Life Insurance is one of the fastest growing sector in India since 2000 as Government allowed Private players and FDI up to 26% and recently Cabinet approved a proposal to increase it to 49%. Life Insurance in India was nationalised by incorporating Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) in 1956. All private life insurance companies at that time were taken over by LIC.
While the committee submitted its report in 1994, it took another six years before the enabling legislation was passed in the year 2000, legislation amending the Insurance Act of 1938 and legislating the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act of 2000. The same year the newly appointed insurance regulator – Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority IRDA—started issuing licenses to private life insurers.
Types of Life Insurance in India
Life insurance products come in a variety of offerings catering to the investment needs and objectives of different kinds of investors. Following is the list of broad categories of life insurance products:
Term Insurance Policies
The basic premise of a term insurance policy is to secure the immediate needs of nominees or beneficiaries in the event of sudden or unfortunate demise of the policy holder. The policy holder does not get any monetary benefit at the end of the policy term except for the tax benefits he or she can choose to avail of throughout the tenure of the policy. In the event of death of the policy holder, the sum assured is paid to his or her beneficiaries. Term insurance policies are also relatively cheaper to acquire as compared to other insurance products.
Money back policies are basically an extension of endowment plans wherein the policy holder receives a fixed amount at specific intervals throughout the duration of the policy. In the event of the unfortunate death of the policy holder, the full sum assured is paid to the beneficiaries. The terms again might slightly vary from one insurance company to another.
Whole life policiesA whole life insurance plan covers the insured over his life. The primary feature of this product is that the validity of the policy is not defined so the policyholder enjoys the life cover throughout his life.
Unit linked insurance policies again belong to the insurance-cum-investment category where one gets to enjoy the benefits of both insurance and investment. While a part of the monthly premium pay-out goes towards the insurance cover, the remaining money is invested in various types of funds that invest in debt and equity instruments. ULIP plans are more or less similar in comparison to mutual funds except for the difference that ULIPs offer the additional benefit of insurance.
Pension policies let individuals determine a fixed stream of income post retirement. This basically is a retirement planning investment scheme where the sum assured or the monthly pay-out after retirement entirely depends on the capital invested, the investment timeframe, and the age at which one wishes to retire. There are again several types of pension plans that cater to different investment needs. Now it is recognized as insurance product and being regulated by IRDA.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy in Insurance Sector
As per the current (March 2006) FDI norms, foreign participation in an Indian insurance company is restricted to 26.0% of its equity / ordinary share capital. The Insurance Regulator has stipulated that foreign investment in Indian Insurance companies be limited to 26% of total equity issued (FDI limit) with the balance being funded by Indian promoter entities. The limit to foreign investment includes both direct and indirect investment and has been a cause of significant lobbying by foreign insurance companies for a change in regulations to increase the FDI limit to 49% of equity issued. Recently,In the Fiscal Budget of Modi Government of 2014-15 it has introduced 49.0% FDI which will bring in more investments in Insurance Sector.
The Indian government has supported an increase in the FDI limit, which requires a change in the Insurance Act. The Union Budget for fiscal 2005 had recommended that the ceiling on foreign holding be increased to 49.0%.
A change in the Insurance Act requires a passage of the bill in both houses of Parliament. The Indian government has tabled the bill in the Upper House of Parliament in August 2010.
Initial Public Offer (IPO) rules for Indian Life Insurance Companies
A key piece of legislation impacting on the Life Insurance industries capital raising abilities is the lock-in period of 10 years for investment to be limited to promoter group equity investments. Under the Insurance Guidelines, Indian Life Insurance companies can opt for a public issue of equity through an Initial Public Offer (IPO) after 10 years of operations.
In October 2010, the securities market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), issued disclosure norms for Indian Life Insurance Companies seeking to make an initial public offer for sale of equity shares to the public.
Indian life insurance industry overview
All life insurance companies in India have to comply with the strict regulations laid out by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI).
Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), the state owned behemoth, remains by far the largest player in the market. The private companies have come out with products called ULIPs (Unit Linked Investment Plans) which offer both life cover as well as scope for savings or investment options as the customer desires. These type of plans are subject to a minimum lock-in period of three years to prevent misuse of the significant tax benefits offered to such plans under the Income Tax Act. Comparison of such products with mutual funds would be erroneous.