Who reviews returns rates for insurers' investment products?

Ms Pauline Lim of the Life Insurance Association Singapore says that the "life insurance industry does indeed conduct an annual review of investment returns used in the benefit illustrations (BI) of participating (Par) products to ensure their continued appropriateness" ("Regular review of insurers' investment products"; Oct 10).

As mentioned in my earlier letter ("Marketing of endowment plans needs regular review"; Oct 8), my 10-year endowment policy that matured recently gave me a return less than the aggregate premiums paid, even without considering the "future value of money".

My question is: What is the margin of error for these regularly reviewed "appropriate" rates?

And who is responsible for ensuring that the rates illustrated are realistically comparable with actual investment returns of the insurance companies?

Ms Lim's letter gives the impression that insurance firms' illustrative rates represent the long-term investment outlook for these products. But after 10 years, the actual investment returns did not match up in my case.

How would customers project their real returns with a BI which shows 4.75 per cent and 3.25 per cent at the start of any long-term period?

My experience with such policies tells me this is a common problem among all insurance companies, especially during the recent years of low investment returns.

I opted for the NTUC Income's Par annuity plan when I turned 55. The payout was the lowest among the three annuity schemes approved by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board.

But the other two schemes were not Par policies and the selling point of Income's annuity scheme was that it would attract Par bonus that would make up the difference with the other two schemes, as the yearly bonus declared by Income will be accumulated and will increase the monthly retirement payout to match the other two in a couple of years.

However, for the past 14 years, not a cent was added to my annuity payout while I read every year that Income had declared Par bonus.

Again, who monitors and safeguards the policy holders' interests?

Geoffrey Kung