HDFC Life will continue to invest in the agency-based distribution channel to improve its productivity although, after the Ulip guidelines of 2010, agency channel at an industry level has been under strain, says HDFC Standard Life Insurance senior executive vice-president Sanjay Tripathy. In an interview with Mithun Dasgupta, he says the insurer will soon add more products exclusively for online customers. Excerpts:
While first-year premium for the private life insurance industry grew over 15% y-o-y during the first quarter, HDFC Life’s new premium was up a whopping 41%. What factors contributed to this?
The growth can be attributed to multiple factors. First, we had introduced very stringent quality measures at the customer end on boarding stage in the first quarter of last year and our distribution channels took time to adjust to those measures. The process has now stabilised and all our distribution partners are aligned to these quality measures.
Second, the product regime is more stable and that helps both consumers and distributors. Third, we have enabled our workforce with technology-enabled tools — tablets, MyMix, etc — which has raised the bar on customer’s purchase experience with us. We are selling more term, health, annuity and non-participating policies than the previous year and a lot of our growth is driven by a bigger product basket that we offer our customers. While bancassurance contributes significantly to the growth, our branch and online verticals, group business and renewal pool are growing as well.
Going forward, would you focus more on the bancassurance channel to leverage the strong branch network of HDFC Bank?
We will remain a multi-channel insurer with equal focus on all modes of reaching out to customers. However, it is also natural that we leverage the HDFC brand and the HDFC Bank’s franchise to improve insurance penetration. So, our channel strategy of diversification and fortification would continue in parallel.
What about your agency based distribution channel? What percentage of your retail business comes from agency channel?
After the Ulip guidelines of 2010, agency channel at an industry level has been under strain and its contribution to premium has been reducing. We have not bucked that trend either. What we have successfully done is to turn around the channel and made it profitable. We continue to invest in the channel to improve its productivity and expect it to contribute 15-20% of our new business premiums.
What percentage of your total business comes from the group business segment? What kind of growth did you see in this segment in the June quarter and what are your plans going ahead?
Group business typically contributes 10-15% of our overall revenues. Our group premium grew 23% in Q1 and we expect the momentum to continue. We continue to be prudent with our commercials and underwriting standards and, thereby, believe we can build this portfolio further in the coming years.
How do you plan to double your online business?
Our mantra here is to ‘Sell Online, Deliver Online, Service Online’. We had revamped our website last year and have launched innovative products online in the last couple of months. Our Click2Invest plan is a best-in-class Ulip, available exclusively for online customers. We also recently launched a new online term plan Click2Protect Plus that has richer features than its previous avatar, Click2protect. The demand for this product has been unprecedented since its launch earlier this month. Very soon, we will add more products exclusively for online customers. Customers can download our app on their smartphones and check out how some of products can meet their needs. Net-banking customers in the bancassurance channels can buy it using a simple ‘3-click’ process. In addition, we continue to work with web aggregators to make the customer purchase process simple.