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China Taiping Insurance launches life insurance business in Singapore

CHINA Taiping Insurance Singapore has launched its life insurance business here, citing the significant market for savings, retirement and protection products fuelled by increasing wealth in the Asia-Pacific.

Owned by China's fourth largest life insurer, China Taiping Insurance Singapore obtained its licence last August from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) as a composite insurer to engage in life insurance and general insurance business. This makes the firm one of eight composite insurers in Singapore. 

The firm was originally the Tai Ping Insurance Co Ltd Singapore Branch, which was  established in Singapore in 1938 to carry out general insurance business, and its main lines of business are in motor, construction and marine insurance.

The parent company is a Chinese state-owned entity, and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since 2000 with total assets of 600 billion yuan (S$118.9 billion), said Yang Yamei, China Taiping Insurance Singapore general manager on Tuesday.

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Following an injection of S$40 million to support the life insurance business last year, the Singapore firm has a paid-up capital of about S$120 million, he said. (see clarification note)

"The inauguration of its life insurance business in Singapore is part of the group's overseas expansion strategy to diversity the revenue and income streams, and achieve growth beyond its existing markets, " he said at a media launch.

"We will also be able to leverage on the expertise and technical knowledge of our team in Singapore, and gain new insight into some of the best industry practices," said Mr Yang.

Taiping Singapore will be the firm's strategic gateway for South-east Asia; it is in the midst of establishing a digi-lab here, he said.

Singapore also offers good access to the region and offshore clients, said Lance Tay, China Taiping Insurance Singapore, general manager, life insurance.

In 2016, there were 2.6 million millionaires in the Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, with 110,000 in Singapore, according to a Capgemini wealth report. The total wealth of the millionaires was estimated to be US$11.8 trillion with cash making up 21 per cent or about S$2.3 trillion, the report said. 

 “Demand for quality protection and wealth management solutions is underpinned by the strong wealth creation and rapidly ageing population in Singapore," said Mr Tay.

This surge in demand is attributed to the country's changing demographics, he said. The proportion of the population in Singapore who is aged 60 and above has increased to 23 per cent in 2018, which has more than doubled since 2000. The trend is expected to continue with this senior group making up 38 per cent of the population by 2050. 

In 30 years' time, with decreasing birth rate and improving life expectancy, Singapore will have more people in the older age groups than the younger age groups.   

Mr Tay also noted that savings is growing at a slower rate than gross national income. Official data showed that from 2010 to 2017, gross national income grew 35 per cent, faster than the 25 per cent for gross national saving in the same period.

"We are saving less than what we are earning," he said. A 2014 survey by DBS Bank showed that many Singaporeans aged 18-29 are saving late and not enough.

China Taiping will start its life insurance business in Singapore with two products. It will distribute them via financial advisory firms and banks and interrnational brokers. The  two products are savings plans for the short to medium term.

The firm has about 140 staff in Singapore, including 40 in the life team. Mr Tay said that the life team will expand to 50 in 12 months.

Clarification Note: China Taiping Insurance Singapore has clarified that its paid up capital is S$120 million as opposed to the S$200 million reported earlier.