Chartis maps new course away from its troubled parent AIG

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am

The profile of bailed-out American International Group has been lowered even further in Hong Kong with the renaming of the United States giant's general insurance arm.

AIU Holdings, one of the largest general insurance companies in the city, has changed its name to Chartis as part of efforts to distance itself from the troubled parent.

AIG, which was rescued with US$180 billion of American taxpayers' money a year ago, has been selling its assets around the world to pay back the government after huge losses from financial derivatives linked to subprime mortgages.

Last week, it was confirmed AIG's life insurance arm, American International Assurance, would list in Hong Kong next year as it also distances itself from the parent.

AIG's general insurance units serving more than 40 million people in 160 countries and jurisdictions, including operations on the mainland, Taiwan and Macau, will now take the Chartis name.

The name, derived from the Greek word for map, received a positive response from AIU staff surveyed about the new brand over the past few months. They believed it reflected the company's global reach.

The company will launch an intensive marketing campaign but executives at the insurer are tightlipped about how much the rebranding will cost.

Many brokers believe Chartis will also consider a listing in Hong Kong if AIA's share sale is successful. They say AIG's problems are not related to its life or general insurance businesses, which are profitable.

AIA is likely to be popular, especially if all the hot money keeps flooding into the city.

Pension perception

More than half the people enrolled in pension plans do not really understand what they have signed up for.

That is the finding of a survey by Aviva Life Insurance and the subject of our video interview this week with Michael Ha, the head of Aviva's marketing and business development.

Conducted annually since 2004, the survey of more than 100,000 people in 26 markets in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America also found that 53 per cent of respondents did not plan their finances while about 66 per cent would rather get financial advice from friends and family than from banks and financial advisers.

Ha believes investors in the agent-driven markets of Hong Kong and Asia will gradually accept the concept of professional independent investment advisers.