'We're looking at 50:50 mix of traditional, unit-linked products'

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John Holden, chief executive officer, Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance John Holden, chief executive officer, Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance
SummaryThough a number of insurers moved quickly towards increasing their traditional offerings...

will continue to be our strategy for the foreseeable future.

With a growing agency force, what are the concerns? How do you plan to counter these issues?

If I was the regulator, I’d be advocating an improvement in the standards of training and competence among the people who sell insurance. If you look at other markets, there are minimum levels of training and competence for such people and the global trend is that level is going up, rather than down. I suggest that we have the right curriculum for India, rather than import one. Something that we have been considering is that rather than licensing someone to sell all the products at one go, you make them go through the product range, where entry level people handle entry level products. Most customers have straightforward and simple needs, which can be taken care of by straightforward and simple products. Then, with more experience and training, you move to selling more complex products to customers who have specialised needs.

While most other insurers have rushed to offer more traditional products after change in regulations in 2010, you have stuck to selling a higher number of unit-linked products. What is the philosophy behind this?

Right now, it (concentration of unit-linked products) is probably in the range of 70% for the year. We did not make a wholesale swing from Ulip to traditional products after the 2010 change in guidelines. We have some traditional products available for the customers and two more will be launched in about two weeks. I see the mix comfortably in the range of 50-50 between traditional and unit-linked products soon. That is where we want to be. Our customer needs did not change overnight. So, my observation is that if you move from a 90-10 arrangement to about 10-90, in favour of traditional products, overnight, that doesn’t suggest to me that it is a customer-initiated need.

At least two of your partner banks have a strong branch network in rural India. How do you plan on using this to your benefit in growing rural business?

We go where the bank goes. Pretty much all

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