Life Insurance: LIC Jeevan Saral: A Toxic Product
Life Insurance Corporation of India’s (LIC's) Jeevan Saral used to be a hot-selling insurance product for agents, until it was withdrawn. The product gave higher insurance cover which helped as a sales pitch. But did the agent or the buyer know that the product would give poor returns due to the same reason as the investment component was low? Worse, the product gives negative returns for those in the higher age group, although the person would have purchased the product for investment purposes. 
 
Ironically, even the agents who sell such products may not know that the customer may get lesser money than the premiums paid. It defeats the purpose of buying an insurance product with investment as a goal. It also shows that even traditional products, and not just unit-linked insurance plans (ULIPs), can give negative returns. Stay away from traditional products (endowment, money-back and whole-life) as well as ULIPs.
 
Even an LIC branch head was clueless about Jeevan Saral giving negative returns and sought clarity from his higher-ups. Welcome to traditional products which can make your money disappear! It happens during policy surrender or making it ‘paid-up’; but, in the case of Jeevan Saral, it has happened even at policy maturity. A senior citizen couple has got just one-third of the premiums paid over the years. 
 
For example, a 58-year-old person, paying half-yearly premium of Rs4,076 for 12 years, had paid a total of Rs97,824. The maturity sum assured, which was paid to him after 12 years, was a mere Rs24,575 plus bonus, amounting to Rs34,405. Even though the maturity amount was mentioned in the policy document, it was missing in the proposal, which only specified the death sum assured of Rs1.25 lakh. While the death cover of 15 times the premium is good, it leads to hefty negative returns due to higher mortality charges for senior citizens. Some policies even have 20 times the premium as cover for senior citizens which would mean even lower returns. Even a younger person will barely get premiums back at maturity; hence, Jeevan Saral is a bad investment product.
 
Maturity Sum Assured Versus Death Sum Assured: Jeevan Saral has two different sums assured: death sum assured and maturity sum assured. A layman would not know the difference and would assume that he/she will get the sum assured (death) plus bonus, on policy maturity. Even a financially literate person may miss it, as the LIC proposal form only has field for death benefit sum assured. So, paying close attention to the policy document specifying the maturity sum assured is important when it varies from the death sum assured.
 
Proposal Form: Jeevan Saral was sold to a senior citizen couple without informing them that the maturity amount will be far lower than the total of the premiums they paid. It is unfair disclosure, as the customer is usually unaware of the maturity sum assured being at variance from the death sum assured. The couple filled the proposal form which only had death sum assured specified. The maturity sum assured was not mentioned in the LIC proposal. This is misleading. The maturity sum assured was in the policy document, but most policyholders do not look at the policy details.
 
Branch Office Surprised with Negative Returns: That Jeevan Saral can give negative returns for those in the older age group may not be known to agents or even at the branch office level. The head of an LIC branch wrote to the divisional office, seeking the reasons for a customer getting only one-third of the investment amount. He wrote, “People trust and have faith in LIC for investments. If their savings is not protected, then how can we market other products based on promises of loyalty expected for LIC schemes?” If the seller and their branch heads do not know about product returns, what can be expected from a lay customer? In brief,  Jeevan Saral is a not so ‘saral’ aproduct.
 
Mumbai Ombudsman Rejection: The senior citizens did not get justice at the Mumbai ombudsman, despite getting a paltry one-third of premium at maturity. The ombudsman’s decision states: “If the insurance company has paid the amount as per policy conditions, it is not possible for us to entertain your complaint. However, you may approach any other Forum/Court for the redressal of your complaint.” 
 
Hyderabad Ombudsman’s Favourable Decision: The Hyderabad insurance ombudsman’s office has given justice to a policyholder in a similar case. The Deccan Herald newspaper, on 20 January 2016, had a news report regarding Jeevan Saral. It drew attention to the decision given by the ombudsman in the policyholder’s favour. The policyholder did not receive the amount promised under Jeeval Saral. He stated that LIC had advertised Jeevan Saral in newspapers in 2002. It had claimed that the scheme offers higher returns to the insured. The complainant stated that he paid Rs48,040 as premium, while the maturity amount was Rs34,894. He was told that the sum assured was Rs1 lakh and, hence, was expecting that amount. 
 
