Insurance Repository is a good initiative from IRDA. It will help the insurers and insured with inherent benefits of insurance policy demat. But, will you really be able to demat all your insurance policies? Will insurance companies tie-up with all the repository companies?
The insurance repository system was introduced with great fanfare by finance minister, P Chidambaram on 16 September 2013 to digitise physical insurance policies. E-insurance policies will help insurers to save costs on printing and dispatching policies. Insurance companies will save crores of rupees every year that is spent on storing of physical insurance documents and repeat KYC. While the IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) e-insurance initiative is commendable, there is one blunder.
As a Moneylife subscriber Dr Visvanathan Krishnaswamy pointed out: “An insured can have an account only with one IR. However, the insurance companies need not have a tie-up with all the IR, thereby negating the whole value of the single point e-policy account concept.”
Will you really be able to enjoy the comfort of storing all your policies electronically under a single e-insurance account just like you hold your stock certificates and mutual fund units online in dematerialised form? The answer depends on whether every insurance company will tie-up with each of the five Insurance Repository (IR) firms. IRDA has given freedom for insurers to tie with one or more IR licensed by them, which is a flaw.
The insured can open account with only one Insurance Repository (IR). If an insurance company has not tied up with that IR then how can demat of the insurance policy become possible? For instance, an insurance company may have IR tie-up with Karvy and the insured may have account with CAMS. How can an insurance policy be shown in demat if the insurance company does not have a tie up with CAMS as well? Moreover, the five companies have been given the status of insurance repositories are given licence that will be valid only till 31 July 2014.
One customer can have insurance policies from multiple insurers and the only way to get all the policies digitised for this insured is that those multiple insurers have tie-up with the IR where customer has opened e-insurance account. If not, then the IRDA initiative will miserably fail. The customer may have some policies in demat while others may not be. Would they benefit with partial demat? No.
Moneylife had written to 10 insurance companies and IRDA to get their response. Unfortunately, only five insurers have responded. According to one life insurer, “We are in process of negotiations with IR about the cost to digitise policies per person and annual servicing fees. We cannot tell if we will sign agreement with all the IRs or not.” It means insurance companies will prefer to tie-up with the IR that offer best rates and they may not tie-up with all the five IRs. If so, e-insurance will be a non-starter.
IndiaFirst Life Insurance is amongst the first to offer all life insurance policies in demat format. They also have tied-up with all the five IRs licensed by IRDA. According to Karni Arha, chief financial officer, IndiaFirst Life Insurance, “For depositing the policy, the insurance company needs to have tied up with that respective IR. As IndiaFirst has already tied up with all the five approved IRs, we can deposit our customer policy in his respective account without any issues.”
According to TR Ramachandran, CEO and MD, Aviva India, “Given that e-stamping (Mudrank) facility is still not available in Haryana, we have yet not frozen our IR tie-ups. We are working with multiple IR players to devise and streamline a process that will add value to our customers. The IR concept is based on the premise of customer convenience. As the adoption of IR increases it will be become imperative for both the customer and the insurer to provide/ leverage several options. Currently, an insurer need not tie up with all IRs, and an insurer cannot issue a demat policy to someone who does not have an account or is unwilling to open an account with the IR options provided by that insurer.”
According to Rajesh Sud, CEO and MD, Max Life, “We believe a life insurer will need to partner with all five IRs, since the choice of IR is left to the customer. Max Life is currently in the process of evaluating the technical as well as commercial aspects of all five IRs, and at the same time we are in the process of readying our systems for this change. Keeping in mind that the insured can open account only with one IR, we are considering all five IRs.”
HDFC Life has tied-up with NIR (National Insurance policy Repository), CIRL (Central Insurance Repository Ltd) and SHCILIR (Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd Insurance Repository). According to them, “The infrastructure for the dematerialisation of insurance policies has just started and we are in the initial stage with some tie ups in place. When the project takes off we expect every insurance company to tie up with all the IRs and cannot restrict the tie up to few IRs only.”
Dr Krishnaswamy, says, “After opening an account with CAMS Repository, I have now come to realise that not all companies are as yet with the IR. Further, none of the companies I hold policies in (LIC, Max Life, Aegon Religare, ING Vysya, Max Bupa) have a tie up with any of the IRs as on date. This aspect has not been publicized by the IRDA, Media or the repository websites.”
IRDA has already stated, “Both new and existing life, annuities, health and general insurance policies can all be credited to this account. However, during the initial phase, the life insurance policies would be credited to this account. The general insurance and group insurance policies would be credited subsequently.”
According to Mr Ramachandran, “The dematerialisation of insurance policies is certainly the future and will benefit customers as they will be able to manage their policies at their convenience. It will help insurance companies address issues around contactibility, delivery of documents, managing policies and KYC norms. It will also help in checking frauds and mis-selling cases, and increase transparency. Over time, this will also allow companies have improved access to a wider consumer base within India and reduce operational costs significantly.”
The five IR companies are: NSDL Database Management Ltd (NDML) National Insurance Repository, Central Insurance Repository Ltd, Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd Insurance Repository, CAMS Repository Services Ltd and Karvy Insurance Repository Ltd.
E-Insurance launched; IndiaFirst offering demat for all policies