Wednesday, July 15, 2009

MMIP insurance covers now available at Pos Malaysia outlets

The Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia (Piam) last week announced that Malaysian Motor Insurance Pool (MMIP) insurance covers will be available to the public at Pos Malaysia outlets, confirming an earlier report by The Malaysian Reserve.
With effect from July 10, it said private car and motorcycle owners can purchase MMIP's insurance covers from Pos Malaysia outlets throughout the country including Sabah and Sarawak.
In order to immediately address accessibility problems in Sabah and Sarawak, it said insurance for taxis and buses will also be made available from the same day, while those in Peninsula Malaysia from July 24.
"In the current scenario where the motor insurance market is experiencing high loss experience, many insurers have either declined or are scaling back on underwriting risks especially third party insurance. As such, an increasing number of motorists are turning to the MMIP for insurance cover," Piam said in the statement.
On July 23, The Malaysian Reserve reported that the central bank was on the verge of appointing Pos Malaysia Bhd as the agent for motorists to buy motor insurance from the industry pool, now that most insurers have declined to underwrite directly that segment of the insurance market.
It was reported that Pos Malaysia, the national postal services provider which has been in the red for financial years 2007 and 2008, will secure the contract to ensure that motorists are able to secure the third party insurance cover.
In the past weeks, more and more motorists found themselves turned away by their insurer when they wanted to renew their third party cover. Instead, they were told to shop around at other insurance companies that may still underwrite that segment, but to little avail as most general insurers and takaful operators have stopped underwriting directly the risk due to the segment's high loss experience.
In light of the increasing difficulty, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) which regulates the insurance and takaful industry had turned to Pos Malaysia to act as an agent on behalf of the motor insurance pool, the insurer of the last resort.
In its statement, Piam said in order to provide convenience and accessibility to the public, MMIP and Pos Malaysia have formed a strategic partnership to capitalise on Pos Malaysia's extensive network of offices throughout the country, in both the urban and rural areas. Pos Malaysia has 684 outlets nationwide which will provide MMIP insurance with 578 outlets in Peninsula Malaysia and 106 in Sabah and Sarawak, it said.
Furthermore, it said Pos Malaysia already has the necessary experience, human resources and IT facilities in place to provide the MMIP's insurance covers.
"This service will be an extension of the existing insurance renewal service that is already available at Pos Malaysia outlets as it currently acts as agents for eight insurance companies and three takaful operators," it said. In addition to insurance renewal, it said Pos Malaysia also offers the renewal of road tax for private vehicles on behalf of Road Transport Department. The MMIP was formed in 1992 to ensure that all vehicles on the road would not be without access to the minimum motor insurance cover required by law.
The MMIP also provides insurance for vehicles that are considered high risks and are unable or have difficulty in securing motor insurance from the normal market.
The liabilities and expenses of the MMIP are shared equally by all the 33 general insurance companies. Currently, the MMIP utilises the branch office networks of two insurers, Multi-Purpose Insurans Bhd and Uni Asia General Insurance Bhd, who serve as the servicing insurers for MMIP. Both these servicing insurers will continue to provide MMIP insurance covers together with the Pos Malaysia outlets.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on July 13, 2009. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on insurance & takaful called UNDERWRITER, appearing on alternate Wednesdays)

Stronger growth seen for insurance

The insurance industry is poised to show improvement in performance in the second half of the year on the back of the recovery in the country’s export sector. Many insurance players are optimistic the performance for the second half will be better than the first half of the year underpin by the pick-up in economic activities spurring stronger export growth, reports The Star (July 11, 2009).
Great Eastern Life Assurance (Malaysia) Bhd director and chief executive officer Koh Yaw Hui told the newspaper: "All recent economic indicators suggest that the worst is over as the most affected export industry has been seen picking up and many companies have started recruiting.
"We expect the life insurance industry for the second half of the year to do much better than the first half. Personally, I think this year, the industry should end up having double-digit growth."
The growth driver that will steer the industry in the second half, it quoted general insurer LPI Capital Bhd chief executive officer Tee Choon Yeow will be the export and construction sectors.
The growth in the export industry, he adds, will help in the development of the marine and manufacturing sectors, which in turn will create greater demand for marine insurance as well as fire insurance, it added.
Manulife Holdings Bhd Group CEO Michael Chan was quoted as saying he is positive of the outlook for the insurance for the second half as insurance plays a very important role in one’s financial planning portfolio regardless of the economic cycles.
“Manulife’s insurance business showed strong growth in the second quarter as we launched new products and new agency performance management standards.
“We expect to see continued improvement in the second half as we roll out more new products, further drive the agency performance management standards and continue with our recruitment programmes,” Chan adds.