Hyderabad ombudsman's order procured under RTI reveals that during the hearing, the representative of the insurer stated that non-specifying of the correct maturity benefit was a typographical mistake that occurred during the printing of the policy document. Does it also mean that not specifying the maturity amount in the proposal form is also a mistake from LIC, as the proposal form does not have separate fields for maturity and death sum assured? The ombudsman ordered LIC to pay Rs1 lakh to the insured. It is strange that the Mumbai ombudsman refused to reopen the case even when the policyholder provided details of the Hyderabad ombudsman’s decision against LIC.
 
High Court (HC) Decision: After the Hyderabad ombudsman’s decision asking LIC to pay Rs1 lakh to the insured, the LIC divisional manager filed a writ petition in the HC. The Dharwad bench of the Karnataka HC imposed a fine of Rs10,000 on LIC for filing a writ petition against an order of the ombudsman. The bench order procured under RTI states that the insured is at liberty to levy execution and attach the property of the petitioner LIC, if LIC failed to pay the sum. 
 
So, there is hope for Jeevan Saral policyholders. But one successful case does not entail its applicability to all policyholders. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) should intervene and help policyholders. After all, IRDAI is also to blame for approving a toxic product, knowing that senior citizens will end up losing their hard-earned money. 
 
Product Suitability and Customised Benefit Illustration: IRDAI Protection of Policyholders’ Interests Draft Regulation (2017) dropped the ‘suitability’ regulation which was present in the 2014 draft. It said: “The insurer, insurance agent and the insurance intermediary shall also ensure the suitability of the product with relevance to prospects’ income, personal and family circumstances, life stage, financial goals and risk appetite.” If such a regulation is enforced, products like Jeevan Saral will never be sold to senior citizens. 
 
Giving a customised benefit illustration can help the customer understand the exact charges which will be incurred for risk cover leading to lower returns. But if a senior citizen is shown the generic benefit illustration applicable to a young person, isn’t the life insurance company mis-selling an unsuitable product?  
 
Protection of Policyholders’ Interest Draft Regulation: IRDAI Protection of Policyholders’ Interests Draft Regulation (2017) has dropped the key rights which were present in the 2014 draft. Right to professional diligence, right of fair disclosure, right to receive suitable advice and right to protection against unfair contract terms are some of the rights that are missing. If IRDAI alters the pro-consumer clauses, who can you blame, if the intermediaries mis-sell the product? 
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    COMMENTS

    Sucheta Dalal

    11 months ago

    Instead of trying to connect with a stranger, who seems strangely optimistic, you may want to make the effort to seek counselling from someone who knows!

    Mitesh Shah

    2 years ago

    i am currently paying Rs.1.20 lacs per year premiuim for Jeevan Saral policy taken almost 7 - 8 yrs back . Now what sud i do ...wud it be wise to withdraw full amount on completion of 10th year of the policy ? kindly suggest the best solution.

    REPLY

    Suraj G

    In Reply to Mitesh Shah 2 years ago

    I have visited the LIC office after going though this article, they have told me the figures what if i withdraw before 10th Year(currently i am in 9th Year).

    I found out that i will be getting a little less amount than my Total premium paid since i am doing a pre closure. If i would wait for an year i would get the bonus as well, then thinking to withdraw the same, but the article quotes "Even a younger person will barely get premiums back at maturity", but the figures what they have shown me in the system for current year and hoping to get bonus from next year and if I withdraw the amount the same year i would be getting my premium paid with some bonus.

    I would suggest visited your LIC branch and find out more about it.

    Regards
    G Suraj

    Deepa Sriram

    In Reply to Suraj G 11 months ago

    Hi Suraj... Can we connect one on one. I am paying around 60 k per year.... Will complete ten years of investment in a year from now.... What do you suggest I should do?

    Suraj G

    In Reply to Deepa Sriram 11 months ago

    Hi Deepa

    I cannot advise you on this topic as we are on the same page.
    As sucheta suggested please try to seek a professional help here.

    I wrote to the article author in the below comments seeking advise but there is no response.

    I have written my personal experience here.

