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Bancassurance – The Concept
In India banking and insurance sectors are regulated by two different entities. The banking sector is governed by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the insurance sector is regulated by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA).
RBI recognized the need of an effective method to make insurance policies reach people of all economic classes in every corner of the nation. Insurance companies proposed to bring insurance products into the lives of the common man by making them available at the most basic financial point, the local bank branch, through Bancassurance.
Bancassurance, i.e., banc + assurance, refers to banks selling the insurance products. Bancassurance term first appeared in France in 1980, to define the sale of insurance products through banks’ distribution channels (SCOR 2003).
According to IRDA, ‘bancassurance’ refers to banks acting as corporate agents for insurers to distribute insurance products.
- Through this new distribution network, the insurance company significantly extends its customer base and enjoys access to customers who were previously difficult to reach. An insurance company can establish itself more quickly in a new market, using a local bank’s existing network.
- The bank sees bancassurance as a way of creating a new revenue flow and diversifying its business activities. The bank becomes a sort of “supermarket”, a “one-stop shop” for financial services, where all customers’ needs – whether financial or insurance- related – can be met.
RBI Guidelines for the Banks to enter into Insurance Business
Following the issuance of Government of India Notification dated August 3, 2000, specifying ‘Insurance’ as a permissible form of business that could be undertaken by banks under Section 6(1)(o) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, RBI issued the guidelines on Insurance business for banks.
1. Any scheduled commercial bank would be permitted to undertake insurance business as agent of insurance companies on fee basis, without any risk participation. The subsidiaries of banks will also be allowed to undertake distribution of insurance product on agency basis.
2. Banks which satisfy the eligibility criteria given below will be permitted to set up a joint venture company for undertaking insurance business with risk participation, subject to safeguards. The maximum equity contribution such a bank can hold in the joint venture company will normally be 50 per cent of the paid-up capital of the insurance company. On a selective basis the Reserve Bank of India may permit a higher equity contribution by a promoter bank initially, pending divestment of equity within the prescribed period (see Note 1 below).
The eligibility criteria for joint venture participant are as under:
i. The net worth of the bank should not be less than Rs.500 crore;
ii. The CRAR of the bank should not be less than 10 per cent;
iii. The level of non-performing assets should be reasonable;
iv. The bank should have net profit for the last three consecutive years;
v. The track record of the performance of the subsidiaries, if any, of the concerned bank should be satisfactory.
3. In cases where a foreign partner contributes 26 per cent of the equity with the approval of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority/Foreign Investment Promotion Board, more than one public sector bank or private sector bank may be allowed to participate in the equity of the insurance joint venture. As such participants will also assume insurance risk, only those banks which satisfy the criteria given in paragraph 2 above, would be eligible.
4. A subsidiary of a bank or of another bank will not normally be allowed to join the insurance company on risk participation basis. Subsidiaries would include bank subsidiaries undertaking merchant banking, securities, mutual fund, leasing finance, housing finance business, etc.
5. Banks which are not eligible for ‘joint venture’ participant as above, can make investments up to 10% of the net worth of the bank or Rs.50 crore, whichever is lower, in the insurance company for providing infrastructure and services support. Such participation shall be treated as an investment and should be without any contingent liability for the bank.
The eligibility criteria for these banks will be as under :
i. The CRAR of the bank should not be less than 10%;
ii. The level of NPAs should be reasonable;
iii. The bank should have net profit for the last three consecutive years.
6. All banks entering into insurance business will be required to obtain prior approval of the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank will give permission to banks on case to case basis keeping in view all relevant factors including the position in regard to the level of non-performing assets of the applicant bank so as to ensure that non-performing assets do not pose any future threat to the bank in its present or the proposed line of activity, viz., insurance business. It should be ensured that risks involved in insurance business do not get transferred to the bank and that the banking business does not get contaminated by any risks which may arise from insurance business. There should be ‘arms length’ relationship between the bank and the insurance outfit.
For banks it just acts as a means of product diversification and additional fee income; for insurance company it acts as a tool for increasing their market penetration and premium turnover and for customer it acts as a bonanza in terms of reduced price, high quality products and delivery to doorsteps. So every body is a winner here.