Chennai: Individual agent, who used to be the face of life insurance companies, is losing his share of “lives” while other channels are growing faster. In the past five years, the number of lives insured by individual agents has almost halved.
In 2013-14, individual agents covered 484.37 lakh lives and five years down the line this has dropped to 241.78 lakh lives, as per the latest handbook on insurance published by IRDAI. On the other hand, all the channels have grown in these years. Bancassurance channel has doubled the number of lives in just one year – from 57.77 lakh lives in FY17 to 195.89 lives in FY18. Other corporate agents have doubled their number in the past five years, brokers have increased it four-fold and direct selling channel too has doubled the business in terms of lives covered.
“Individual agent is a high cost channel and hence most of the companies are aggressive with the bancassurance channel, where the persistency and productivity is higher. Further, many mid-size insurance companies have been weeding out non-performing agents, despite hiring more. Though the number of lives has declined, the ticket sizes would have improved because the premiums have gone up,” said Vignesh Shahane, CEO and MD of IDBI Life Insurance.
According to Manik Nangia, COO of Max Life Insurance, the relevance of insurance agent in the community is coming down with the changing lifestyle of millennials. “The age of neighbourhood insurance agent has gone. In yesteryears, this agent would sell the right policy to the right customer in that community at the right time. Today insurance companies have to communicate to millennials who don’t even know who all live in the locality and who don’t have time to listen to the agent,” he said.
Online is emerging as a potential channel targeting the upwardly mobile tech-savvy class. In FY18, online covered 2.92 lakh lives. Overall, the number of lives covered by life insurance companies has gone up only by 60 per cent in the past five years. In FY18, this has moved by just 5 per cent.
Insurance penetration - the total business premium as a ratio of the GDP - has remained almost stagnant in the past five years.
“Last year the growth was muted because of the high base effect of demonetization. Further, the GDP too is growing,” said Shahane. As per the latest figures available, life insurance penetration in India is 2.76 per cent and five years back it stood at 3.10 per cent....