    Regards
    Suraj

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Suraj G 11 months ago

    Well, the article provides a lot of clarity. The author has now migrated to the US. If you go to http://foundation.moneylife.in or https://www.facebook.com/moneylifedailyclinics/ you will find the forum for advice - that too FREE. But it will not be in the comments section of a magazine article - which has recently been made "free' as a matter of public interest.
    Moneylife Foundation is considering class action. To connect with Moneylife Foundation become a FREE member and write to the helplines. or come personally for the relevant daily clinic.

    Dilip Modi

    2 years ago

    Surely IRDA is equally negligent in permitting a product that is giving negative returns! Even if such a product is approved, is it not the responsibility of the regulator (and of course the Insurance company and its agents to ensure that the documents make it amply clear that maturity values will be less than invested value!!)

    Suraj G

    2 years ago

    Hi Raj

    This is indeed a very helpful article.
    Can you kindly advise the readers on what actions are required if we hold a Jeevan Saral Policy.

    Thanks & Regards
    G Suraj

    Vivek Naik

    2 years ago

    Very helpful

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  • How Insurance Mis-selling Defrauds Senior Citizens
    Senior citizens with comfortable savings are being systematically targeted and defrauded by insurance companies. What is worse, this organised loot is done by relationship managers of the best banks and their insurance associates, with the top management turning a blind eye to the fraud. The mis-selling is almost like a template. The bank relationship manager convinces the senior citizen to buy a bunch of policies—often as a gift for children and grandchildren. These policies are portrayed as fixed deposits with insurance benefits but are, in fact, policies requiring payment of hefty annual premiums. Consequently, the annual premiums range from  Rs 1 lakh to Rs5 lakh, which the seniors are unable to pay and the policies lapse.
     
    When they realise that they have been duped, sometimes a year later, they begin to demand their money back. At this time, the insurance company officials collude with the bankers to ensure that complaints are rejected on the grounds that free look-in period is over and their signature on the form confirms assent. It is true that seniors have signed on the dotted line, but it was only because of an implicit trust in their bankers. Having trusted the bank with their life savings, they find it impossible to suspect that their sweet-talking relationship manager is deliberately and systematically cheating them. In most cases, the policy is explained to them in detail with plenty of calculations, but the manager is careful not to leave any paper behind. Often, even after they notice that the policy document is different from the promises made, the glib-talking relationship manager says he will sort things out with the insurance company which is an affiliate. Consider these three cases that Moneylife Foundation came across in just the past six weeks. 
     
    Mr Raghunathan (name changed), 80, was a retired senior executive of Tata Exports. His ‘wealth manager’ sold him a dozen insurance policies. The beneficiaries were his sons Durgesh (two polices of Rs3 lakh and Rs6 lakh) and Kapil (five polices of Rs2 lakh, Rs3 lakh, Rs2.4 lakh and Rs5 lakh) and his granddaughter Supriya (five policies of Rs2 lakh, Rs4 lakh, Rs2.4 lakh, Rs10 lakh and Rs20 lakh). The total: a whopping Rs62.8 lakh. The wealth manager had become bolder when the last two were signed and the amounts were significantly larger. The total premium payable on these policies per year was impossibly high and not even feasible. In fact, his savings over a lifetime were decimated. 
     
    Interestingly, several policies were allowed to lapse, even after the premium had been paid for three years, and new ones opened, to log in fresh business to meet the next year’s target of the wealth manager. The bank is aware that the same wealth manager had cheated four others, including an 86-year old, whose signatures were forged, and Mr Raghunathan’s own brother, in whose name he created an email ID that was used for official communication. A doctor was sold a ‘single premium policy’ of Rs70 lakh, only to find that she needed to make five more payments of the same amount. The wealth manager’s actions are under investigation; but the bank is unlikely to refund the premiums unless there is pressure. Mr Raghunathan got his money back after Moneylife took up the case with the managing director of the bank. But what happens to the others? 
     
