Money & Banking

With no chief, decisions hang fire at IRDAI

G Naga Sridhar/ KR Srivats Hyderabad/New Delhi | Updated on July 16, 2021

Post of insurance regulator chairman vacant since May

The delay in the appointment of a new chief has affected key policy decisions at the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India.

The post of IRDAI chairman has been vacant since May first week after Subhash C Khuntia demitted office on completion of his term.

Though the Centre had issued a notification inviting applications for the new chairman on April 30, no one has been named to the post so far.

“It has been nearly two- and-half months since the regulator’s office fell vacant. This is first time that the top post of the insurance sector regulator has been kept vacant for such a long time,” said the MD & CEO of a private life insurance company.

As of now, out of the five Members of IRDAI, only four have incumbents — Distribution (SN Rajeshwari), Actuary (Pramod Kumar Arora), Life (K Ganesh) and Non-Life (TL Alamelu). The post of Member, Finance and Investment, is also vacant.

The absence of a chairman is a matter of “concern” in the present situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the churn the life and general insurance industry has been witnessing.

”There are key developments and decisions to be taken which will need a chairman,’’ said the Head of Underwriting of a private general insurer.

important decisions such as on the continuation of Covid-specific standard policies, and revision of premium and pricing of general and health insurance as being sought by the industry and management of Covid claims, need to ne taken, he said.

Further, the Initial Public Offer of Life Insurance Corporation of India, expected to be the largest ever IPO in India, will involve coordination with SEBI and the absence of a chairman at IRDAI can cause hiccups, feel industry experts.

Why the delay

A senior official said the notification for the new regulator got delayed this time. “On previous occasions, the process began about two months before the superannuation of the incumbent chairman. But, this year, the notification was issued only a couple of weeks before the retirement of the chairman,’’ said an IRDAI official.

About 30 candidates, including a dozen bureaucrats, two serving Members of the Authority and a couple of CEOs of private insurance companies, had apparently applied for the IRDAI chief’s post.

The short-listing of applicants has been completed, but the interviews are yet to be scheduled, it is learnt.

Interestingly, many economy watchers point out that no delay or laxity when it came to the appointment of heads of other regulators such as the RBI or SEBI and the selection process went like clock work.

Even for IBBI, the youngest regulatory body, the process of selection of a new chairman has started well before the incumbent is to demit office.

Published on July 16, 2021

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