Koh says Great Eastern has done very well in the first half of the year registering more than RM360mil in total weighted new business premium, which was more than 50% growth compared with the similar period last year in line with economic improvement.
Riding on the momentum of its strong first half result, he adds the company should continue to do well in the second half and meet its goal of RM800mil in total weighted new business premium for this year.
Based on the company’s first six months results, Tee points out that Lonpac is still optimistic of meeting its target of 15% growth in gross premiums by year-end.
Despite operating in a competitive and challenging environment, it turned in an impressive underwriting surplus of RM35.5mil representing a significant jump of 55.7% over the corresponding period of 2008. It also recorded underwriting surplus in all classes of insurance for the period.
Tee attributed the improved performance to prudent underwriting which has help it achieve profit and premium growth year on year.
He stress for insurers to improve performance amid the tough economic environment, they need to also display a high degree of transparency, corporate governance and professionalism.
According to Bank Negara’s statistics, gross premiums for general insurance last year stood at RM9.73bil against RM9.07bil in 2007. Net premiums for the period was also higher at about RM9bil as oppose to RM8.2bil (in 2007).
The Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (LIAM), in releasing its latest figures, says the industry delivered a strong first quarter (January-March) performance with new business sales growing by 14% on weighted premium basis.
Weighted premium is calculated as 10% of single premium plus 100% of regular premium.
The growth, LIAM says, was contributed by a strong performance in regular premium sales which went up by 24% compared to the same period last year.
Single premium business, however, registered a decline of 43% due to the global financial crisis and the decline in interest rate.
By class of business, investment-linked business, normally perceived as savings related products, registered a sharp decline of 23% by weighted premium.
The sale of single premium investment-linked declined from RM584mil in the first quarter of 2008 to a mere RM48mil in the corresponding period in 2009.
Traditional business, normally perceived as protection related products, on the other hand registered a strong growth of 43% during the period as opposed to similar quarter last year.
The sales of group insurance business remained fairly static with total premium of RM652mil compared to RM653mil a year earlier, LIAM says.

Key growth drivers

Koh said the two key growth drivers for the industry for the second half will still be the distribution channel as well as products.
“For us, the second half of the year will be an exciting period. Apart from continuing with our strategy to further enhance the productivity and professionalism of our 17,000 agency force, we will be distributing our products through the bancassurance channel under the financial sector liberalisation plan.
“Great Eastern is now able to have bancassurance tie-up with all the banks including foreign banks in Malaysia and hope to sell its first policy within the next one to two months,” he adds.
As far as distribution channel is concern, Koh says bancassurance is set to grow faster after the liberalisation as there is now no restriction of insurance companies tying up with banks to enhance their sales.
On the possible and likely challenges for the industry, Tee says it is the increasing claim trends from motorists, especially on bodily injury as well as from motor theft.
“We believe that the most important step that needs to be taken to address these issues is to practice prudential underwriting and to have in place strong claims management and underwriting processes,” he adds.
Koh says one of the challenges is for agents to advise consumers on the importance of financial planning to meet their future goals since people tend to be very prudent in their spending during the current difficult times.
As such, it is important that agents are professional and have the required knowledge and competency to play that role, he explains.
Chan views the state of the economy as a challenge for the industry. “The positive news is that the Government has announced numerous stimulus plans to help drive economic growth but the pace of growth may be impacted by external factors among which is the recovery of our export markets.
“Also, equity markets have not stabilised and should they continue to be volatile, it will impact investment income for insurers,” Chan says.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Exim Bank to introduce takaful products next yr

Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Bhd (Exim Bank) is poised to expand its reach further by offering better options to customers via the introduction of Shariah-compliant products.
Islamic financing has been identified as a new area of growth for the bank in view that Malaysia is expanding trade involving the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) member states.
The bank has envisaged that by end-2009, it would have sufficient Shariah-compliant banking products to cater for the needs of its growing global customers, said managing director/CEO Mohd Fauzi Rahmat.
"We are also planning to introduce takaful (Islamic insurance) products by next year," he said in a statement on Monday.
Exim Bank supports the financing needs of Malaysian companies and investors with operations in four continents across two dozen countries worldwide. Asean and Middle East will continue to be major contributors to the bank's portfolio with about two-third of its exposures while Africa, Europe and Asia Pacific make up the rest.
According to Fauzi, the bank is committed to continue its drive to support local exporters and investors extending their international business by providing banking facilities and insurance coverage particularly those that significantly contribute to the extension and enlargement of Malaysia's export volume, value and markets.
While the bank recognise that 2009 would be more a challenging year amidst global economic uncertainties, it would continue to provide support to its existing and potential customers and partners who are willing to take the challenge and participate in the still significant global trade and investments and to be ready for future businesses when the economy picks up.
In 2008, Exim Bank approved a total of RM460.3 million direct loans and guarantees to customers in various sectors including construction, investment, manufacturing and commodity trading.
In addition, the Export Credit Refinancing, extended via participating financial institutions and by far the single largest product of the bank by volume, contributed a total of RM9.5 billion in loan disbursements compared with RM8.4 billion in the previous year.
In trade credit insurance, it has a total of RM2.43 billion business in force in 2008, against RM2.78 billion in 2007. As for commercial and political risk insurance business, the bank approved RM120 million worth of business last year reflecting it cautious approach in light of the global economic crisis.
The total Malaysian exports insured for 2008 amounted to RM2.55 billion and is spread over 72 countries primarily across Asia and Africa.
"Exim Bank maintained a positive and stable performance for both banking and insurance businesses although a more selective approach has been adopted to respond to the current global economic situation," Fauzi said.
To strengthen its capacity to undertake more businesses, the shareholders' funds of Exim Bank has increased to RM2.8 billion in 2008 from RM839 million a year ago. This would go a long way in ensuring that Exim Bank continues to thrive as a vibrant and active Development Financial Institution for Malaysian exporters and investors over the medium and long-term.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on July 8, 2009. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on insurance & takaful called UNDERWRITER, appearing on alternate Wednesdays)

Takaful Malaysia eyes 50% market share in 2-3 years

By T Vignesh
Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd (Takaful Malaysia) expects to capture slightly more than half of the takaful industry's total asset market share in the next two to three years despite the current economic crisis. Managing director Datuk Mohamad Hassan said the industry's total assets have reached RM12 billion and the company's share currently stands at RM4.05 billion.
"We are confident of achieving slightly more than the current takaful market rate, which is between 22% and 25% per annum," he told reporters after a signing ceremony with Standard Financial Planner Sdn Bhd (SFP) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Takaful Malaysia became the first in the takaful industry to add professional financial advisors to its existing portfolio of distribution channels following the appointment of SFP to market its products. SFP has a nationwide network of more than 300 representatives of whom 75 are licensed financial advisors with Bank Negara Malaysia.
Mohamad Hassan said that this will enhance the penetration of the company's family and general insurance products into the middle-upper Malaysian market, thereby makes Takaful Malaysia's products more accessible to a wider customer base.
He said the company is confident of the selection of SFP due to its position as a market leader and largest independent financial advisory group in Malaysia. S FP is also the first financial planning group in Malaysia to hold both Financial Advisors (FA) and Corporate Unit Trust Advisor (CUTA) licences.
At the signing ceremony, SFP's CEO Alfred Sek said the past ten years have witnessed fresh changes to the financial planning industry and its delivery of financial advice in Malaysia.
He said that Takaful Malaysia will greatly benefit from this arrangement as its potential customers will develop full confidence in the products offered, through high quality independent advice from these Financial Advisors.
Meanwhile, Takaful Malaysia has plans to undertake a rebranding exercise to reflect its fresh characteristics in conjunction with its 25th anniversary this year.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on July 8, 2009. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on insurance & takaful called UNDERWRITER, appearing on alternate Wednesdays)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Axa Affin sees plenty of potential post liberalisation

By Alfean Hardy
Axa Affin Life Insurance Bhd, a local-international joint venture (JV), sees a lot of potential for itself going forward in the new climate of liberalisation in the finance and insurance sectors, and is making plans to tap into these opportunities, its chief marketing officer Nicholas Kua Choo Ming said.
Despite being a relatively young start-up, Axa Affin sees a lot of opportunities to tap into going forward.
"When the liberalisation was announced, there were reports that spoke of opportunities for foreign players and that local players would feel more pressure," Kua said. "For Axa Affin, we see it as an opportunity. Granted that we're a start-up and we're entering into a new era of liberalisation, (but) we have a head start over new entrants coming in.
"We are already operating and, with our business model, we can outpace our competitors in terms of growth and emerge stronger and in a better position," he told The Malaysian Reserve in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Axa Affin is 51%-owned by local giant Affin Holdings Bhd and 49%-owned by global financial protection and wealth management giant Axa Group. The JV was incorporated in early 2006. Previously, both parties had been collaborating in the general insurance area for many years. Under the liberalisation of the finacial sector announced in April 2009, foreign equity participation in insurance and takaful JVs was raised to 70%. In addition, locally-incorporated foreign insurance and takaful companiess are now allowed to establish branches nationwide without restriction, while the restriction for such firms to enter into bancassurance/bancatakaful arrangements with banking institutions have also been lifted. Axa Affin's strengths, Kua said, stemmed from having strong parents.

