Reply to Parliamentary Question on life insurance policies and saving plans
QUESTION NO. 512
NOTICE PAPER 712 OF 2017
FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
Date: For Parliament Sitting on 4 July 2017
Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Gan Thiam Poh, MP, Ang Mo Kio GRC
To ask the Minister for Finance (a) in the past six years, how many policy holders have allowed their life insurance policies/saving plans to lapse due to non-payment of premiums; and (b) whether the Ministry will require all insurance agents and agencies to inform their customers that they can sell their life insurance and saving plans in the secondary market.
Answer by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of MAS:
1. Between 2011 to 2016, the percentage of life insurance policies / savings plans in-force with licensed insurers in Singapore which were surrendered each year increased slightly from 3.2% to 3.6%. The absolute number of surrendered policies was about 196,000 in 2016. These include policies surrendered voluntarily for reasons other than an inability to continue premium payments.
2. In comparison, the surrender rates in Hong Kong from 2011 to 2016 range from 3.6% to 4.4%. In the European Union and Switzerland, the rate is 5-6%, based on data from 2010 to 2014.
3. Life insurance policies are designed to yield the intended benefits only if the policies are held for their full terms. Therefore, there are rules requiring insurance agents and financial advisers, in recommending these policies, to conduct a proper client needs analysis, including the financial ability and willingness of their clients to commit to premium payments for the full term of the insurance product.
4. MAS does not require insurance agents and financial advisers to advise their clients that they can sell their life insurance policies in the secondary market. Whilst this is possible, some policyholders may be concerned that potential owners of these policies will benefit from the death or disability of the life insureds1, even though they are unrelated to the life insureds.
5. However, if policyholders find themselves unable to continue paying their premiums, they could avail themselves of various options provided by insurers. These include obtaining a loan against the policy value from the insurer to pay for the premium, surrendering the policy for a sum of money, or reducing the protection coverage. Policyholders could approach their insurers, insurance agents or financial advisers for help in considering these options.
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1 These are the persons whose lives are covered by the life insurance policies. They may not be the policyholders.