Private insurers cut down on branches; LIC ups the ante

Private insurers cut down on branches; LIC ups the ante New Delhi: The number of branches operated by life insurers across India has come down by over 10 percent in the last two years, primarily because of branch closures by private players even as state-run LIC expanded its footprint.

The total number of branches or offices operated by private sector life insurance companies stood at 6,759 at the end of latest fiscal 2012-13, down by 1,416 branches from the level of 8,175 branches two years ago on March 31, 2011.

During the same period, public sector player LIC's network grew by 155 to 3,526 offices as on March 31, 2013.

Despite LIC's expanded network, the cumulative number of offices for all life insurers fell by 1,261 in the last two financial years to 10,285 as on March 31, 2013, as a number of big private players, including ICICI Prudential, Bajaj Allianz and HDFC Standard Life, cut down on their branch network, shows an analysis of data available with various insurers and sector regulator IRDA.

The number of branches operated by private life insurers declined by 950 during the last fiscal (2012-13) alone, while 463 offices were closed during the preceding fiscal as well.

The business for many life insurance players has been stressed for last couple of years and could be a possible reason behind closure of branches.

The data shows that the number of offices operated by ICICI Prudential declined by 845 branches between FY10-11 and FY12-13, while Bajaj Allianz's witnessed a reduction of 110 branches in its network during the same period.

HDFC Standard and Reliance Life also saw their branch networks declining by 48 and 18, respectively.

The few players that witnessed an increase in number of offices between past two fiscals included Birla Sunlife, IDBI, India First, Sahara, Shriram Life and Star Union.

While LIC has expanded its branch network in past two years, the number of its agents has actually declined in this period from about 13.37 lakh to nearly 11.73 lakh as on March 31, 2013.

PTI