ICICI Lombard introduces a new international travel insurance plan

Private non-life insurer ICICI Lombard on Thursday added another product – International Travel Insurance – to its Travel Insurance portfolio. The policy offers coverage to individuals up to 85 years of age without insisting on a medical check-up. 

The medical cover under the product is in the range of $50,000 to $2,50,000, depending on the type of plan chosen. This apart, the policy comes with other commonly-offered covers like loss of passport or checked-in baggage, trip cancellation, daily allowance in case of hospitalisation and so on. 

All these covers come with individual sub-limits or deductibles (the initial amount that the insured has to bear before the company chips in with the rest) that you need to understand before signing up. 

If the insured has to look for accommodation due to flight delays, the expenses incurred will be reimbursed. Other benefits offered include evacuation during catastrophes, emergency financial assistance, personal accident cover and home insurance for the insured’s place of residence. 

Besides international trip-related medical and non-medical expenses, the product also offers services to the insured’s dependants back home. These include medical help, automotive assistance, electrical assistance, home cleaning, pest control and plumbing. Under medical assistance, the insurer will provide the dependants with the names and contact details of hospitals or clinics and facilitate appointments with the local doctor. 

Home nursing care assistance is also provided to take care of the policyholder’s dependents. These benefits will be paid for during the period when the insured is travelling abroad. However, do note that the company will only pay forarranging these services, and not for the service charges involved.

Internal referrals may keep talent out of firms and lead to high mishiring costs

By using internal referrals as a key tool to hiring people, are organizations restricting theirrecruitment universe and limiting their chances of getting the best talent? In India, bulk of recruitment, estimated at over 90%, happens directly or through referrals while the rest is through specialist agencies largely for top-level posts. 

In mature markets like the UK, an estimated 85% of recruitment happens through specialist agencies. Practices followed by Indian organizations, feel experts, could lead to ‘mishires’ which can be a drain on costs. 

Most companies have internal referral programmes that offer incentives to employees. There are still others like Directi, a web product company, which offers handsome rewards under the ‘refer a friend’ programme to the extent that employees can even win cars on the selection of candidates referred by them. 

ATTRACTING TALENT 

For the company, this is an innovative way of attractingtalent but experts believe internal referrals alone would not be cost effective. “An organization always needs the best candidate for a job. So while internal referrals are alright for entry level, there is absolutely no substitute for a 360-degree holistic search for the best candidate for jobs above the entry levels. 

“It would be sub-optimal to use internal referrals, which restrict the search universe and could lead to mishiringas the best candidate for the job may not have been persuaded. An organization cannot afford to incur a cost on mishires,” said Ronesh Puri, MD, Executive Access. 

Companies agree that multiple sources of hiring is a better option. “In complex labour markets, no company relies on any single source of recruitment. Referrals is just one such source which companies rely on. One needs to have a good mix of hiring sources, which is based on the company’s ‘go to market’ strategy. The idea is to throw your net far and wide to be able to attract the maximum number of people. 

This will then help you pick the best talent through proper selection process. That is indicative of the hiring philosophy we follow at Essar,” said Adil Malia, group president, HR, Essar Group. Getting the best talent appears to be the all-pervading sentiment, for which, companies are reinvigorating their hiring mechanism. 

“Current hiring strategies are getting re-evaluated regularly. One can see organizations focusing on 360-degree hiring through: appointment of recruitment professionals, referrals, career portals, campus hiring and internal job posts.

LIC gets nod to buy 30 per cent in companies

The government has allowed India’s largest insurer Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) to invest up to 30% in a company as against the earlier limit of 10 per cent. “LIC can invest up to 30 per cent of a company’s paid-up capital. Earlier it could invest up to 10 per cent,” said DK Mittal, financial servicessecretary in the finance ministry. 

The government will also announce a recapitalisation plan for banks and is considering of doing it through rights issue. 

The new investment rules have not gone down well with the sector regulator Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), but LIC managing director S Sarkar played down the differences. 

“Even before IRDA regulations came, we had the flexibility of going up to 30 per cent but we never did. When new financial institutions were being set up, which were pioneers in the country like Stock Holding Corporation of India and National Stock Exchange, we always remained within the prudential limit,” Sarkar said. “We follow Irda regulations in letter and spirit except in case where we had separate dispensation for us and we have no desire to go far away from Irda”. 

Another senior LIC official clarified that new norms will allow the insurer to invest up to 25 per cent in listed companies and up to 30 per cent in unlisted firms. 

“We will not reach or cross 25 per cent stake in listed firms as it may lead to the trigger as per Sebi norms,” he said. 

In 2011, the Securities and Exchange Board of India had notified that an entity buying 25 per cent stake in a listed firm will have to mandatorily make an open offer to buy an additional 26 per cent shares from the public. 

