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Joint ventures grow market share, assets, but face problems

By Meng Fanbin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-25 08:44

Insurance joint ventures in China are gathering steam, morphing into important industry players as their market shares and total assets increase, experts said.

As at July-end, total assets of insurance joint ventures reached a little over 1 trillion yuan ($153 billion), with a collective market share of 5.53 percent.

This contrasts with 3 billion yuan and only 1 percent share when they entered China a few years back, according to data from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission.

At present, 57 insurance joint ventures from 16 countries and regions have been set up in China. Overseas insurance companies from the world's top 500 players have entered the Chinese market.

But they are facing some problems too, like relatively slow growth.

"The Chinese regulator will further optimize the regulatory environment for foreign insurers and encourage them to enter health, pension and catastrophe insurance sectors," said Chen Wenhui, vice-chairman of the CIRC.

For foreign insurance institutions that have not yet entered the Chinese market, the regulator will further optimize the access policy and promote orderly competition, he said.

In August, the State Council, China's Cabinet, issued a notice to further open up the local market to the world's leading players in banking, securities and insurance.

The business performance of foreign life insurers is obviously better than that of foreign non-life insurers. From January to July, the former accounted for 6.47 percent of the total market share, while the latter had only 1.95 percent.

There were 28 insurers with foreign capital in China at the end of July. The top three-ICBC AXA Life, Evergrande Life and BoComm Life-account for almost half of the total share of the foreign insurers in China.

Cooperation with overseas shareholders is one of the main routes taken by Chinese commercial banks to enter insurance.

ICBC AXA Life is a joint venture between Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and AXA, one of the world's largest insurers.

Other joint venture insurers backed by banks include BoComm Life, backed by Communication Bank of China and Cigna & CMC, in which China Merchants Bank has invested.

The operations of most bank-backed insurance joint ventures are generally not weak, because the banks, as shareholders, sell insurance products through their own comparatively mature channels, said Wang Xujin, director of the Insurance Research Center, which is part of Beijing Technology and Business University.

"The customers trust insurance joint ventures more, especially those having the support of large banks, even State-owned banks," Wang said.

In China, most short-term insurance products are sold through banks whose clerks do not need to spend too much time to introduce new products to customers, and sales tend to be a simple and quick process.

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