Recent trends of dynamically growing and developing life insurance markets in Asia

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1 Recent trends of dynamically growing and developing life insurance markets in Asia Tomikazu HIRAGA, Ph.D. and LL.M. General Manager for Asia, NLI Research Institute Asia is a growth market where foreign and local life insurance companies are competing for marketing both advanced and traditional insurance products Dynamically developing life insurance markets in Asia is against a background of economic growth and expansion of middle income class and wealthy people. Foreign-affiliated companies including Japanese life insurance companies make an attempt to enter the growth market determinedly. In the Asian life insurance markets, they offer advanced insurance products, such as investment-type products, and introduce modern distribution channels and sales methods including bancassurance (selling insurance product through banks ) and selling insurance over the internet, in addition to traditional life insurance products and sales methods. Characteristics from a viewpoint of macroeconomics Life insurance markets expand in most countries of the Asian region, with economic growth continuing there. The size of the economies (on a nominal GDP basis) in the Asian region, which mainly include countries and areas of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and NIES (newly industrializing economies), China, and India in 2011, is a little less than four times larger than the size of those in And the growth far exceeds that of the overall world economy, which approximately doubled between 2000 and Under such circumstances, life insurance premium income in the Asian region in 2011 is approximately 4.3 times larger than the income in 2000, a sharp increase, and the income in the Asian region accounts for 15.4 percent in the worldwide income in 2011, up from 6.2 percent in (An increase in the income in the Asian region represents approximately 30 percent in the worldwide increase between 2000 and 2011.) 1

2 A current trend is that an increase in insurance premium income seems to relatively slow down or stabler due to effects mainly caused by an economic slump in advanced countries, restrictions on selling investment-type life insurance products by supervising authorities in some countries, etc. However it is considered that markets in the Asian region have strong potential for growth and life insurance markets there will be more than likely to continue to have a stronger presence in the world markets. Sigma No. 5/2011 published by Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd. forecasts that Asian life insurance markets will grow at an annual average rate of 8.5 percent in a period from 2011 to 2021, which will far exceed the growth rate of 2.9 percent in the markets of advanced countries. The author considers it appropriate to divide the Asian markets into three groups (NIES, ASEAN, and China and India) broadly from a viewpoint of quality, size, growth potential, etc. of a market, in order to understand life insurance markets in Asian major countries and areas. 1. NIES4 (Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) The countries are developed insurance markets within the Asian region and a ratio of premium income to GDP (insurance penetration) there is 8.6 percent on average, which is almost as large as the ratio of 8.8 percent in Japan. Also premium income per person (insurance density) there is at a high level of US$2,107 on average and therefore such countries can be considered substantially mature markets. Hong Kong is an international financial center which has a close relationship with markets in China, where Asian headquarters of many Western insurance companies are located, while Singapore is also a very important market, since the country is an international financial center and a hub in which there is a lot of business activity in relation to the surrounding countries, where regional headquarters of many companies engaged in manufacturing products and providing services are located. Living standards of citizens (residents) are expected to further improve because of economic growth hereafter, although indicators, including the ratio of premium income to GDP, are already at a higher level. Therefore it is anticipated that sales of annuity and health-related insurance products will be likely to increase, since they prepare for the arrival of aging society. Investment-type insurance products become less popular than the boom period a few years ago and a world-wide economic slump, while protection-type insurance products become more popular. 2

3 2. ASEAN5 (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam are major markets.) The ASEAN markets are geographically located between the two big countries of China and India with particularly large growth potential, and the highly mature markets in the NIES as above mentioned. Therefore some people may think that the ASEAN markets attract less attention. In fact, the ratio of premium income to GDP in the 5 ASEAN countries and Singapore, which is also classified as one of the NIES above, is 1.9 percent and premium income per person there is US$69, both of which are at a far lower level than those in the NIES. While Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, leading ASEAN countries, overcame the Asian Currency Crisis in 1997 and 1998 and their economic structure has been strengthened, a rapid increase in the number of middle class people under economic development is progressing. The ASEAN countries are considered to be promising markets with a population of approximately more than 600 million in total. Also it is anticipated that sales of Takaful (insurance products based on Islamic Doctrine) to Muslims will increase in Malaysia and Indonesia 3. China and India Insurance markets in China and India with the world s largest size of population and a higher pace of economic growth expand significantly. For example, premium income in China and India in 2011 is 11.2 and 8.0 times larger than the one in 2000, respectively. And further expansion is expected to occur. Life Insurance in Asia, a work by Stephan Binder and Joseph Luc Ngai covering forecasts about the Asian life insurance markets, describes the markets of China and India as can t-miss markets for companies having an interest in the Asian markets. Foreign-affiliated companies would be likely to have a stronger presence in China and India, if the markets were further deregulated hereafter, although local major companies in China and stated-owned Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) have a large market share in each market. Expansion of the markets in these countries has slowed down at the moment after it had continued for a long period of time. However sales of insurance products are expected to recover hereafter, since regulatory authorities supervising insurance companies make significant efforts aimed at sound growth of the markets, e.g. including efforts to make sales methods of investment-type insurance products improve. Sigma 3

