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EC News Asia Edition (7th March 2018)

  • Publish Date: Posted about 6 years ago
  • Author:by Alan Jarque

Round-up of the latest news and developments from the Asian insurance market with stories from Chubb, ArgoGlobal, Willis Towers Watson and more.

Chubb appoints Simpson as country president in Singapore

Chubb has appointed Scott Simpson as its new country president for its general insurance business in Singapore.

Simpson succeeds Adam Clifford who will move on to a new role as Chubb’s division president, Continental Europe.

In his new role Simpson will have overall responsibility for the growth and financial results of the operations in Singapore across all lines of business including P&C, A&H and personal lines.

Simpson is currently serving as head of state distribution, Australia, where he leads the National Underwriting Centre, Independent Broker Unit and Global Broker Unit underwriting teams. He will relocate from Sydney to Singapore and report to Paul McNamee, regional president for Chubb in Asia Pacific.

Simpson joined Chubb in 2005 as a commercial lines underwriter in Sydney and since then has held numerous leadership positions including branch manager for Melbourne and head of northern region, spanning New South Wales and Queensland.

Commenting on the appointment, McNamee said, “Scott is a skillful leader with a proven track record of success. I’m confident that he has the breadth and depth of experience to steer the company to match the ambition and opportunity which Singapore affords us as a highly strategic market for our Asia Pacific business.”

ArgoGlobal hires Grigg to lead Singapore business

ArgoGlobal has named Veronica Grigg as senior executive officer for ArgoGlobal Asia.

Grigg takes up her role in April and will be based in the Singapore office, reporting to Matt Harris, ArgoGlobal’s head of Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Grigg brings over 25 years of industry experience in the Asia Pacific markets. Prior to joining the company she served as head of distribution, major trading partners at QBE Asia Pacific. Before this she served as QBE’s global head of distribution where she led teams across Europe, U.S., Latin America and Asia Pacific.

Commenting on the appointment, Harris said: “Our Asia business will increasingly become a core driver of growth for Argo Group. To achieve our ambitions, we need to bring in proven leaders who have the skills and drive to set our services apart. Veronica is a clear example of this philosophy in practice. Her record of driving growth through strong leadership and innovation, her exemplary knowledge of the APAC markets and her vast network of contacts will be invaluable as we continue to strengthen our offering. I am confident that clients will quickly experience the benefit of her expertise, and I look forward to welcoming her to the team.”

The appointment is subject to regulatory approval. 

Willis Towers Watson reveals a trio of appointments

Willis Towers Watson has announced the appointment of Roger Steel as managing director for Hong Kong and Macau, along with two other senior appointments for its corporate risk & broking and talent rewards businesses in Hong Kong.

Steel’s appointment was effective from 12th February 2018.

Prior to joining the company, Steel held a number of leadership roles including CEO for Sun Life Hong Kong. He boasts over 35 years of experience spanning insurance and consulting.

Commenting on Steel’s appointment, Scott Burnett, head of Asia at Willis Towers Watson said: “Roger brings a wealth of expertise across business strategy and partnerships to the 400-plus colleagues he oversees. His track record and experience in consulting, life insurance and pensions will be invaluable to our team regionally.”

He added: “In the coming months, Roger will focus on leveraging resources to deepen our client understanding and relationships across Greater China, the key growth engine in Asia Pacific.”

As well as the appointment of Steel, the company also announced two more hires for its corporate risk & broking and talent & rewards businesses in Hong Kong.

Ted Hodgkinson has been named as the new head of corporate risk & broking for Hong Kong and Macau. Hodgkinson joined the company in mid-December last year. He brings over 20 years’ experience working in the region, of which 15 years were spent in senior leadership roles in Hong Kong and regionally.

Noel Goh joined the company at the beginning of December 2017 as head of talent & rewards for Hong Kong. Goh has worked as a strategic advisor to senior leaders in the private and government sectors spanning Asia Pacific and previously held regional leadership roles with Aon Hewitt.

All three senior appointments will be based in Hong Kong.

Commenting on the two hires Burnett said: “These senior appointments reflect Willis Towers Watsons strategy to bring our different business lines closer together in order to deliver strong benefits to our Hong Kong clients. We’re building on the strength and capabilities of our team to provide innovative and transformative support that will help businesses navigate through the complexity of people and risk management.”

Coates joins Miller in Singapore

Miller has hired producer broker Julian Coates to further expand its Asia Pacific business.  

Coates will work closely with the P&C and energy teams in Singapore and London.

His main focus areas include property and downstream energy, as well as supporting other lines including upstream energy.

Coates joined Aon in 2009 and spent six years working in its Melbourne and Perth offices, before relocating to Singapore as an associate director of Aon Risk Solutions.

Head of Miller Singapore, Nigel Cross said: “Julian’s appointment demonstrates our firm desire to achieve our objectives and vision for Miller in Asia. He will be a great asset to the team in addition to recent joiners John Moncavage and Piers Hughes”.

Ping An’s finance unit targets Singapore

The international finance unit of Ping An Insurance is looking to provide online financial services in Singapore, according to reports.

If granted approval by regulators, Lu International, the overseas arm of Ping An’s Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange (Lufax), could emerge as a serious competitor in Singapore’s wealth management sector, according to The Standard.

