Rapid growth for insurance tipped by US giant Aetna

CHINA'S insurance industry is expected to grow at 25 per cent annually until 2000, according to US-based insurance giant Aetna Life & Casualty.

''Given China's high economic growth rate, we expect the insurance industry to grow to US$40 billion by 2000,'' said Mr Douglas Henck, senior vice-president of Aetna International Inc and regional head of Asia Pacific operations.

According to Mr Henck, China is a market with vast potential for all types of insurance; particularly life, medical, group benefits and property and casualty, ''all of which are businesses in which Aetna has expertise and long experience'', he added.

While moving towards opening its insurance market, Mr Henck cautioned that many companies wanted to go into China and that made it vulnerable to abuse.

''The industry deals with heavy cash flows, fiduciary agreements and is responsible for people's livelihood,'' he said.

According to Mr Henck, the rapid economic growth has also fuelled concern that the demand for insurance might outgrow the opening up of the insurance market in China.

''There is a lot of construction and other industry projects in China which has created a demand for insurance such as general insurance.

''As the industries grow and the market develops, there will be further demand for individual products such as life, health, pension and other insurance,'' he said.

Mr Henck comments came during the company's announcement of the opening of two representatives offices in Beijing and Shanghai, the first international insurance company with two representatives offices in China.

Aetna has also conducted a number educational training programmes for China's insurance professionals in a number of cities in China.

With assets of US$90 billion, Aetna is the largest shareholder-owned insurance and financial services corporation in the US and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.