of this life insurance was primarily sold through individual agents, who focussed on wealthier individuals, leading to a majority of the American middle class households being under-insured. With the US Government repealing the Act in 1999, the concept of bancassurance started gaining grounds in the USA also.  Coming to Asia, it has been estimated that bancassurance would contribute almost 16% of the life premium in the Asian markets in the year 2006 primarily due to the growth expected in India and China.

Coming to India, bancassurance is a new buzzword in India. It originated in India in the year 2000 when the Government issued notification under Banking Regulation Act which allowed Indian Banks to do insurance distribution. It started picking up after Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) passed a notification in October 2002 on 'Corporate Agency' regulations. As per the concept of   Corporate Agency, banks can act as an agent of one life and one non-life insurer. Currently bancassurance accounts for a share of almost 25-30% of the premium income amongst the private players in India.

Bancassurance provides various advantages to banks, insurers and the customers. For the banks, income from bancassurance is the only non interest based income. Interest is market driven and fluctuating and quite narrowing these days. Banks do not get great margins because of the competition This is why more and more banks are getting into bancassurance so as to improve their incomes. Increased competition also makes it difficult for banks to retain their customers. Banassurance comes as a help in this direction also. Providing multiple services at one place to the customers means enhanced customer satisfaction. For example, through bancassurance a customer gets home loans along with insurance at one single place as a combined product. Another important advantage that bancassurance brings about in banks is development of sales culture in their employees.

As for the insurance company the advantage that bancassurance provides is evident. The insurance company gets improved geographical reach without additional costs. In India around 67,000 branches are there for PSU banks alone. If all 67,000 branches sell the insurance products one can see the reach. This is one method of penetrating the market.

There is also another method called 'Bank Referral'. Here the banks do not issue the policies, they only give the database to the insurance companies. The companies issue the policies and pay the commission to them. That is called referral basis.

India's rural market has huge potential that is still untapped by the insurance companies. Setting up their own networks entails such a huge cost, that no company would be interested in doing so. Bancassurance again comes as an answer. It helps the insurance companies to tap the market at a much lower cost. As for the customer the competitive nature of the Indian market ensures that the reduction in costs would result in benefits in terms of lower premium rates being passed on to him.

The penetration level of life insurance in the Indian market is abysmally low at 2.3% of GDP with only 8% of the total population currently insured. With almost half of the population likely to be in the 'wage earner' bracket by 2010, there is every reason to be optimistic that bancassurance in India will play a long inning.
 


Vikrant Sehgal
Rahul Abrol
IInd Year, MIB
IMT, Ghaziabad
 

Source: E-mail November 16, 2006

 

     

 

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