The relaxation is expected to help the government achieve its 30,000-crore divestment target, as the new norms will allow LIC to deploy its funds to buy stock of state-run firms. 

LIC aims to invest around 50,000 crore in equities this fiscal. On the issue of bank capitalisation, the financial services secretary said the government will soon prepare a plan that could include a rights issue option. 

“We will finalise recap for banks soon,” Mittal said, adding that if government opts for rights issue for banks, it will be done for all banks. SBIBSE 1.49 % has said it would prefer capitalisation through a rights issue. 

The government aims to infuse around 15,888 crore this fiscal in state-run banks wherein it has committed to maintain at least 58 per cent holding. The top three banks requiring capital are IOB, CBI and the Bank of MaharashtraBSE 0.36 %. At an Assocham function on Wednesday, Indian Overseas BankBSE 1.02 % CMD M Narendra said that they have asked for 1,500 crore from government.

Indian IT companies like Infosys, TCS, Wipro go slow on hiring of IT professionals

Attrition in top-tier IT companies has seen a sharp decline over the past year, indicating a slowdown in hiring of mid to senior level IT professionals in the current tough business climate. 

Wipro’s attrition rate has dropped sharply to 14.6% in the September quarter from the 21-22 % rates in the first half of the last financial year. TCSBSE 0.88 %, the country’s largest IT company, saw the rate dip to 11.4% in the most recent quarter, from 14.8% in the June quarter of last year. Mindtree’s has dropped in the same period from 25.6% to 16.5%. 

Saurabh Govil, senior VP-HR in Wipro Technologies, said voluntary attrition (attrition that excludes firing) in the company touched a 36-month low at 12% in the September quarter. “The tough environment is helping us to keep attrition levels low; jobs aren’t available and companies are going slow on all fronts,” he said. 

Ravi Shankar, chief people officer in Mindtree, said attrition had softened as companies were hiring more freshers than lateral hires. “We are looking at ways to improve utilization on the bench,” he said. 

The IT sector has slowed down sharply because of economic weakness in the US and Europe. The industry’sapexBSE 0.00 % body Nasscom last week lowered the dollar revenue guidance for the $100 billion industry on account of underperformance by several of the big companies , notably InfosysBSE 0.78 % and Wipro . Nasscom in February had predicted an 11-14 % growth, but last week said it was likely to be at the lower end of this range. 

The unexpectedly sharp slowdown this year has also meant that companies have large reserves of unutilized employees, or what in industry parlance is called the bench. In many cases, 30% or more of employees are on the bench today . There are campus recruits from last year who are yet to work on a project. 

HCL’s head of talent acquisition Naveen Narayanan said the company was deploying people on the bench for customer build programmes, involving high degree of engagement with the client. “This gives them confidence and we support them through a defined reskilling programme ,” he said. 

Some companies say attrition has dropped for them because of special efforts to retain people. MindtreeBSE 0.48 % said it had put in place a retention council headed by senior management within each business unit to address employee woes. “They address non-compensation related problems, issues like role change, upgradation of skills. We’ve seen a large percentage of attrition getting reversed through this process,” Shankar said. 

HCL’s Narayanan said programmes to identify top performers among entry level and supervisory roles and to put them through leadership training had helped rein in attrition. 

Rajesh Kumar, CEO of recruitment service provider MyHiringClub.com, said attrition levels were expected to be in the 13-15 % range in the current quarter, and may be fall further in the final quarter.

Reliance Capital in talks for stake sale in general insurance arm

 Financial services major Reliance CapitalBSE 1.04 % group has begun talks to sell 26 per cent equity in its general insurance arm to a foreign partner, and is open to selling further stake in life insurance and mutual fund units. 

“We are in talks for sale of 26 per cent stake in general insurance business to a foreign strategic partner,” Reliance Capital CEO Sam Ghosh told in an interview here. 

Without disclosing any names or potential deal size for Reliance General Insurance stake sale, Ghosh said that nothing has been finalised as yet and talks are still continuing. 

Reliance Capital, the financial services arm of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group, has already sold 26 per cent stake in each of its mutual funds and life insurance units to Japanese financial services major Nippon Life. 

Reliance Capital chief said the group is open to the idea of selling further stake in its life insurance unit, Reliance Life, as also in mutual funds arm, Reliance Capital Asset Management Company, at an appropriate time and the understanding with Nippon Life in this regard is “open-ended”. 

Nippon Life, one of the world’s largest financial services group with assets under management of over $600 billion (more than Rs 30 lakh crore), is a major player in life insurance and asset management businesses in Asia, but is not present in general insurance segment. 

