The banking sector, reeling under a rise in non-performing assets (NPAs) from the corporate sector, is seeking to hedge loans to individual borrowers. Increasingly, borrowers are being asked to buy insurance policies to cover their loans. “Covers with personal loans and overdraft facilities have gained traction in recent times. Both public and private sector banks are aggressively pushing these products to retail customers,” said a senior State Bank of India (SBI) official. According to Reserve Bank of India data, outstanding personal loans, without housing, consumer durables, credit cards, etc, stood at Rs 12,817 crore at the end of December.
Insurance industry players say at present, almost 30 per cent of personal loan borrowers are buying insurance covers. And, that is increasing at a fast clip. In comparison, the penetration in case of home loans is up to 90 per cent, mostly for loans between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore and around 75-80 per cent for an average education loan of Rs 4 lakh and above.
Since personal loans are for a period of three-five years, the premium is not very high. Also, if the borrower purchases a group insurance policy, the premium is even cheaper.
“At a small cost, both banks and borrowers are assured of peace of mind,” said a public sector bank head.
The premium for a 35-38-year old is Rs 350-400 per lakh annually, if one takes the group insurance route. A single-premium policy for five years will cost Rs 1,500-2,000.
Says A S Narayanan, chief distribution officer at Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, “Group mortgage covers are fast gaining ground. A lot of people are buying covers for personal and overdraft to avoid burdening their families in the event of their death.”
Group mortgage covers are mostly single-premium covers, especially for personal loans, as these are short-duration loans as opposed to housing loans. There are various options, such as a single-premium reducing cover, a single-premium level cover, and regular-premium reducing and level covers.
Reducing covers, as the name implies, decrease as the outstanding loan amount (principal borrowed) decreases over the loan tenure.
This results in a lower premium as the loan amount decreases. On the other hand, a level cover stays stagnant even if the loan amount decreases. “Some of these policies also have a money-back proposition where the buyer gets back a certain sum at the end of five years,” said a senior SBI official.
According to bankers, borrowers are being sold the covers under the proposition of ‘no headache to families, in case of an untimely death or even unemployment’.
“Borrowers are showing interest because if there is a default due to death, the family will not be pestered or will not be burdened with a loan,” said the retail head of a private sector bank.
Some banks have even made it mandatory to purchase a cover with a personal loan. In the case of some, the premium is included as part of the loan fee. However, a senior SBI official says since the central bank does not allow linking an insurance product with any loan, banks have to take a consent order from the customer before selling such bundled products.