POSTED BY April 14, 2010 COMMENTS (59)ON
In my opinion we are going to see far-reaching long-term consequences once the SEBI-IRDA issue gets resolved for Financial Planning profession. I base my fact & assumptions that SEBI is on a strong wicket rather than IRDA. However we need to go to the origin of this situation. In this article we will see what exactly is happening at this moment between SEBI and IRDA over ULIP ban and whats its implication on financial planning . Also Read : A short guide to Hire a Good Financial Planner in India
What is SEBI & IRDA issue all about? How it actually originated?
The IRDA was formed before SEBI and with the help of IRDA insurance companies came out with a Jugaadu product called ULIP which is just identical to MF with one minor difference that apx.2-5% of a clients investment goes to provide a life cover and rest is invested in either market, Govt. Securities, corporate debt or Equity, depending on the mandate of that fund. Now the second part is nothing but just like a mutual fund scheme.
Where is the problem now?
There is no problem with it as 90% of insurance premium world over goes to market or securities. However, in India the ULIP products become terrible investment products because if one invests Rs.100 in a ULIP then 20% of your money goes into commissions and approx. 2% into insurance, only 78% of one’s money is invested in market or securities. So to get back to 98 ( 100 –2 ) it would take in normal market conditions at least 2 years in Equity oriented funds and 4 years in debt oriented funds. So all you are doing is just recovering your principal in next 2 to 4 years. Now, the miss-selling by an insurance agent gets hidden in the bull run and because of rampant financial illiteracy even among so called highly qualified professionals & corporate executives leave alone the advisor selling the ULIP, the investor is fooled into putting more money in these bull runs saying that your money will double in “x” years and in the bear runs when the ULIP loose even their principal, the advisor gives them a either long term talk or plays on the investor fear and switches them to another products. Hence, an advisor in India is the a true definition of an “opportunist”. In the bull run he plays on the “greed” of the investor and in the bear run he plays on the “fear” of the investor.
What the above does is that apart from loss to investors it gives an unfair advantage to insurance companies compared to mutual fund houses where commissions are in fraction of your investments. What is the incentive for an advisor or even big distributors like banks & distribution companies to sell MF schemes when they have the option of selling a similar scheme where they gets heavy commissions… as an agent what would you do go for Rs.20/- commission on ULIP or Rs.1 on Mutual Fund Scheme on an investors investment of Rs.100/-.
Now, taking stock of the above problem SEBI has gone for an eagle eye’s view of the whole problem and to create a level playing field among all market participants.After a lot of cajoling & convincing IRDA which failed to budge, SEBI issued the harsh step of issuing an quasi-judicial order restraining Insurance companies from offering ULIP without proper registration with SEBI.
What will happen now?
Though there is likely to be a stay on the SEBI order given the large number of clients who hold ULIP products by the high court. This can be a short-term breather to insurance companies but it is not a long-term solution.
Who is on strong wicket when the issue goes to Court – SEBI or IRDA?
Mr. Bave is a master strategist, he knew that the lobby of insures is very strong and united and it will take him years to bring them to negotiating table. With the powers conferred to him by parliament, he issued a quasi judicial order.
Now, quasi – judicial order is such that even Mr.Bave cannot revoke it. The IRDA may win a temporary relief in this war, but SEBI stands on a strong footings as in the court of law the court will go where investor interests remains. Insurance companies must see the larger picture and rather than worrying about loosing valuations post an unfavorable order, they must prepare them self to change with the times.
What are the implications of the SEBI & IRDA issue for Financial Planning profession?
So lets come back to the question what’s in it for Financial Planning profession ? In my opinion, realizing the investors interest the court will rule in favor of SEBI, post which Insurance companies will have to bring down the commissions to Mutual Fund level on ULIP’s.
Is this is a good news for Financial planners?
Yes, but how many of us are changing as fast as the opportunity provided by structural changes effected by such orders? Time & again it has been proved that great opportunity lies when you have big structural changes in an economy. Every century gives some opportunity during financial turmoil and this time we are in the midst of such an opportunity.