Currently, foreign investment is capped at 26 per cent in the insurance business in India, but there are no such caps in the mutual funds segment. However, the government is considering increasing the foreign investment limit in the insurance sector to 49 per cent. 

Asked whether the group would be open to the idea of Nippon having a higher stake in Reliance Life when government hikes insurance FDI cap to 49 per cent, Ghosh said: “The two companies have an understanding that if the market is opened up further, they would discuss the issue at that time.” 

“Any decision in that regard will be taken only after the government further opens the sector and current understanding between the two partners is open-ended,” he said. 

Asked whether Reliance Cap would consider higher stake for Nippon Life in its mutual fund business as well, Ghosh said that the understanding was same for Reliance Capital Asset Management Company as well. 

“Currently, there are no discussions underway for a hike in Nippon’s stake in RCAM (Reliance Capital Asset Management Company), although there is no FDI cap in this business, but the understanding is open-ended between the two partners on this front,” he said. 

Nippon holds 26 per cent stake in RCAM, which it acquired for about Rs 1,450 crore. Besides, Nippon has also purchased a 26 per cent stake in Reliance Life for over Rs 3,000 crore.

How crèches in IBM, Ernst & Young, HUL and others are helping women put career on par with family

From 21-34 years, women make up 34% of the workforce. From 35-49 years, their share halves as family takes precedence. Increasingly, creches in offices are helping women put career on par with family, reports ET.

When it comes to daycare facilities in India, demand far outstrips supply. The dual-income family has become the norm, and working parents worry who will take care of their kids when they’re out.

Help is hard to come by, as are relatives to babysit. Even as more and more private daycare agencies open up in the metros, India Inc hasn’t kept up. Few companies offer any kind of creche or childcarefacilities today, even though it’s clear that employeeswould rather leave their wards with office-certified minders, or have them close at hand (especially if the kids are young).

Companies need to pay more attention to this. Saundarya Rajesh, founder of sourcing agency Avtar Career Creators, says 1.5 million women professionals have left the workforce in the last 20 years, to care for kids or, in some cases, an elder in the family. Most never return. Companies already grappling with fewer women managers who can be promoted can ill-afford a further dent in the talent pool.

Leena Nair, executive director (HR) at Hindustan UnileverBSE 0.45 %, says while there is no dearth of talented women at the entry-level or even the five-year mark, companies face a challenge in appointing women to the top teams, from among those who’ve worked for 14-15 years. “At this stage, there are just not enough women as they’ve fallen off the workforce,” says Nair.

Reliance Capital in talks for stake sale in general insurance arm

Financial services major Reliance CapitalBSE 1.70 % group has begun talks to sell 26 per cent equity in its general insurance arm to a foreign partner, and is open to selling further stake in life insurance and mutual fund units.

“We are in talks for sale of 26 per cent stake in general insurance business to a foreign strategic partner,” Reliance Capital CEO Sam Ghosh told in an interview here.

Without disclosing any names or potential deal size for Reliance General Insurance stake sale, Ghosh said that nothing has been finalised as yet and talks are still continuing.

Reliance Capital, the financial services arm of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group, has already sold 26 per cent stake in each of its mutual funds and life insurance units to Japanese financial services major Nippon Life.

Reliance Capital chief said the group is open to the idea of selling further stake in its life insurance unit, Reliance Life, as also in mutual funds arm, Reliance Capital Asset Management Company, at an appropriate time and the understanding with Nippon Life in this regard is “open-ended”.

Nippon Life, one of the world’s largest financial services group with assets under management of over $600 billion (more than Rs 30 lakh crore), is a major player in life insurance and asset management businesses in Asia, but is not present in general insurance segment.

Currently, foreign investment is capped at 26 per cent in the insurance business in India, but there are no such caps in the mutual funds segment. However, the government is considering increasing the foreign investment limit in the insurance sector to 49 per cent.

Asked whether the group would be open to the idea of Nippon having a higher stake in Reliance Life when government hikes insurance FDI cap to 49 per cent, Ghosh said: “The two companies have an understanding that if the market is opened up further, they would discuss the issue at that time.”

“Any decision in that regard will be taken only after the government further opens the sector and current understanding between the two partners is open-ended,” he said.

Asked whether Reliance Cap would consider higher stake for Nippon Life in its mutual fund business as well, Ghosh said that the understanding was same for Reliance Capital Asset Management Company as well.

“Currently, there are no discussions underway for a hike in Nippon’s stake in RCAM (Reliance Capital Asset Management Company), although there is no FDI cap in this business, but the understanding is open-ended between the two partners on this front,” he said.

Nippon holds 26 per cent stake in RCAM, which it acquired for about Rs 1,450 crore. Besides, Nippon has also purchased a 26 per cent stake in Reliance Life for over Rs 3,000 crore.