China's insurance regulator said growth in premiums collected by the nation's insurers fell sharply in 2012, a sign that many in the sector may suffer a cash shortfall this year, Caixin reported. The figures released by China Insurance Regulatory Commission on Thursday showed a total of US$249.05 billion (RMB1.55 trillion) in premiums were earned last year, a rise of only 8% from 2011. In contrast, over the last 20 years, annual collected premiums rose on average by more than 20% from year to year, said Xiang Junbo, the chairman of the commission. Xiang cited competition from higher-margin, long-term bank deposits and marketing restraints as reasons for the decline in margins. The uptick in life insurance claims in 2012 also impacted accounts, said Xiang. The regulator plans to reduce risk, improve customer protections, revise regulation and accelerate reform.