4 No. 5/2011 forecasts that the Chinese and Indian markets will be ranked second and sixth in the world life insurance market in 2021, up from the fifth and eighth rankings in 2011, respectively. (In this connection, it also forecasts that the US market will take the first place in 2021, unchanged from 2011, while the Japanese market will take the third place, down from the second one, in both years, respectively.) Trends in the Asian life insurance markets and points to note The author examines important common trends and changes in markets within the region in order to forecast the future of the Asian life insurance markets. Economic growth Asian economies have been influenced by a worldwide economic slump since 2008, especially continuing severe economic situations in Europe, the US, and Japan. The degree of such influence on each Asian country was different, depending on each country s degree of reliance on export to advanced countries, its proportion of domestic demand in the economy, etc. However economies in Asian countries were less damaged relatively than those in other regions and Asian economies are expected to grow steadily hereafter. China overtook Japan to become the second largest economic power in terms of the size of the economy (nominal GDP) in 2010 as a result of its continuing high economic growth over the long term, while Indian economy, which has almost the tenth largest economy in the world, is expected to expand further in the medium term. (On this point, some interestingly argue that China and India, which were major economic powers and whose combined GDP accounted for nearly 50 percent of the world s GDP early in the 19th century, are in the process of recovering their former positions.) Movements of a population and an increase in the number of middle class people The author pays attention to both increases in the number of wealthy class people having a large influence on the sales of consumer goods or services (including insurance products), etc. and medium class people referred to as a volume zone, in addition to a population increase, with respect to economic growth and development of insurance markets. The United Nations predicts a population of 3.8 billion in the Asian region in 2050, an increase from approximately three billion in Further it becomes clear that there are a rapid increase in the middle class population (an income bracket of US$5,000 to less than US$35,000 in disposable income per household) and an 4

5 increasing trend in the number of the wealthy class with more income than the middle class. Both medium and wealthy classes make their presence felt more as important clients purchasing durable consumer goods such as household appliances including TVs and cellular phones, automobiles and services such as life insurance products. Many people anticipate that markets in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines will grow larger than other countries, since there is a large size of a population and a "population bonus period (a situation where a working age population is more than that of old people and children in population composition) is expected to continue in the long term in those countries. Also China and India are the two largest populous countries in the world. However people in China begin to use a new word 未 富 先 老 (China s population will start to age before getting rich),since a rapidly declining birthrate and aging population are expected to occur hereafter due mainly to its one-child policy. On the other hand, some predict that India with a large population of the younger generation will overtake China and become the world's most populous country in The author considers it important to pay attention to how these movements affect sales of life insurance products and the state of such markets. Changes in insurance products, distribution and sales Overheated competition for selling investment-type insurance products has settled down due to the impact of the Lehman Shock and a worldwide recession, in addition to effects of regulations aimed at a proper sale of such products by each country s regulatory authorities supervising insurance industry. However the author expects such products to be sold steadily to a clientele, such as wealthy and medium class people. Also the author considers that more people will actively buy protection-type, savings-type and pension- type insurance products or insurance coverage will become larger, as a result of their higher income and improved living standards and increase of nuclear families. Moreover, it is well known that people in Asian countries are keen on giving children a good education and therefore sales of insurance policies aimed at saving tuition funds will further increase. On the other hand, a gradual rise in an income level of people in the lower income bracket because of each country s economic growth will be highly 5

6 likely to lead to increasing sales of small size of insurance products ( micro insurance ). Next, a sales network of insurance products consists mainly of insurance agents and bancassurance (selling of insurance products by banks). It is more than likely that diversified and a higher level of customers needs resulting from development and modernization of life insurance markets will lead to improvements in insurance agents specialist skills and ability to sell insurance. On the other hand, sales in bank branches (bancassurance) show a sharp increase in each market and new insurance contracts in the bancassurance account for 30 to 50 percent in such total contracts in many markets. The author considers that a proportion of sales through other channels (brokers, direct marketing by telephone or the internet, selling of insurance products at retail stores, etc. ) other than those above is likely to increase gradually as a result of response to needs of customers belonging to a certain class, although they represent a small percentage at the moment. Summary and conclusion The author considers it necessary to take into account degrees of growth of each country s economy or society, characteristics of its culture, differences or changes in values or needs of customers, when it comes to forecasting situations or prospect of insurance markets in the Asian region, although we examine an overview of the markets. Also, first of all, attention should be paid to the fact that various income brackets or people or groups with diverse likes and dislikes or needs exist in clusters (groups), each of which is considerably large enough to be regarded as a unit of population, in the same country, although China and India are considered to be a typical example, and therefore the author considers it significant for insurance companies to offer products suitable for each group of clients through an adequate distribution network, based on the understanding of natures and characteristics of a group of people, sales targets of insurance products, on this point,. Secondly, many influential insurance companies in Europe, the US, Japan, etc. have already entered markets of various countries, offering advanced insurance products including investment-type insurance, universal life insurance, and dread disease insurance products as well as traditional life insurance products. Also modern insurance products and sales methods they have introduced, such as bancassurance 6

7 (selling of insurance products by banks), direct marketing (selling by telephone or the internet, or mail order), have significant effects on growth of such markets. In this sense, life insurance markets in Asian emerging countries become places of competition among influential life insurance companies in advanced countries and the Asian region, just like the Olympic Games, so to speak. Therefore the author also considers it necessary to pay attention to the fact that cases, which are not always appropriate to be viewed as a market situation of xx years ago in a specific advanced country, actually occur. In this way, foreign affiliated companies, including AIA and Prudential (UK), have a significant presence in most of the Asian markets, other than China, India, etc., where local companies have a large market share due to comparatively stricter restrictions on foreign capital investment in local companies. The author considers it necessary for foreign-affiliated companies to basically grasp needs and changes in each market and differences in terms of culture and values adequately, and address them and take action appropriately, in order to gain competitive advantages over local companies. The author has a view that internationalization at Japanese companies headquarters level, is a key issue, since making use of local and the third country s competent personnel and strategic response based on enough understanding of circumstances surrounding local subsidiaries and affiliates are needed. (This is an informal and abridged English translation of the original Japanese report written for NODE:1 by NTT Data Corporation in October, 2012.) 7

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