Published in Straits Times Forum Page
IN LAST Thursday's reply, 'Interests of policyholders protected', the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) stated that insurers in Singapore are required to record the total amount of assets held in the participating fund as backing liabilities to participating policyholders. It also said the issue of 'orphaned money' does not arise.
I am unable to follow its reasoning. Take, for example, a participating fund with assets of $15 billion and total individual liabilities of participating policies of $13 billion. This leaves orphaned money amounting to $2 billion.
Although this orphaned money is supposed to belong to the policyholders, it is not distributed to any individual policyholder who leaves the fund on termination of his policy.
This is not fair to policyholders who have unwittingly contributed to the orphaned money by receiving lower bonuses than they are entitled to. This has contributed to the poor return received by policyholders on the savings in their life insurance policies made over a lifetime.
The orphaned money is usually used by the insurance company to pay the high marketing expenses to acquire new policyholders and introduce new products. This benefits shareholders.
The recent practice of many insurance companies in reducing their bonus rates will aggravate this problem.
I have terminated most of my participating policies as I felt uneasy with the practice that is now adopted by the insurance company.
Several countries have addressed this problem by mandating that the 'asset share' should be computed for each individual policy. This is the amount that is attributable to each individual policy based on the premiums paid, the investment income earned on these premiums, less the charges for insurance protection and expenses.
There is also a requirement that the full asset share should be given to the policyholder on termination of the policy, after it has been in force for a certain period.
It is timely for Singapore to explore the use of this concept of asset share, to ensure that the interest of the policyholders is truly protected and that they receive a fair return for a lifetime of savings. It will also prevent the accumulation of a large orphaned fund, at the expense of the participating policyholders.
Tan Kin Lian