1. Life Insurers

“WE HAVE WITNESSED greater growth in demand for life insurance products from Tier-II and III cities,” says Vibha Padalkar, MD and CEO, HDFC Life Insurance, which along with Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, has topped Fortune India’s list of best life insurers.

HDFC Life, which had a claims paid rate of 99%, and a maturity claims paid (within 30 days) rate of 97% in 2023, recorded a growth of 10% in individual weighted received premium (WRP), compared with an industry average of 8% in the first half of 2023, says Padalkar. WRP is the sum of the first-year premium on renewal policies and 10% of single premium policies. In the first half of FY24, HDFC Life had a 15.7% share of the private life insurance industry and 10.3% of the overall industry.

“We have launched innovative products and implemented multiple field-support initiatives. We are confident of strong demand in the pure protection and retirement segments, going ahead,” says Padalkar.

According to RBI’s Financial Stability Report (June 2023), total premium income of life insurers grew 12.8% to ₹7.81 lakh crore (provisional), while total premium underwritten by general and health insurers grew 16.4% to ₹2.57 lakh crore during FY23.

Meanwhile, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, which covers 4.56 crore people and manages an AUM of over ₹1,00,000 crore, had a claims paid rate and maturity claims paid (within 30 days) rate of 99%. The company says the number of policies grew 22% (YTD) as of October, 2023 to 3.65 lakh.

SBI Life Insurance and Tata AIA Life grabbed the second spot, with a claims paid rate of 97% and 99%, respectively, followed by ICICI Prudential Life Insurance at the third place (96% claims paid rate).

SBI Life, which commands a 24.6% share of the private life insurance market in terms of individual rated premium, has a network of 1,011 offices, 236,978 agents, and 14 bancassurance partners with over 41,000 partner branches, as of September 30, 2023. Its gross written premium grew 21% to ₹33,731 crore in the first half of FY24, driven by a 24% growth in new business premium and a 17% increase in renewal premium. Total AUM increased 22% to ₹3.45 lakh crore during the period. “Our distribution, product offerings and digital ecosystem will help us maintain steady growth and long-term consistent returns,” says Amit Jhingran, MD & CEO, SBI Life.

For Tata AIA, being the only non-bank owned insurer among the top five speaks of the company’s success, according to Naveen Tahilyani, CEO, Tata AIA. “We’ve built a multi-distribution machine with multiple channels such as digital, direct sales force, banks and brokers,” says Tahilyani. The company reported a 59% jump in individual weighted new business premium income in FY23, while individual death claims settlement ratio increased to 99%. “We have a 91% insurance protection gap in the country. Only 20 crore individuals are insured… a large part of the working population does not have life insurance, and the gap is even larger in rural India. This will be the biggest driver of the life insurance industry over the next 5-10 years,” adds Tahilyani.

2. Term Insurers

TERM LIFE INSURANCE is the purest form of insurance that protects the earnings potential of policyholders. Policies typically run from the time of purchase till the official retirement age of the policyholder though one can extend the term period by paying an additional premium.

In a pure term plan, the policyholder does not receive any survival benefit unlike endowment or money back or whole life plans and ULIPS (Unit-linked insurance plans). Hence, the premium-to-sum assured ratio is the highest in term life plans among all life insurance policies. ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company tops the list of Fortune India’s study of best term insurers, followed by Tata AIA Life and HDFC Life Insurance at the second and third place, respectively.

Srinivas Balasubramanian, head of products, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, says customer choice in insurance as a category — more so in term insurance — is led by three drivers. “One is the brand. In term insurance, one is talking of money to be paid to the family in one’s absence. So, you need a trustworthy brand when it comes to settlement of claim,” says Balasubramanian.

The second is the claim settlement ratio, while the third is the ease of registering a claim. “Over the first and second quarters of FY24, we have had a claim settlement ratio of 98%. It is a key purchase driver,” claims Balasubramanian. The company’s average claim settlement time is about 1.2 days.

“The base product (iProtect Smart) itself has a fairly strong customer value proposition, which is the critical illness option where we cover 34 illnesses at a premium that remains unchanged for 30 years,” he adds.

Samit Upadhyay, president, chief financial officer and head of products and propositions, Tata AIA Life, says term life insurance is purchased by customers typically for 30-50 years, mainly for families. “A trustworthy brand with a good claim settlement reputation is an important consideration because strong parent companies also enable higher risk underwriting capabilities.”

A strong value proposition, including flexibility in terms of payment, affordability and policy customisation based on coverage needs, play an important role while making a choice. Tata AIA, for instance, offers fitness-based discounts. Under its Vitality plan, policyholders can get up to 30% discount in premium if they take care of their health, says Upadhyay.