    A 78-year-old retired chairman of the income-tax settlement commission was the victim of this fraud. The relationship manager of a leading private bank sold a ‘guaranteed return’ product, where a ‘deposit’ of Rs1 lakh, would fetch a maturity value of Rs1.42 lakh at the end of three years. One person in the family would get a Rs3 lakh life cover. Three company officials reiterated and confirmed the terms. He was persuaded to part with his cheque and told that the policy document would be sent shortly. The document he received was a 10-year policy in his daughter’s name with an annual premium of over Rs95,000. Shockingly, multiple people in the insurance company continued to fool him saying that the document was an interim paper and the ‘final policy document’ would have the correct terms. All this was in telephone conversations. When he, finally, filed a written complaint, he was given the brush off saying his consent was obtained and he had not rejected the policy during the free look-in  period. He got a full refund after Moneylife wrote to the group chairman. But this is a clear case of fraud with the active connivance of company officials. 
     
    The third case, of Abhay Kulkarni of Dadar (name changed), is the worst, with no solution. Mr Kulkarni’s NRI son wrote to us in anguish that his 70 plus father, retired from Air India, has squandered his entire retirement fund of Rs60 lakh on insurance policies sold as single-premium ones with high returns. The policies lapsed when he discovered that he needed to pay annual premiums for five years or more. A new set of agents is now persuading him to part with more money by offering to recover the money. The policies were all booked with blue-chip names in the financial world. We couldn’t help him because Mr Kulkarni, unlike his son, continues to believe the agents will help him recover the money. He is also driving himself into a bigger hole by borrowing from relatives to buy new policies.
     
    In cases like these, consumers end up running from pillar to post with no end in sight. Banks and insurers are fully aware that their victims have no will or resources to drag them to court. This makes them very easy targets. But one consumer did go to court in a case relating to SBI Life Insurance. It led to a stinging judgement by the Allahabad High Court. The Court even asked the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) of the ministry of corporate affairs and the insurance regulator to examine the unlawful gains made by the insurer by cheating consumers. How did the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) react to this? By setting up a committee “To recommend measures for curbing mis-selling and rationalising distribution incentives in financial products.” The report was submitted in August 2015, but nothing has happened on the ground. 
     
    The insurance sold to all the people mentioned above was clearly unsuitable and fraudulent; but since our financial regulators have little interest in enforcing their regulations, powerful insurers get away. Victims of mis-selling also receive no help from the banking ombudsman or the insurance ombudsman. In most cases, a complaint is dismissed primarily on one query alone—Did you sign the proposal form? If the answer is yes, the charge of mis-selling is rejected outright, though there is a clear pattern of identical complaints. 
     
    Check newspaper columns that publish answers to readers’ queries on insurance. If a victim seeks remedies to mis-selling, the standard answer is: You need to “conclusively prove that you were mis-sold insurance. Unfortunately, your position is considerably weakened because you signed a proposal form and documents that do not mention the high returns” or failed to complain in the free look-in period. Every insurer knows this is a deliberate trap. The relationship manager ensures that the customer does not even receive policy documents until the free look-in period has ended.
     
    The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) consumer charter, if given teeth—in the form of hefty compensation and penalty for such deliberate mis-selling of third-party products—would stop such abusive practices. Instead, RBI is watching silently as gross abuse of senior citizens’ savings continues unabated. IRDAI has taken a cue from RBI and seems set to decimate consumer protection. A draft of IRDAI (Protection of Policyholders’ Interests) Regulations, 2017, which is open for public comment, has reportedly removed provisions that protected consumers from unfair market conduct, mis-representation of policy benefits, unfair terms of contract, conflict of interest of advisors, right to fair disclosure and suitable advice.
     
    Isn’t it time that IRDAI (and the insurance ombudsman) wakes up to this standard template of mis-selling and orders refunds in all such cases? If multiple financial regulators fail the ordinary consumer, it is time we demand a unified financial regulator and the single-point grievance redress that cuts across regulatory turfs of IRDAI, RBI and others.
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    User

    COMMENTS

    Manish Jain

    2 years ago

    Talking to few experts on Insurance, I just learned that this article is about a “Kaplana Fraud” issue. People can’t IMAGINE it will happen to them. The good part is that insurance companies are working together with the regulator to control it as much as possible and refunding money once this is proved case to case basis. Some of the new insurance companies have more cases, as their process are weak.

