Thursday, March 25, 2010

ICICI Prudential Pinnacle Guaranteed NAV- Review

Guaranteed return products are undoubtedly very popular among us Indians. We use at least one of these products, say, bank fixed deposits, NSC, KVP, PPF, REC Bonds, etc., to pick up a decent fixed return.  The latest offering is by ICICI Prudential which has introduced ICICI Pru Pinnacle, a guaranteed return unit-linked insurance plan (ULIP). But the question remains as whether this plan will succeed in attracting investors by offering something new or fall flat.Here I'm presenting a review of this product from
  • On maturity, the plan offers the highest NAV recorded on daily basis in its first 7 years
  • There is an additional 3 per cent maturity bonus on the completion of term
  • Low charges make it a cost-effective guaranteed return plan
ICICI Prudential, a joint venture between ICICI Bank and the UK-based Prudential Plc., was established in Dec. 2000. Over past nine years, it has built a strong distribution network of 2,074 branches (inclusive of 1,116 offices), over 2,25,000 advisors and 7 bancassurance partners. ICICI Prudential is the first life insurer in India to receive a National Insurer Financial Strength rating of AAA (Ind) from the credit rating agency, Fitch ratings. As of now, the company has a paid-up capital of Rs. 4,780 cr and the total Assets under Management (AUM) over $10 bn (Rs. 47,000 cr).
Product highlights
  • ‘ICICI Prudential Pinnacle’ is an open-ended, unit-linked insurance policy with an advantage of varying exposure to equity with downside risk protected.
  • Limited premium-paying term (3 years) providing extended insurance protection (10 years)
  • An option to increase or decrease the sum assured anytime during the policy term
  • The minimum and maximum age for entry is 8 years and 65 years, respectively.
  • The policy is available for 10 years.
  • The minimum single premium is Rs. 50,000 per annum, with no cap on maximum limit.
  • Minimum sum assured is five times the annual premium.
  • The policy can be surrendered after the 3rd year, and there are no surrender charges after the 5th year.
Benefits of ICICI Pru Pinnacle
  • ‘Guaranteed highest NAV’ as recorded on daily basis in the first seven years of the fund (from Oct. 24, 2009 to Oct. 24, 2016)
  • An additional 3 per cent of fund value (prevailing NAV) received upon maturity
  • Liquidity in terms of partial withdrawals allowed from the 6th policy year
  • In case of the unfortunate event of death of the insured, the nominee gets the higher of the fund value and sum assured (reduced by partial withdrawals, if any)
  • 100 per cent surrender value after the 5th policy year
  • Tax benefits on the premium paid and benefits received under the policy as per the prevailing Income Tax laws.
There are already a considerable number of guaranteed return products in the market such as SBI Life’s Smart ULIP, Tata AIG’s Invest Assure and Birla Sunlife’s Platinum Plus. All these plans have more or less the same features. However, they differ in charges like premium allocation charges, fund management charges, policy administration charges and others.
So where does ICICI Pru Pinnacle stand? This plan, too, is similar to the above-mentioned plans, but what sets it apart from them is its lower policy charges, recording of daily NAV and an additional maturity bonus of 3 per cent. The ICICI Pru Pinnacle fund guarantees the highest net asset value (NAV) recorded in its first seven years, subject to a minimum of Rs. 10. But there is a catch. This guaranteed highest NAV is applicable only at maturity. At maturity, the higher of Fund Value (units X NAV) and Guaranteed Value (units X guaranteed NAV) as on the maturity date shall be payable (refer Table 1).

As per the company’s benefit illustration, an annual premium of Rs. 3 lakh for three years for a 35-year-old healthy male with a sum assured of Rs. 15 lakh will grow to Rs. 11.63 lakh and Rs. 16.34 lakh at an interest rate of 6 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.
Equating with other products
Here is the refrain, ‘Do not mix insurance with investment unless investment costs are very less and investment horizon is more than 20 years’. We are not comparing ICICI Pru Pinnacle with similar products like SBI Life’s Smart ULIP, Tata AIG’s Invest Assure and Birla Sunlife’s Platinum Plus, for they differ majorly in charges. Rather, we weigh it against a customised product – a combination of a mutual fund and a term insurance. Let us consider that the combo-product grows at the same 6 per cent and 10 per cent interest rate (refer Table 2).

In any circumstances, the combo-product of ELSS + term plan will outperform ICICI Pru Pinnacle by Rs. 1.11 lakh and Rs 1.45 lakh at a growth rate of 6 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively. Moreover, the death benefit in the MF investment will always be more than Rs. 15 lakh (Rs. 32.79 lakh at the 10th policy year). In terms of net returns also, the combo-product will yield 8.86 per cent and 4.43 per cent in comparison to 7.72 per cent and 3.25 per cent by ICICI Pru Pinnacle at a growth rate of 10 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively. Nevertheless, in ICICI Pru Pinnacle Fund maturity amount is guaranteed by its highest NAV recorded in the first seven years, but in ELSS maturity amount is applicable at the recorded NAV at the maturity date. So, in case the market tanks at the time of maturity, ELSS proceeds will go down, failing to provide the guaranteed return while ICICI Pru Pinnacle maturity proceeds are guaranteed at their highest NAV recorded.
Tax benefits
ICICI Prudential Pinnacle Fund provides tax benefits under Sec 80C of the Income Tax Act, where the premium paid is eligible for tax deductions up to Rs. 1 lakh. The maturity proceed is also exempt from tax under Section 10(10D).
Things to look into
• Top-up premiums are not allowed.
• Surrender benefit is limited to 30 per cent of the fund value within 3 years of policy term.
In India, products like ULIPs have become a push product rather than a pull product. By presenting delusive return charts to buyers and hiding the hefty charges applicable on ULIPs, insurance agents try to create a positive image for the product. ICICI Pru Pinnacle fund is no comparison to the combo-product of ELSS and term plan when it comes to tax saving and wealth creation, for the latter offers higher return. However, when compared with its peers like SBI Life’s Smart ULIP, Tata AIG’s Invest Assure and Birla Sunlife’s Platinum Plus, ICICI Pru Pinnacle Fund has an edge over the rest because of its lower policy charges and the unique feature of daily NAV, not applicable in Smart ULIP.
How to invest in the plan?
Investors can buy the plan directly from 2,074 branches (inclusive of 1,116 offices), over 225,000 advisors and 7 bancassurance partners of ICICI Prudential.
Summing it up
Innovation is the key to financial products. It is a known fact that most ULIPs face difficulty in offering guaranteed return as promised. Though fund managers try to invest as per the mood of investors based upon the economic scenario, they may not always succeed in generating desired return. ULIPs carry high risks as returns are linked directly to market performance, and thus insurers may not be able to honour their commitment of guaranteed NAV. However, the guaranteed maturity amount in ICICI Pru Pinnacle by its highest recorded NAV helps it score over a mutual fund whose returns are not guaranteed. So, it can be safely said that ICICI Pru Pinnacle is a good bet for the investors who have a low risk appetite.



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