The persistency ratio of Tata AIA’s term life policies is above 95% over a 13-month period. Persistency ratio is the percentage of customers renewing their life insurance policy every year. Tata AIA also led the retail sum assured for the industry at ₹46,500 crore in October 2023, surpassing LIC, which had a total retail non-single premium sum assured of ₹42,100 crore during the month, claims Upadhyay.

3. Health Insurers

The top health insurer of 2023 — HDFC ERGO General Insurance Company, which offers its services across 500 districts in the country, attributes strong shareholders — HDFC Bank and MunichRe group — with expertise in the BFSI sector as one of the key reasons for its strong position in the market. In 2023, the company had a claim settlement rate of 96%, while its claim settlement rate within 30 days was 95%, according to Fortune India’s best insurers study. In FY23, the company had a 97% claim settlement ratio in health and motor insurance, while the average time taken to settle a health insurance claim was 38 minutes for cashless pre-authorisation approval. Notably, in 2023, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) approved HDFC’s acquisition of additional shares in HDFC ERGO taking its overall stake to 50.5%, as part of a merger between HDFC Ltd. and HDFC Bank.

In FY24, the insurer launched six new health products and two service enhancements, including global plans and discounts for NRIs in its flagship retail health product — Optima Secure, an OPD product with end-to-end cashless process and discounts on diagnostics and medicines, and an early discharge service and pre-approved cashless facility for chronic patients. Ritesh Kumar, MD & CEO, HDFC ERGO General Insurance, says the company’s primary focus is to incorporate the latest technology and expand distribution footprint. This year, the Mumbai-headquartered firm launched its ‘Here’ app, a one-stop solution for vehicle, health and insurance needs. “This platform is for everyone — policyholders and non-policyholders. It is aimed at addressing anxiety and providing convenience and savings to all, focusing on health, wellness and mobility services,” says Kumar.

SBI General Insurance, ranked the second-best health insurer, saw a 17.6% year-on-year growth in gross written premium (GWP) to ₹10,888 crore in FY23. It included a significant contribution by the company’s health business, which grew 24.5%, says Kishore Kumar Poludasu, MD & CEO, SBI General Insurance. “Strategically introducing innovative insurance products has been pivotal to our success,” says Poludasu. This year, the company launched Super Health, an all-encompassing health and fitness insurance cover, and Health Edge, a customisable policy with nine basic indemnity covers and 18 optional covers. The privately held arm of India’s biggest lender State Bank of India, which works with a network of 23,506 hospitals across the country, had a claim settlement rate of 99% and claims settlement rate within 30 days of 85% in 2023.

4. Motor Insurers

THE MOTOR INSURANCE segment is the second-biggest driver of the country’s non-life insurance market after health insurance. Motor insurance premiums grew 15.4% YoY to ₹81,292 crore in FY23 due to an increase in motor third-party rates and higher vehicle sales. The segment is expected to cross ₹85,000 crore this fiscal, according to CareEdge.

A high level of digitisation and tech integration is helping motor insurance companies tap prospective consumers. In 2022, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) introduced the pay-as-you-drive and pay-how-you-drive insurance features, which make motor insurance more customer-friendly.

SBI General Insurance Company ranks at the top of Fortune India’s study in the motor insurance segment, along with Bajaj Allianz General Insurance. The New India Assurance and Liberty General Insurance are at the second and third place, respectively. “Our strategy combines innovation and timely launch of new features and add-ons, ensuring that our offerings stay ahead of the curve,” says Kishore Kumar Poludasu, MD & CEO, SBI General Insurance. “Features such as roadside assistance, depreciation reimbursement, return to invoice, and two-wheeler helmet protection cover have proven to be effective for us,” he adds. SBI General had a claim settlement ratio of 98% in FY23.

Subhasish Mazumder, head, motor distribution, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, says the company’s focus has always been on seamless claim settlement. “We are integrating technology to minimise the claim settlement period. Bajaj Allianz’s ‘Motor on the Spot’ initiative has reduced the period to 20 minutes,” he says. It allows the customer to self-inspect the vehicle damage and file a claim through the company’s self-service mobile app. “Earlier, claim processing used to take two to three months due to elaborate formalities involved. We have streamlined it. We use AI and ML to assess claims,” he adds. Bajaj Allianz had a claim settlement ratio of 98.5% in FY23.

The insurer has developed products with features that ease customer pain points. “Our offering, V-Pay, is an add-on cover where the customer can report multiple minor paint chips or scratches anytime during the policy period,” says Mazumder. V-Pay also covers mechanical and electrical breakdowns that are not a result of accidents. “We will be popularising it in the next six months,” adds Mazumder.

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