MassMutual seeks mainland ties

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 November, 2004, 12:00am

US insurer MassMutual is searching for a mainland partner that can provide a wide distribution network in China for its insurance and wealth management products, according to its chairman.

'We want to partner with somebody who can bring good distribution to the table. We can bring products and financial and investment skills, but what we do not have is good distribution,' Robert O'Connell said.

MassMutual believes a joint venture with an established mainland firm is the only viable strategy to capture a slice of the massive demand for financial products in China. But it is aware of the need for patience.

'We do not have any plans to expand dramatically in China,' Mr O'Connell said.

MassMutual's presence on the mainland is presently confined to a Shanghai representative office. The group will bide its time finding a suitable joint venture partner, rather than risk running up big losses - a fate suffered by some foreign insurers operating in China.

'We've been looking for a partner for a long time ... I would say it is not terribly likely that it'll happen within the next year but we hope in the next five years it might happen,' Mr O'Connell said.

He offered a much more upbeat assessment of the group's operations elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, including Hong Kong. MassMutual this year opened a branch of OppenheimerFund, its fund management arm, in the city.

'It's just beginning but we are confident it will continue to develop into a significant player in the mutual fund business here.'