In view of consistent losses arising from large claim settlements and other negatives like falling interest rates that will crimp their investment income, non-life insurers are planning to increase the premium rates by 10-15 per cent in certain segments to protect their bottom lines.
In fact, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) has also hinted at a premium hike especially in third-party motor and group health insurance from April 1 when most of the renewals take place in the domestic general insurance market.
"I won't be surprised if the premia go up as the pricing has already reached rock bottom," P J Joseph, member (non-life insurance) of insurance regulator IRDAI told news agency Press Trust of India.
Insurers have zeroed in on over 10 such segments, including pharma, power and cement under the property, and even group health insurance, where they are planning to increase the premia going forward. Premia may go up in the range of 10-15 per cent in these segments next financial year.
"The market is so competitive that it gives us very little scope for increasing premia. Still, we are working very closely with GIC Re to increase the pricing of over 10 large loss-making portfolios," National Insurance chairman and managing director Sanath Kumar said.
"The floor price of over 10 segments are on our scanner for premium hike, which includes pharma, power, and cement. We may also see some price revision in group health insurance," he said, adding, "However, the increase will take place in the next financial year only that too 10-15 per cent."
The largest non-life insurer, New India, is also set to hike premium in certain segments.
"At New India Assurance, the premium hike may happen under segments like fire and group health in the new fiscal," New India Assurance chairman and managing director G Srinivasan said.
"Premium rates have fallen much below the required rates and hence the rates will have to be readjusted," he added.
Private sector non-life insurer SBI General is working on a three-pronged strategy.
"The challenge today is that you have to maintain profitability at a time when investment yields are coming down," SBI General managing director and chief executive Pushan Mahapatra said.
"So, in our bid to maintain profitability, we are working on a three-pronged strategy--better efficiency, better expense control and better selection - and pricing of risk being underwritten," he added.
As of end-December, the company had an investment income at Rs. 251 crore, which rose from Rs. 192 crore a year ago. But in a falling interest rate regime, it is not sure whether the bottom line can be protected.