    Typical “Kalpana Fraud” Modus Operandi:
    - Fraudster falsely representing IRDA, ICICI, LIC, Future Generali, HDFC Life, Exide Life and other companies
    - Identifies victims who are gullible senior citizens, illiterate people, new to insurance, hard working honest people not sure where to invest
    - Bait & switch - builds trust with a promise to help and then sells promises of refunds and bonus on purchase of policies with dates that are after the free-look period
    - Excellent in ensuring paperwork is water tight with all signatures
    - Have victims recommend other victims
    - Smooth talker with contacts in the insurance companies / agents who collude with her. Works with new insurance agents with and companies with weak fraud detection processes

    Thanks for the good work done by IRDA in keeping a list of such fraudsters and sharing it with insurance companies and helping them develop process to control this. Things take time, but justice is done.

    Manish Jain

    2 years ago

    Is there any legal person/advocate/organization who specializes in representing such senior people/uneducated people to present their case to the insurance company?

    Manish Jain

    2 years ago

    Thanks for this article. This is exactly what has happened to a Senior Citizen I am trying to help, who has taken on life policies in other people name because of promise of a bonus by IRDAI. The poor people do no have an education to understand the complexities of Life insurance and simply trust people on their work and sign papers. I would hope the private insurance fix this for the reputation of their company.

    Suketu Shah

    2 years ago

    Super work moneylife is going.One "expert"(thats what he calls himself although I think he a "fake expert" had the guts to tell me not to read India's best financial and investment magazine in Sept 2012 when I didnot know much about equity.

    Now such statement wl straight lead to police complaint and humiliation to his private bank.Shaming such people on social media etc is very very powerful.They cannot fool us but atleast they also cannot fool the hundreds/thousands who read our experience.

    In financial education, the head of the family has to get financially educated via the right educator(not wrong)and lead the way so no one in the family can get cheated by "fake experts".There is no other way.

    RAVI SINGH

    2 years ago

    I am also a victim of such fraud.
    i had asked for single premium policies of 3lakh and 2 policies of 1 lakh each ( Total 5 lakhs) but when i received the policy document, it turned out to be an endowment policy where i have to pay premium of 5 lakhs for 10 years, i wish that moneylife take up my case.
    THANKS

    REPLY

    Vijay Dadoo

    In Reply to RAVI SINGH 2 years ago

    I think it is time for some one, or all of us writing to The Finance Minister, Prime Minister of India, and seek redressal of our grievances against the Life Insurance Companies, their connections in the Banks, who peep in to our account, and approach the prospective customers.
    It shall be certainly better, if we all appeal Padma Shri Ms. Sucheta Dalal to lead the group.
    Through this mail, I request Ms. Sucheta Dalal to kindly approach the Honourable Finance Minister, Honourable Prime Minister and others, which Ms. Dalal knows better.

    Heathwood Johnson

    2 years ago

    Its a typical case of "fence eating the grass". As Senior Citizens are wits are no more at their best and then to be defrauded by Banks with in which we may have had accounts





    several decades shakes one's faith in humanity. One can only hope that authorities concerned will come out with suitable solutions --- in our life time !!!
    Perhaps this is a fit scandal for our TV Media to highlight for common good.

    REPLY

    Vijay Dadoo

    In Reply to Heathwood Johnson 2 years ago

    It is of very great importance. Government of India has permitted 49% FDI. Secondly, the Sr. citizens have invested often their entire life savings and available money. Kindly go through the write up by Ms. Sucheta Dalal wherein she has quoted a case of Rs. 70 lacs being invested by a Sr. Citizen in Single Premium policy, which has gone to nuts. The Government should also take a note of a very good article by Ms. Sucheta Dalal, who is a known personality. IRDAI, Ministry of Finance should take note of the contents of the article.

    Sucheta Dalal

    2 years ago

    If misselling by banks worries you, please sign and share this petition against it : https://tinyurl.com/k45z4n5

    Vijay Dadoo

    2 years ago

    Ms Sucheta Dallas should write to Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Chairman CBDT, Chartered Accountant's All India Body, and the sufferers like me, my wife should also write to these authorities directly, in a bid to find solution to these misleading acts of InInsurance Companies, and Banks, who, on account of access to our accounts pass on the information of prospective buyers of policies.
    As such these Insurance Companies do not own any responsibilities.

