IndiaFirst Life crosses Rs900 crore in new business premium

IndiaFirst Life Insurance had crossed Rs900 crore in new business premium in the first 500 days of operations

IndiaFirst Life Insurance, a joint venture between Bank of Baroda and Andhra Bank along with UK's risk, wealth and investment company Legal & General, said that the company had crossed Rs900 crore in new business premium in the first 500 days of operations.

"With Rs703-crore of new business in 2010-11 and Rs200 crore in the 4.5 months of 2009-10, IndiaFirst crossed Rs900 crore of total new business in exactly 500 days of commencement of business operations on 16 November 2009. IndiaFirst Life Insurance MD & CEO P Nandagopal said.

"This is the fastest run rate by any life insurance company in the country," he said.

IndiaFirst is the fastest to achieve Rs100 crore in just 100 days of operations, Rs200 crore in 4.5 months of operations, and over Rs300 crore in under nine months from inception, resulting in the highest ever start-up phase productivity in the industry.

The company has covered 1.2 million lives during this period. The Total Assets Under Management (AUM) with the company at the close of 500 days was Rs1,000 crore, Nandagopal said.

The company plans to launch health insurance plan and pension plan shortly.

"We had pension plan till September. Now we intend to launch new pension plan in Q2 FY12 subject to new guidelines in place," Nandagopal said.
The company is also looking at launching health insurance plan shortly, he said.

The company aims to double its business in FY12 through increase in number of agents and branch network.

IndiaFirst has 350 licensed agents which will be increased to 1,000 agents. The company has further extended its distribution reach to all 4,800 branches of its partner banks to leverage the banks' existing database of over 50 million customers across 1000 cities/towns.

The company launched Ask Apply Get (AAG) - an innovative and customer friendly over-the-counter process to buy life insurance in the most hassle free manner over the counter in three minutes across its partner bank branches of Bank of Baroda and Andhra Bank. It also plans to launch its alternate distribution channel to further strengthen its reach.

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Credit card transactions up over 26% in February

Transactions worth Rs6,212.92 crore were carried out in the country through credit cards in February 2011, registering a growth of 27.82% compared to the same month last year

Transactions worth Rs6,212.92 crore were carried out in the country through credit cards in February 2011, registering a growth of 27.82% compared to the same month last year. Credit card transactions during February 2010 were at Rs4,923.11 crore, according to RBI data.

The number of credit cards in circulation have, however, declined by almost 10% to 1.81 crore as on 28 February 2011, from 2.01 crore in the same period last year.

During the April-February period of the fiscal, the total transactions carried out via credit cards increased 22.16% to Rs68,548.36 crore as against Rs56,112.05 crore in the April-February period of 2010-11.

Meanwhile, debit card transactions in February were up by 49.44% to Rs3,304.43 crore, as against Rs2,211.16 crore in the corresponding month last year.

There were 22.23 crore debit cards in use in the country as on 28 February 2011, up almost 25% over the figure of 17.79 crore in the year-ago period.

In April-February period, the total transactions carried out by debit cards jumped by 47.28%, to Rs35,333.67 crore, from Rs23,990.99 crore in the first 11 months of the last fiscal.

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ULIP business down by 15% during 2010-11: IRDA

“The proportion of sale of ULIP products has certainly come down. When compared to last year, ULIP business has gone down by about 15%,” IRDA chairman J Harinarayan said

Amid a row between SEBI and insurance regulator IRDA over control of unit linked products, the ULIP business declined by 15% during 2010-11.
"The proportion of sale of ULIP products has certainly come down. When compared to last year, ULIP business has gone down by about 15%," IRDA chairman J Harinarayan said on the sidelines of FICCI National Conference on Insurance.

ULIPs-which are hybrid insurance products in which a portion of the investor's premium is invested in equity-became a subject of controversy after market regulator SEBI in April last year banned private life insurance companies from issuing such schemes. Soon after, IRDA issued an order asking insurers to ignore SEBI order.

After the government directed that IRDA would have jurisdiction over ULIPs, the insurance regulator came out with new guidelines for such equity-linked products in September last year.

ULIPs, which used to be around 60% of life insurers business prior to the guidelines, saw a decline as agents shifted focus to traditional products.
As per the new IRDA guidelines, the commission paid to distributors and expenses charged by insurers will no longer be front-loaded and will be distributed over the lock-in period of the schemes, which has been raised to five years from three years earlier.

Though the new rules will benefit policy holders, reduce the first-year agent commission and help in curbing rampant mis-selling, insurance firms will be required to underwrite more losses, infuse more capital and cut costs to sustain ULIP sales.

Furthermore, IRDA has fixed the floor on guaranteed returns from ULIP pension plans at 4.5%, which will greatly benefit policyholders saving up for retirement.

Along with these changes, the regulator has fixed stringent minimum disclosure guidelines for insurers.

Under the new disclosure norms, agents cannot take policyholders for a ride, as they can now see the financial position of the company over the website and do not need to depend on agents, said an industry expert.

The life insurance industry has grown 8-fold in the past decade-from a total premium income of Rs34,892 crore in 2000-01 to about Rs3 trillion in 2010-11. Over Rs1 trillion of total premium is estimated to have come from ULIPs in 2010-11.

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