A governmental databank of insurance customers should be in place to cut down the number of cold calls, suggested the deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC).
The issue is close to Komkei Thusaranon's heart. Besides complaints through the OIC, Komkei has personally listened to many a friend complaining about telemarketing cold calls.
"Under the recent regulation, if prospects declined the sales pitch, no insurance company can [cold call] them again for six months," she said.
Telemarketing and bancassurance sales staff bore the brunt of criticism at yesterday's industry seminar held by the OIC, which wants to upgrade the insurance industry's service qualities via amending regulations and better training. The databank would be one of the many solutions proposed by the state agency.
Telemarketing and bancassurance made up only 12.98 per cent of the industry's gross annual premium sales in 2006.
The amendments to the Insurance Against Loss Act and Life Insurance Act place stricter regulations, particularly concerning agents or underwriters and other sales channels, said Komkei, who oversees supervision of the industry.
Although the acts became effective early in February this year, regulatory details have yet to be fleshed out among the OIC and stakeholders.
Despite what Boonchai Rutrakool, president of the Thai Life Underwriters Association, claims to be improved professionalism among insurance agents, the amendment would mean stricter training requirements for agents. In the future, prospects looking to qualify and agents looking to renew their licences would have to clock a certain amount of classroom time.
Still, many like Reungvit Nandhabiwat, president of the Thai Insurance Brokers Association, believe for example that the 10 hours required for first-year licence renewal are low, compared to other countries in the region.
Then there is the issue of licences for bancassurance salespeople, who would need an additional licence from the Securities and Exchange Commission and a third licence for investment life-insurance products.
At the seminar, there was widespread concern among industry professionals that the image of the insurance business has yet to reach a comfortable level of public acceptance. An insurance broker's rant to hundreds of fellow participants that the industry must stop being dishonest to customers was met with giggles. "In my 30 years in this business, I have seen such slow progress from operators, regulator and customers."
Education and access to information are the keys to unlock growth. "We must teach customers about financial planning and insurance before selling to them," said Boonchai.