    REPLY

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Vijay Dadoo 2 years ago

    Sir. you can start by signing and sharing this petition. If the PM has to be convinced there are so many sufferers then lets at least have 100,000 signatures here. If simple letters made a difference we would be a great country. We have sent dozens of letters before starting this effort. Even here we have spoken to many MPs.
    Click this : https://tinyurl.com/k45z4n5

    Vijay Dadoo

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 years ago

    We, myself and my wife Prabha Dadoo wholeheartedly support you. Kindly go ahead.
    I request all the Sr. Citizens, or their kind, who have suffered through these policies to support the efforts and initiatives of Ms. Sucheta Dalal. All the sufferers can also directly write to P.M. Office, Finance Minister Office, CBDT and IRDAI.

    Vijay Dadoo

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 years ago

    No. It is not possible for me/us to collect One Lac Signatures. But, does it require One Lac Signatures to make your problems known to Government? On our part, We, my wife and myself have written to Chairman CBDT, the mail has been acknowledged, and we do hope to get a reply.
    We have learnt that P.M.Office takes action on every letter/mail sent. We are not a known face, but you are. Therefore, we had requested you to kindly take up the issue with P.M.Office, Finance Minister Office, Chairman CBDT, IRDAI and others. It may be immense help if we can learn how many policies (Specially Single Premium Policy, which is referred by you in your article are issued by the 24 Life Insurance Companies may be through CIC or RTI or through the INsurance Companies directly. We shall co operate in any manner that you suggest.

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Vijay Dadoo 2 years ago

    Please read again. You were asked to SIGN the petition, not collect one lakh signatures -- I have done that already. You may have noticed that all this effort is to help as best as we can.

    Gurudutt Mundkur

    2 years ago

    Nobody can fool you unless you allow them to do so.

    REPLY

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Gurudutt Mundkur 2 years ago

    Lets pray that it does not happen to someone close to you.

    Vijay Dadoo

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 years ago

    Only the one who wears, knows where the shoes pinches. Therefore, Mr. Mundkar, kindly check up with your well placed friends and relatives, and find out if any one Sr. citizen has taken up a policy, and then find out present position and then react. Nothing Personal please.

    Vijay Dadoo

    2 years ago

    Insurance , specially Life insurance business is all fraud. The agents get huge first payout and also every year thereafter, therefore are always pursuing the prospective customers, showing that there is a huge earning, which will take care of their old age requirements. Nothing is in black and white, no details about receivables against time in the policy. As a common person, no body is able to read the fine print, and the things come to knowledge much later, and the Insurance Companies play the Card of having given the customer 15 days free look period, and the proposal form having been signed by the person.
    IRDAI does not take care of these aspects of the policies. Policies are being sold as Diamond, Platinum, Gold etc, just fooling people.
    Insurance ombudsman also never takes care of the Sr. citizens trapped in the trap laid out by the Insurance Companies.
    With no other source of income, the Sr. citizens get into forever trouble

    sundararaman gopalakrishnan

    2 years ago

    Moneylife is doing yeomen service in highlighting the problems faced by common citizens due to mis selling by relationship managers and agents.
    Better to stay away from these.
    Bank FD looks a great option compared to these!!

    jaideep shirali

    2 years ago

    The insurance sellers need to be penalised for mis selling. But, as an advisor, I keep seeing the same depressing attitude towards investments, especially insurance. Just 3 questions, "Do I get 80 C benefit?", "What is the amount ?" and "Where do I sign?" is what I am told by clients, many of whom do not bother to understand the product, because they "do not have the time". Please ask questions, it is your money at stake.

    REPLY

    Vijay Dadoo

    In Reply to jaideep shirali 2 years ago

    That is one part of the mis selling. There are plenty of other side effects as rightly pointed out by Ms. Dalal. Do quote some cases known to you

    David M. Thangliana

    2 years ago

    Great article. Hope it wakes up not only the concerned authorities, but also those being targetted for duping.

    SRINIVAS SHENOY

    2 years ago

    In my case mis-selling of an Insurance Policy to me took place prior to my retirement. I was requested by one of my bank colleague to purchase a policy through him, as a favour in which my bank had a stake. This has resulted in me not canvassing the policy to any third party, lest the same fate befalls them.

    Suketu Shah

    2 years ago

    Superb article.

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