"We're part of a very strong group, the Axa Group, which is a leading global player, and we have a strong shareholder in Affin," he said. "We are able to leverage on Axa's expertise and its robust business platform. We have access to eight other operating entities in Asia like China, India and Hong Kong. "Whether it's product innovation, distribution management and customer services, we have best practices that we can follow," he said.

"As part of the LTAT Group, Affin's business is across almost the entire Malaysian landscape and there are major opportunities to work with local groups, either via their group insurance or banking group," he said, adding that about half of Affin Bank's 80-plus branches already have dedicated Axa Affin advisers attached to them, making it the only bancassurance relationship of its kind currently. "And, as Affin expands, we will expand with them," he said.

Kua said one of the challenges going forward was building its distribution channel, which mostly consisted of its agency force and its bancassurance relationship with Affin Bank and other bank partners. "One of the challenges is growing our agency manpower. We're above 300 now and we aim to hit the 1,000 threshold by the end of the year," he said. He also said that the firm is upgrading the capabilities of its agency force to eventually see a fully professional force. The target time frame is by 2012, to coincide with Axa's global aspirations to be the preferred company of choice by then. Kua said Axa Affin was also able to sign up with other banks under a multi-provider bancassurance model.

"We are currently working with three or four other partners. With liberalisation, the key now is how we work with these banks (who have other providers as well) and make ourselves the preferred provider," he said. "Axa, on a regional basis, has always believed in a multi-distribution platform. The same is true whether we're in Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong or Indonesia. "We have both bank partners and the agency force. The blue print is there, (and) the business model is there in every entity that we enter into," Kua said.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on July 8, 2009. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on insurance & takaful called UNDERWRITER, appearing on alternate Wednesdays)

Insurers may be forced to cut costs, outsource

European insurers such as Allianz SE and Axa SA may be forced to cut costs, outsource more functions and boost revenue from emerging markets to maintain earnings growth as the recession in their home markets deepens, consulting firm Accenture Ltd sai, reports Bloomberg.
Insurers may gain from moving asset management, claims handling and the underwriting of insurance risks outside the company, Thomas Meyer, the Zurich-based managing director for Accenture’s insurance practice in Europe, Africa and Latin America, said in a telephone interview.
"Insurance is a 300-year-old industry and it hasn’t changed that much since its inception, with the average insurer still handling about 85% of its operations that create value inhouse," Meyer told the news agency.
In contrast, "car manufacturers nowadays only handle about 15% themselves," he said. Almost 16,000 people have been fired by insurers worldwide since the start of the financial crisis as they seek to trim costs to offset slower earnings growth.
Global life and non-life insurance premiums fell in real terms last year for the first time since 1980, Swiss Reinsurance Co, the world’s second-largest reinsurer, said last month. The industry has written down US$243 million (RM862.34 million) on credit and investment losses since the start of 2007.
"While the financial crisis will lead to declining premium income in developed and saturated markets, emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil will offer opportunities to grow," Meyer said. British insurers are among companies that have announced moves to outsource some services. Aviva plc reduced its workforce by 3,000, or 6%, and said it was scaling back operations that had been outsourced to India.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Perwakim submits memorandum on motor insurance rebates

PERWAKIM, an association of general insurance agents in Malaysia, has submitted a memorandum to Bank Negara protesting the central bank's proposal to give rebates on premiums for consumers that renew their motor insurance directly with insurance firms, reports Business Times.
They claim that the move, which takes effect from today, would adversely affect consumers, agents and the insurance industry in general.
Perwakim president Liza Lau said a copy of the memorandum was also handed to the office of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Human Resources.
Lau led more than 50 agents in a peaceful picket in front of Bank Negara yesterday. The crowd dispersed after about two hours.
She said there are a total of 50,000 insurance agents nationwide of which 40 per cent are full-time agents.
Insurance agents earn a 10 per cent commission from the insurance companies.

