The insurance regulator has proposed to relax norms for registration of insurance marketing firms to improve penetration and sell other financial products, too.
In order to increase insurance penetration in the country, the regulator has proposed to widened the ambit of insurance marketing firms (IMFs). They can now sell group insurance products for micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), crop insurance for non-loanee farmers and combination products. A particular insurance marketing firm can operate in only three districts within a state.
A panel constituted by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Irdai) had recommended that individuals be allowed to shift from being insurance agents to insurance service providers (ISP). Insurance agents may sell products of two life, general and health insurance companies. Apart from that, a financial service executive can also market products of mutual fund companies regulated by SEBI, pension products regulated by PFRDA, banking/ financial products of banks/ NBFC regulated by RBI and non-insurance products offered by Department of Posts and the government.
Insurance marketing firms have been operating since 2015. For general insurance, insurance marketing firms are allowed to sell retail insurance products which are under file and use guidelines, namely, motor, health, personal accident and householders. The firms sell insurance products of only those insurers with whom they have an agreement for soliciting insurance products.
Registration of IMFs
In order to register as an IMF, the firm has to submit an application to the insurance regulator and remit non-refundable application fees of `5,000. It has to submit a copy of the IMF exam pass certificate of the principal officer and the ISPs proposed to be engaged by the IMF. It also has to submit copy of the licences or authorisation or registration issued by Sebi, RBI, PFRDA, etc., obtained by the financial service executive (FSE) proposed to be employed by the IMF.
Most importantly, the IMF will have to submit an undertaking stating that telemarketers will not be engaged for solicitation/ lead generation of insurance business. The applicant will have to have a net worth of at least `5 lakh if it is opting for only one district. The IMF will have to ensure that the net worth is maintained at all times and it will have to submit a certificate duly certified by a chartered accountant to this effect annually within three months from the close of the financial year. The registration will be valid for a period of three years, unless it is suspended or cancelled by the authority. Every IMF will have to take a professional indemnity insurance cover throughout the validity of the period of the registration granted to it by the regulator. The limit of indemnity shall be two times the total remuneration of the insurance marketing firm subject to a minimum amount equaling the net worth of the IMF. The total remuneration includes remuneration from their insurance procuring, servicing activities and marketing of other financial products.
Insurers will have to handhold the IMFs for completing the registration process, take measures for capacity building through imparting continuous training and education and share information to service the policyholders of the policies issued through IMFs such as status of proposal, status of policy, change request, grievance or claims, etc.
Maintenance of records
An IMF will have to keep records of the mandate received from the customer (policyholder), Know Your Client (KYC) records of the customer as required under the regulator’s guidelines and provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, copy of the proposal form duly signed by the customer and submitted to him. The IMF will have to maintain a register containing list of the clients, details of policy, premium amount, date of issue of the policy and charges or fees received. The register will also contain details of complaints received, name of the complainant, nature of complaints and action taken and any other record as may be specified by the regulator. Every insurer company will have to submit to the regulator a copy of the policy to be sold by IMFs for increasing insurance. Insurers will also have to give an annual report on the number of IMFs promoted by them and the business generated through them under various segments. The report will have to be prepared state-wise number of policies sold and the amount.