You can buy insurance online. Now, with the new Insurance Repository System, or IRS, in place, you can even manage your portfolio online. The new platform, launched by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, or Irda, will work just like the demat system for shares.
For customers, it will mean convenience. For insurers, it will lead to huge savings. "The cost of maintaining and servicing a policy is Rs 600 a year. In the e-repository system , it will be Rs 80-100. This will bring down costs, which may be passed on to customers," says SV Ramanan, CEO, CAMS Repository Services, one of the five insurers to get the repository licence.
Right now, the facility is only for life insurance plans. M Ravichandran, president, Insurance, TATA AIG General Insurance, is eagerly waiting for it to cover general insurance policies as well. However, "this will take another six to twelve months," he says.
The first step is opening an e-insurance account. For this, you can approach any of the five licensed insurance repositories-NSDL Database Management, Central Insurance Repository, SHCIL Projects, CAMS Repository Services and Karvy Insurance Repository.
But you can only have one account. Also, the service is free for now. However, Ravichandran says it may become a paid one in the future.
Although the customer can choose the repository, the conversion to the demat form is possible only if his insurer and the repository have a tie-up.
Since insurers can tie up with one or more repositories, you must find out which repositories are associated with your insurer. If all your insurers have not tied up with the same repository, you will have to keep some policies in the physical form.
However, things may change, as insurers will need to tie up with all repositories if they want to give good service. "The competition will be such that every company will be looking at, say, the top three or four repositories, so that they can give customers a wide choice. In case the customer already has an account with one of these, his policies can be serviced through the same repository," says Ravichandran.
To open an account, you have to fill and submit a form and attach copies of either PAN or Aadhaar card along with an address proof and a cancelled cheque. After the account is opened, you have to fill a conversion form giving policy numbers and other details and hand it over to the repository. The repository and insurer(s) will work together and get the policies converted into the electronic form.
If you have multiple policies with the same insurer, a single conversion form will be enough. However, you will have to fill separate forms for different insurers. "It is a request form that we send to the insurers. We have multiple forms as we cannot be sharing information about a customer's policy with one insurer with its competitors," says Ramanan of CAMS.
An email id is also mandatory for policy-related communication. "While the repository will communicate only through e-mail, the insurer can use any available channel," says Aneesh Khanna, head, eBusiness, Marketing and Product Management, IDBI Federal Life Insurance.E-INSURANCE CONVENIENCE
After the conversion, you'll get a 13-digit unique Id and a password. Once you log in, you will be able to see all your policies that have been dematerialised. "An e-insurance account will help you keep track of all your policies-renewal date, surrender date, policy maturity date, etc, reducing the stress of physical documentation," says Khanna of IDBI Federal Life Insurance.
You can also modify and maintain policies online. For instance, making payments and service requests that don't require your signature will become easier. So will updating the mobile number and email Id. However, big changes such as nominee or address will require you to fill forms and submit them physically to the entities concerned.ONE-FOR-ALL
The account will become a single platform for handling multiple policies from various companies. For instance, you will have to inform just the repository about change in the phone number for the record to be updated across policies.
Also, when you buy a new policy, quoting the 13-digit unique repository number will ensure that the policy is automatically credited in your account. Moreover, the know-your-customer, or KYC, procedures will become simpler. At present, one has to provide KYC documents and information every time one buys a policy. With e-insurance, KYC has to be done only once.