Appointment of Common Directors between Intermediaries and Insurers IRDAI Resolves the Conundrum!

Common Directors under Section 48A of the Insurance Act, 1938

The appointment of the same individual on the Board of Directors (“Board”) of both an insurer and an insurance intermediary (brokers, corporate agents and web aggregators) (“Common Director”) is currently prohibited under Section 48A[1] of the Insurance Act, 1938 (“Act”). However, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (“IRDAI”) is empowered to permit an intermediary to be a director on the Board of an insurance company subject to the conditions and restrictions as may be imposed by the IRDAI. Therefore, if an insurer were to appoint Common Directors on its Board, a prior IRDAI approval is a critical requirement.

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Point of Sales Persons An Alternate Distribution Channel for Insurers

Introduction

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (“IRDAI”) permits insurance companies and intermediaries to appoint individuals (i.e. natural persons) as Point of Sales Persons (“PoSPs”). PoSPs are essentially individuals who are permitted to carry out activities pertaining to solicitation and marketing of insurance policy products and act as distribution channels for insurers or intermediaries. In accordance with the provisions of the Insurance Act, 1938, sale and solicitation of insurance products can only be carried out by entities licenced by the IRDAI, i.e. either insurers or intermediaries. PoSPs, despite not being “licenced persons”, are “qualified persons” (as discussed below) and carry on the activity of sale and solicitation of insurance products. They are sponsored by insurers or intermediaries to carry on sale and solicitation activities.

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Insurance Linked Securities

Background and Introduction

Insurance linked securities (ILS) is an umbrella term covering instruments that are designed to transfer insurance risks to the financial market. The performance of ILS is typically also linked to the possible occurrence of such insurance risks. ILS, in global financial markets, is not a novel concept and the earliest known issuance of ILS by reinsurance companies was in the US in 1992, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. In fact, ILS has been used multiple times by reinsurance companies in the US when their capacities were severely affected by the occurrence of natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes and even man-made disasters like the World Trade Center bombing.

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Evolving Insurance Landscape in IFSC

The Gujarat International Financial Tec-City (“GIFT City”) in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, is India’s first operational greenfield smart city, housing a domestic tariff zone and an International Financial Services Centre (“IFSC”) in a Multi-service Special Economic Zone (“SEZ”). As part of developing India’s very own and first IFSC, both Indian and foreign entities are permitted to establish and operate IFSC Insurance Offices (“IIO”) from GIFT City, upon obtaining the requisite approvals. The IIOs have the advantage or the ability to transact in freely convertible foreign currencies in offshore markets, while being situated within the territorial borders of India. From 2015 to early 2020, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (“IRDAI”) issued guidelines for IIOs (“IRDAI IIO Guidelines”). Thereafter, pursuant to the International Financial Services Centres Authority Act, 2019, the International Financial Services Centres Authority (“IFSCA”) was empowered on October 1, 2020 as the unified regulator with wide powers to develop and regulate financial products, financial services, and financial institutions in IFSCs, including IIOs.

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FDI Liberalisation in Insurance Companies and Harmonisation of Insurance Regulations What Has Changed in the Year Gone By

The Union Budget 2021-22 announced the proposal to liberalise Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) in Indian insurance companies from the existing 49% to 74% with effect from August 2021. The aforesaid proposal was subsequently formalised by way of introduction of the Insurance (Amendment) Act, 2021 (“Amendment Act”), to amend the Insurance Act, 1938. Please click here to refer to our earlier blog for more details in this regard.

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Policyholder Data Sharing in India

Introduction

With a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy, the Indian government[1] launched the Digital India initiative and mindful of its impact, it has been taking several steps to ensure greater accessibility as well as greater safety around internet based services. This, coupled with heightened internet based services and digital connectivity,[2] led the government to launch several digital services[3] and some are remarkably successful – these range from unified payments interface (UPIs) to DigiLocker[4]. According to India Brand Equity Foundation, the rising use of UPIs strongly indicate that more and more people in India are adopting a digital lifestyle[5] – UPI saw its highest ever number of transactions in April 2022 at 5.58 billon, amounting to INR 9.83 trillion. DigiLocker hit the mark of 101 million users on March 19, 2022, evidencing the adoption and success of this initiative[6].

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Bank Guarantee

A move that may prove to be a game-changer but the proof lies in the pudding

A government procurement contract (GPC) for goods and/ or services usually requires the elected counterparty (Contractor) to furnish a bank guarantee (BG) of upto 5-10% of the contract value as performance security, as per General Financial Rules 2017. Rising non-performing assets, in recent years, have prompted banks to exercise greater caution while issuing BGs, due to which, the cost of procuring a BG has gone up from 20-40 basis points to 50-130 basis points and the cash margin required for securing a BG has also increased from 15-20% to 40-100% of the amount of the BG. Owing to these factors, the procurement of a BG has become increasingly cumbersome for Contractors and they have been long-advocating the need for an alternative to BGs.

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Interpreting Insurance Contracts: Special Considerations – Part II

In part I of this blog, we have discussed some of the principles of interpretation set and relied upon by Courts whilst construing and interpreting insurance contracts, including that of strict construction, essentials of an insurance contract and the requirement of Uberrimei fidei i.e., good faith. In this part, we will delve into other principles which form the basis for interpretation of insurance contracts, including presumption as to materiality of information sought, effect of misrepresentation and the applicability of the rule of contra proferentem to insurance contracts

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Interpreting Insurance Contracts Special Considerations – Part I

Insurance is the act of providing against a possible loss, by entering into a contract with one who is willing to give assurance — that is, to bind himself to make good such loss should it occur. In this contract, the chances of benefit are equal to the insurer and the insured. The first actually pays a certain sum and the latter undertakes to pay a larger, if an accident should happen. The one renders his property secure; the other receives money with the probability that it is clear gain. The instrument by which the contract is made is called a policy; the stipulated consideration a premium.[i]

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Liberalisation of FDI In Insurance Companies – A look at the step(s) taken since the Big Budget Announcement

The industry is now well versed with the move to liberalise foreign direct investment (“FDI”) in Indian insurance companies to 74%, from the existing cap of 49%. The announcement was first made by the Finance Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, 2021, as part of her Budget presentation. The move followed the raise in FDI limits to 100% in insurance intermediaries, which was announced by Ms. Sitharaman in July 2019 and effected in September 2019.
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