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What is Bancassurance?


Bancassurance is a French term referring to the selling of insurance through a bank's established distribution channels.   In other words, we can say Bancassurance is the provision of insurance  (assurance) products by a bank.   The usage of the word picked up as banks and insurance companies merged and banks sought to provide insurance, especially in markets that have been liberalised recently. It is a controversial idea, and many feel it gives banks too great a control over the financial industry.     In some countries, bancassurance is still largely prohibited, but it was recently legalized in countries like USA  when the Glass Steagall Act was repealed after the passage of  the Gramm Leach Bililey Act.

Bancassurance is the selling of insurance and banking products through the same channel, most commonly through bank branches.  Selling insurance.means distribution of insurance and other financial products through Banks.  Bancassurance concept originated in France and soon became a success story even in other countries of Europe. In India a number of insurers have already tied up with banks and some banks have already flagged off bancassurance through select products. 

Bancassurance has become significant. Banks are now a major distribution channel for insurers, and insurance sales a significant source of profits for banks. The latter partly being because banks can often sell insurance at better prices (i.e., higher premiums) than many other channels, and they have low costs as they use the infrastructure (branches and systems) that they use for banking.

Bancassurance primarily rests on the relationship the customer has developed over a period of time with the bank. And pushing risk products through banks is a much more cost-effective affair for an insurance company compared to the agent route, while, for banks, considering the falling interest rates, fee based income coming in at a minimum cost is more than welcome.



Advantages of Bancassurance:

The following factors have mainly led to success of bancassurance

(i) Pressure on banks' profit margins. Bancassurance offers another area of profitability to banks with little or no capital outlay. A small capital outlay in turn means a high return on equity.

(ii) A desire to provide one-stop customer service. Today, convenience is a major issue in managing a person's day to day activities. A bank, which is able to market insurance products, has a competitive edge over its competitors. It can provide complete financial planning services to its customers under one roof.

(iii) Opportunities for sophisticated product offerings.

(iv)  Opportunities for greater customer lifecycle management.

(v)  Diversify and grow revenue base from existing relationships.

(vi)  Diversify risks by tapping another area of profitability.

(vii)  The realisation that insurance is a necessary consumer need. Banks can use their large base of existing customers to sell insurance products.

(viii)  Bank aims to increase percentage of non-interest fee income

(ix)  Cost effective use of premises



Various Models for Bancassurance

Various models are used by banks for bancassurance.  (a)  Strategic Alliance Model : Under this Model, there is a tie-up between a bank and an insurance company. The bank only markets the products of the insurance company. Except for marketing the products, no other insurance functions are carried out by the bank. (b) Full Integration Model : This model entails a full integration of banking and insurance services. The bank sells the insurance products under its brand acting as a provider of financial solutions matching customer needs. Bank controls sales and insurer service levels including approach to claims. Under such an arrangement the Bank has an additional core activity almost similar to that of an insurance company. (c) Mixed Models: Under this Model, the marketing is done by the insurer's staff and the bank is responsible for generating leads only. In other words, the database of the bank is sold to the insurance company. The approach requires very little technical investment.


Status of Bancassurance in India


Reserve Bank of India (RBI)  has recognized "bancassurance" wherein banks are allowed to provide physical infrastructure within their select branch premises to insurance companies for selling their insurance products to the banks’ customers with adequate disclosure and transparency, and in turn earn referral fees on the basis of premia collected. This would utilize the resources in the banking sector in a more profitable manner.

Bancassurance can be important source of revenue. With the increased competition and squeezing of interest rates spreads profit of the are likely to be under pressure. Fee based income can be increased through hawking of risk products like insurance.

There is enormous potential for insurance in India and recent experience has shown massive growth pace. A combination of the socio-economic factors are likely to make the insurance business the biggest and the fastest growing segment of the financial services industry in India.

However, before taking the plunge in to this new field, banks as insurers need to work hard on chalking out strategies to sell risk products especially in an emerging competitive market. However, future is bright for bancassurance. Banks in India have all the right ingredients to make Bancassurance a success story. They have large branch network, huge customer base, enjoy customer confidence and have experience in selling non-banking products. If properly implemented, India could take leadership position in bancassurance all over the world

Government of India Notification dated August 3, 2000, specified ‘Insurance’ as a permissible form of business that could be undertaken by banks under Section 6(1)(o) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. Then onwards, banks are allowed to enter the insurance business as per the guidelines and after obtaining prior approval of Reserve Bank of India.


Guidelines for Banks for Entry of banks into Insurance business

1.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:-

(a) The net worth of the bank should not be less than Rs.500 crore;

(b) The CRAR of the bank should not be less than 10 per cent;

(c) The level of non-performing assets should be reasonable;

(d) The bank should have net profit for the last three consecutive years;

(e) 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 as joint venture participant as above, can make investments up to 10% of the networth 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.

Notes: -

1. Holding of equity by a promoter bank in an insurance company or participation in any form in insurance business will be subject to compliance with any rules and regulations laid down by the IRDA/Central Government. This will include compliance with Section 6AA of the Insurance Act as amended by the IRDA Act, 1999, for divestment of equity in excess of 26 per cent of the paid up capital within a prescribed period of time.

2. Latest audited balance sheet will be considered for reckoning the eligibility criteria.

3. Banks which make investments under paragraph 5 of the above guidelines, and later qualify for risk participation in insurance business (as per paragraph 2 of the guidelines) will be eligible to apply to the Reserve Bank for permission to undertake insurance business on risk participation basis.





Entry of banks into Insurance business - insurance agency business/referral arrangement

The banks need not obtain prior approval of the RBI for engaging in insurance agency business or referral arrangement without any risk participation, subject to the following conditions:

The bank should comply with the IRDA regulations for acting as ‘composite corporate agent’ or referral arrangement with insurance companies.

The bank should not adopt any restrictive practice of forcing its customers to go in only for a particular insurance company in respect of assets financed by the bank. The customers should be allowed to exercise their own choice.

The bank desirous of entering into referral arrangement, besides complying with IRDA regulations, should also enter into an agreement with the insurance company concerned for allowing use of its premises and making use of the existing infrastructure of the bank. The agreement should be for a period not exceeding three years at the first instance and the bank should have the discretion to renegotiate the terms depending on its satisfaction with the service or replace it by another agreement after the initial period. Thereafter, the bank will be free to sign a longer term contract with the approval of its Board in the case of a private sector bank and with the approval of Government of India in respect of a public sector bank.

As the participation by a bank’s customer in insurance products is purely on a voluntary basis, it should be stated in all publicity material distributed by the bank in a prominent way. There should be no ’linkage’ either direct or indirect between the provision of banking services offered by the bank to its customers and use of the insurance products.

The risks, if any, involved in insurance agency/referral arrangement should not get transferred to the business of the bank.