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SBI Life widens retail reach

Calcutta, March 27: SBI Life is going far beyond State Bank’s 13,000 branches and 8 crore accounts to sell its insurance policies. Though State Bank’s branches are going to be the mainstay of its sales network, SBI Life is tying up with a number of other public sector banks for distribution of its policies.

All the seven associate banks of State Bank have already started selling SBI Life’s policies. A few other rural banks, too, have tied up with SBI Life to sell the policies. A couple of Calcutta-based banks are currently considering similar tie-ups with SBI Life.

R. Krishnamurthy, managing director and CEO of SBI Life, said: “We welcome all. Bancassurance is the cheapest means of customer acquisition. We expect bancassurance to generate 75 per cent of our business by the fifth year of operation.”

In 2002-03, SBI Life earned Rs 70 crore in premium, of which 17 per cent came from the bancassurance channel. In addition, SBI Life has a ground force of 3,000 agents. It is also open to alliances with finance companies that could act as corporate agents. SBI Life has already joined hands with Sundaram Finance.

SBI Life launched bancassurance here today. Around 211 branches of State Bank have started hawking SBI Life’s policies and in a couple of years time, at least 1,000 branches will be selling the policies.

Selling insurance policies is a lucrative business for the banks as well. T. K. Keshavamurthy, chief general manager of the Bengal circle, said, “I expect this circle to earn Rs 56 lakh in commissions in 2003-04.”

Krishnamurthy said SBI Life has offered to manage the pension and gratuity funds of a number of state governments. “We have offered our service to several state governments. We have also expressed willingness to offer the Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (the special pension policy announced in the budget).”

SBI Life — a joint venture between State Bank of India and Cardiff SA of France — offers a dozen different policies at present. In addition, a comprehensive health insurance policy covering some 14-15 ailments and medical situations is under planning.

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