Richard Li Tzar-Kai

Fast FWD plan to put rebranded unit in top five

Emerging from part of ING business bought by Richard Li-backed Pacific Century, FWD's lofty goals will be supported by doubling of agents

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 3:27am

A part of the regional ING operation that Richard Li Tzar-kai's Pacific Century Group had bought last year was relaunched as FWD yesterday.

Unveiling the company's new name and the blueprint for the way forward, chief executive David Wong Tai-wai said the firm aimed to become one of the top five insurers in the city in five years. It is currently ninth.

A name change was part of the takeover deal when ING sold the Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand operation of the insurance business to Pacific Century as it kept the brand name for its own banking business.

Li, who is the chairman of telecommunications firm PCCW, also controls HKT Trust, HKT and Pacific Century Premium Developments. In 2007, he sold his stake in Pacific Century Insurance to Fortis but re-entered the insurance business last year by buying out ING's regional operation for US$2.14 billion.

"FWD means moving forward and this is our mission. We would like to adopt new sales networks, new products and new strategies to attract new clients. We will also step into new markets in the Asia-Pacific region besides Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand," Wong said.

The company would double its sales agents to 3,000 in five years and double banking sales partners to six, he said, adding that he also aimed to develop cross-selling strategies with other companies under Pacific Century Group and other retailers.

"In overseas markets, many simple insurance products are sold at supermarkets. Hong Kong can do the same. Sales ladies for cosmetic products could introduce simple health insurance products to clients, just as travel agents sell travel insurance policies," he said.

Wong said he wanted to move into Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. "We will expand into these markets by way of acquisition or by applying for new licences within the next five years. These markets have a big population and a rising number of people in the middle classes who need insurance products," he said.

On the mainland, he said he would like to see policy changes that would benefit Hong Kong insurers before venturing into that market. He said the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement and the Qianhai special economic zone would make it easier for Hong Kong-based insurers to enter the mainland markets with lower capital requirements.

Wong hopes to see FWD's client base expand to about one million from the 300,000 at present on the back of its new plans, with the thrust on life insurance and retirement business.

"Hong Kong has an ageing population while many people are childless. Our Mandatory Provident Fund products and other retirement plans would help them to prepare for their retirement needs," he said.