Allianz to launch Islamic pension product in 2010

Allianz will launch its first Islamic annuity product next year, the head of its takaful unit said, tapping into a growing number of clients in the Middle East keen to add to their state pensions. It has long been hard for takaful - or syariah-compliant - insurers to sell such products, because of the lack of long-term Islamic bonds with which to match pension liabilities, Abdul Rahman Tolefat said on Wednesday, reports Reuters (July 3, 2009).
The German insurer's unit had lobbied banks to issue long-term debt and unnamed banks had now issued 25-year to 30-year sukuk, Tolefat said at a conference.
"This is really a promising industry, especially in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) - people are looking for private pensions because state pension are not high enough," he said on the sidelines of the conference, the report added.
Allianz was one of the first Western insurance companies to venture into takaful, in which members contribute to a pool of funds which is used to indemnify participants who suffer a loss, much in the same way as with a mutual insurer.
Allianz Takaful already has a pension product which pays out over a pre-agreed number of years, but annuities that guarantee income until death are still an untapped market.

Sykt Takaful aims to be largest player

SYARIKAT Takaful Malaysia Bhd (STMB), which has RM4 billion in assets, aims to be the largest takaful insurer in the country in terms of assets within two years.
Group managing director, Datuk Hassan Kamil, said currently, STMB was in second position after Etiqa Takaful Bhd, which has 400,000 policyholders.
He said the company hoped to sign up at least 10 per cent more policyholders within a year of the launch of the one-stop Takaful myDesk in collaboration with Lembaga Tabung Haji.
"Through the Takaful myDesk, the company also hopes to achieve approximately RM1 million worth of contributions, also within the first year of operations," he told reporters after the launch of Takaful myDesk in Kuala Lumpur today.
Hassan said the contributions were expected to be much higher because the customers could also renew their motor policies, buy Takaful mySiswa (education plan) and Takaful myRawat (health insurance in preparation for them to go on haj).
He said the collaboration would also boost its presence with the establishment of Takaful myDesk at selected Tabung Haji (TH) branches nationwide in addition to its present 56 branches.
The TH branches are in Jalan Tun Razak (Kuala Lumpur), Penang, Pasir Puteh (Kelantan), Bagan Serai (Perak), Kuala Pilah (Negeri Sembilan), Kota Tinggi (Johor) and Bentong (Pahang), he said.
"It's a cost-effective distribution network. The partnership allows us to market our products through TH branches," he said.
Under the agreement, Hassan said, STMB would provide facilities such as computers, while TH the space to set up Takaful myDesk.
"We have been studying this proposal for the last six months where we actually identify together with TH the locations where we feel will have the maximum impact," he said.
Hassan said the set-up of MyDesk would be in stages. The TH Jalan Tun Razak branch started operation on June 1 while the Penang branch will commence on August 3.
"Hopefully in the next six months we will be able to cover all the locations," he said.
He said the cost was minimal because technically, what was needed was a computer and the connectivity.
"So, the person sitting at the desk will be online with our takaful system at the head office.
"They can actually issue the certificate and receipts on the spot," he said. - Bernama (22 June 2009)

Insurance industry to undergo transformation

THE Malaysian insurance industry is undergoing a transformation to provide a strong foundation for a more resilient and competitive industry in support of Malaysia's economic development agenda.
Bank Negara Malaysia's (BNM) assistant governor, Datuk Muhammad Ibrahim, said Malaysia has implemented the risk-based capital framework this year and new product regulations. He said these developments were part of a broader move towards introducing a more principle-based regulatory regime that would allow greater flexibility for insurers to compete and improve performance.
"Later this year, BNM will consult the industry on risk management standards that insurers are expected to observe as part of this evolution," he said in his keynote address at the LOMA/LIMRA 17th Annual Strategic Issues Conference here today.
The conference, themed "The New Global Economy: Resilience in Challenging Times", is jointly organised with the Life Insurance Association of Malaysia. It aims to serve as a platform for captains of the financial services industries operating in Asia to discuss the latest movements in the industry.
Muhammad said the distribution channels for insurance products and services had also been broadened significantly with the development of bancassurance and financial advisers.
"This will contribute towards enhancing revenue and reducing costs, while enhancing consumer protection and improving the insurance penetration rate in Malaysia," he said. - Bernama (22 June 2009)