MetLife to infuse Rs 340 cr more capital

Chennai: The Rs 110-crore equity-based MetLife India Insurance Company, a life insurance joint venture between MetLife International Holdings, the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, the M Pallonji group and some minority shareholders, plans to increase its capital base to Rs 450 crore in four years time.

Says MetLife managing director Venkatesh S Mysore: "The life insurance business is not a 100-meter dash where first-off-the-mark is a sure sign of success. It is a business that demands patience and endurance and involves earning the trust of customers and building a long-term equity with them."

Though he talks about earning customers trust as the biggest challenge faced today, he refuses to state the number of customers who have reposed faith in his company. Curiously, yet another Bangalore-based private limited life insurer is also touchy about this figure. Mysore is also silent about the steps MetLife India is taking to rope in more clients before the end of this fiscal.

Operating out of five branches Bangalore, Kolkata, Kochi, Hyderabad and Chennai MetLife India will open offices in New Delhi and Mumbai sometime mid-2002. "Furthermore, we have developed relationships with several corporate agents who collectively have over 1,000 offices to reach out to our customers," says Mysore.

The company is selling three standard life insurance products endowment, money-back and whole-life. All these are non-participating products and the inherent guaranteed returns are computed over time periods like 15, 20 or 25 years, thereby offering a greater protection to customers life goals, says Mysore. "These policies can be customised to individual requirements using MET Riders like Accidental Death Benefit, Waiver of Premium and the Term Rider."

On the companys plans to achieve the stipulated 5 per cent rural sales, he says: "We have a separate rural marketing initiative that expects to meet the obligatory target. Through strategic alliances with key regional financial services players we will reach out to rural customers with the same exciting and innovative products. Rural people have the same aspirations like their urban neighbours, but have a poorer access to the tools of financial planning for independence."

MetLife India hopes to have a less-than-the-industry average when it comes to policy surrenders. Says Mysore: "Given the due diligence that we at MetLife India do when defining need-based protection plans for customers as against merely selling policies, we expect lapse/surrender rates to be much lower than the industry standards. The typical Indian experience of lapse/surrender rates is 15 per cent in the first year and goes down to 10 per cent in the second year, and hovers around 5 per cent thereafter."