The firm has launched a Chinese-language mobile app and is releasing an English version next month.

The platform boasts over 10 products provided by leading financial institutions including BlackRock, Schroders and Pimco. Users can also choose to invest in funds managed by Lu or Ping An.

Headquartered in Singapore, Lu International was established in July 2017 as part of Ping An’s international expansion efforts for its fintech businesses.

Lufax is seeking a Hong Kong listing in April, which could set the record for the largest fintech IPO in the city. It currently has 33 million registered users with US$78.8bn in assets under management.

“For now, we are not targeting Singapore residents. But we are very interested to provide our services to them in the near future,” Kit Wong, Lu International’s CEO, was quoted as saying by The Business Times.

Enstar enters $275mn reinsurance agreement with Zurich

Enstar has revealed that one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries has signed an agreement with an Australian subsidiary of Zurich Insurance Group to reinsure its New South Wales motor vehicle Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance business. 

Under the reinsurance, effective as of 1 January 2018, Enstar's subsidiary will assume gross reinsurance reserves of approximately AUD$350mn (approximately $275mn) relating to the CTP insurance business.

Following the initial reinsurance, which will transfer the economics of the CTP insurance business to Enstar’s subsidiary, the parties will pursue a portfolio transfer of the CTP insurance business under Division 3A of Part III of Australia’s Insurance Act 1973 (Cth), which would provide legal finality for Zurich.

The Division 3A transfer is subject to court, regulatory and other approvals.

Commenting on the transaction, Dominic Silvester, Enstar's CEO, said: “This transaction with Zurich builds on Enstar’s successful management of other large Australian legacy portfolios. It significantly enhances our footprint in Australia as we continue to grow our non-life run-off operations in key insurance markets. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Zurich to offer a reinsurance solution for its CTP portfolio.”

Hong Kong life insurance market could see M&A deals soar

The number of merger and acquisition (M&A) deals in the Hong Kong life insurance industry is reportedly set to accelerate given stiff competition and a large number of buyers in the market.

Both AXA and MassMutual have already sold their life insurance units in the city, while MetLife is expected to be the next on the trading block, according to a report by the Business Times.

The Hong Kong life insurance market is crowded, with AIA, China Life, and Prudential dominating the market. The three insurers brought in over half of the HKD$436bn (USD$55.74bn) in premium revenue for 2016.

Firms with a smaller market share may opt to combine together in order to compete with the bigger companies.

Meanwhile, there is a rush of investors looking for a piece of the Hong Kong insurance pie many of whom are from mainland China. As getting an insurance license on the mainland is quite difficult, many investors opt to purchase an existing company in Hong Kong and sell to a mainland clientele. While Beijing has imposed restrictions on mainlanders buying Hong Kong insurance policies, experts believe these restrictions will be eased in the future.

According to the report there are many other reasons for insurers to sell their Hong Kong ventures. For example, Generali is struggling with larger issues and is looking to exit several markets. Insurers can also sell a stake to partners that could help them in their expansion and diversification, such as when Aviva partnered with Chinese internet giant Tencent to help in its digitalisation and reaching a wider market.

Due to limited financial information being made public, a value has yet to be outlined for Metlife’s impending sale, but Bloomberg estimated it at US$600mn or possibly higher.

Online platform to tap blockchain and smart contracts

Insurance Market, Singapore's first fully online and automated insurance platform, will take the lead in the development of a new global eco system for insurance that will tap the full power of smart contracts and blockchain technology.

Insurance Market will act as sponsor and lead a group of insurance companies and distributors that will participate in the further development and roll-out of this pilot programme.

The programme aims to drive down the cost of insurance significantly, improve the availability of more types and more granular insurance, provide full access to anyone anywhere and make the claims process fully automated, according to a company statement.

CEO of Insurance Market, Otbert de Jong said: “Blockchain technology and smart contracts have a lot of potential, but at the same time there are still a lot of hurdles to be taken in order to capitalise on the opportunities that they bring,”

“The pilot will not result in revolutionary overnight change, but use the current full vertical platform as operated by Insurance Market and its insurance partners as a starting point and merge in and replace inefficient processes with more efficient, decentralised, independent and distributed ones.”

Partner selection is currently underway with the company expecting to make final announcements on cornerstone participants over the next few months. The final selection of partners will also be determined by the take up of a planned initial coin/token offering (ICO) planned for the 2nd quarter of this year by the potential partners in the eco system.

Insurance Market and partners will operate out of Singapore but aim to make the eco system an international one with particular focus on the Asean region.

Insurance Market’s parent company Insurance Market Group will sponsor a crowd sale of the tokens that will be used by participants on the platform. This includes manufacturers such as insurance companies, distributors such as brokers or aggregators and also customers. The platform will be primarily aimed at retail and SME insurance.

CTO of Insurance Market, Nelius Strydom, said: “We’re very pleased with the support that we are experiencing from all the stakeholders. It makes this a collaborative effort to create an equitable and accessible platform that brings benefits to all,”

“As a fully direct and online platform, customers will enjoy a truly seamless digital journey; without the need to download, mail or even proof anything. With the new innovative products and technology, distributors can fully focus on the user experience and insurance companies can use the analytics for product optimisation and new product development. Customers will have full control over their data and can expect a marked reduction in the cost of insurance.”