Low interest rates have sparked a renewed interest in investment-linked life-insurance policies, prompting unusually strong premium growth in the first quarter. Also benefiting from the trend are refundable insurance policies, mostly in the non-life segment, which repay premiums to policyholders if they do not file for claims. 'The low interest rates mean many depositors get nothing from their bank savings,' United Overseas Bank Group senior manager Lawrence Tsong said. 'This has helped encourage the demand for refundable insurance plans.' According to figures released by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance yesterday, premiums of life-insurance and retirement schemes jumped 36.4 per cent year on year to $23.14 billion in the first three months of the year. Heading the charge were investment-linked life products, which took in $5.36 billion - an 85.1 per cent surge from a year ago. Term life-insurance premiums grew 36.3 per cent to $13.28 billion. In the 1990s, consumers and insurance brokers shunned investment-linked policies as equity markets boomed. Most consumers opted for cheaper policies offering simple term risk cover. Now most insurers offer products with varying degrees of exposure to markets and interest rates. 'With interest rates so low, people are looking for other forms of investment,' said legislator Bernard Charnwut Chan, who represents the insurance industry. 'Investment-linked insurance is attractive because of the diversity of products available ... The beauty of the refundable products is that they give you your money back if you do not seek claims.' Meanwhile, general insurance had a relatively quiet quarter, with gross premiums growing 0.1 per cent to $6.87 billion.