Swimming against the tide

Chennai: He is a true insurance professional in every sense — be it qualification, experience or outlook. Shrirang V Samant, chief executive officer, HDFC Chubb General Insurance, is not only a fellow member of the Insurance Institute of India but also similar institutes based in the UK and the US.

Samant, who holds an MBA from Jamanlal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies apart from possessing LLB and BA honours degrees, has 20 years' rich experience in the industry — he was earlier with New India Assurance Company, serving both in India and abroad.

At a time when many of his contemporaries are vary about the freedom to fix premium rates — in general insurance nearly 65 per cent of the premium rates are fixed by the Tariff Advisory Committee — Samant is unperturbed and is in fact all for it. “Actually tariff has restricted product innovation and design. Fire insurance tariff will go in due course of time, and the same will happen to other business too,“ he says.

HDFC Chubb (a 74:26 joint venture between HDFC and Chubb Global Financial Services Corporation, a subsidiary of Chubb Corporation, USA) may be a late entrant into the domestic general insurance industry, but Samant is planning a cautious and steady growth plan for the company. “HDFC Chubb is finding its niche in speciality insurance like directors' and officers' liability insurance [D&O].“

Standard & Poor's (S&P) says D&O liability business has become troublesome for US insurers on three fronts. First, insurers are licking their wounds of corporate America's chastisement since Enron's scandal-ridden demise. Second, they have been broadsided by a greatly heightened litigation environment. And third, they are reaping the consequences of underpricing in the late nineties