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Allow life insurers to play bigger role in healthcare ecosystem, HDFC Life chief Parekh urges Irdai

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Life insurers in India should be allowed to play a bigger role to create an ecosystem in the healthcare sector so that they can be the “disruptor” rather than the “disrupted”, Chairman Deepak S Parekh said in the company’s annual report. The year started on an uncertain note, the pandemic led to a significant loss of human life and now presents a challenge to public health systems, the way of working and the social norms, Parekh said in his address to shareholders in the company’s annual report for 2020-21.

“In the wake of such an unprecedented crisis, we had to move quickly and manage a near overnight transition to a virtual working model.

“We ranked consistently among the top-two private sector companies in the private sector in terms of new business premium; closing the year at Rs 20,107 crore with a market share of 21.5 per cent,” he said.

HDFC Life Insurance Company achieved this amid an economic slowdown exacerbated by the pandemic, liquidity crisis in the financial sector, an uncertain business environment with changing customer preferences, said its chairman.

Company strategy of having a diverse distribution channel helped it tide across a year that saw disruption in its face-to-face networks.

“While we continue to invest to enhance our technological capabilities, I feel that the time is right for the regulator (Irdai) to allow life insurers in India to evolve further and be the disruptor rather than the disrupted,” Parekh said.

Irdai is the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India.

He said companies in Asia and more-developed markets have created subsidiaries and orchestrated ecosystems to make insurance a more holistic offering for the customer.

Citing an example, he said that in Asia, one of the leading insurers has created a healthcare ecosystem that includes services like online medical consultation.

Elsewhere, in Europe, a leading insurer has created a separate digital investment unit to evaluate and invest in financial technology start-ups, Parekh said in his address to shareholders.

HDFC Life added over 300 partners, including over 50 in the emerging ecosystem, during the year. The life insurer is focussing to expand its reach by building a high-quality agency channel comprising over 1 lakh financial consultants and leveraging bancassurance partnership.

Besides, it is also leveraging the online channel to cater to the needs of the new generation customers.

“We continue to engage with the regulator to allow life insurers to distribute non-life financial products, such as health indemnity and NPS, given the large opportunity available to utilise our distribution network to help improve financial inclusion and deepen insurance penetration in India,” he said.

HDFC Life insured four crore lives during 2020-21, with value of new business standing at Rs 2,185 crore.

For the full financial year 2020-21, the company reported a net profit of Rs 1,360 crore, while its assets under management (AUM) grew 37 per cent to over Rs 1.73 lakh crore as of March 31, 2021.

The private sector insurer said it settled over 2.9 death claims during the year with payouts in excess of Rs 3,000 crore in 2020-21.

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