Tahoe Life sees strong demand for insurance policies among the wealthy in Hong Kong and China

The company, formed from the takeover of Dah Sing Life in June, says recent tighter regulatory scrutiny of the industry is beneficial

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 8:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 10:47pm

Hong Kong-based Tahoe Life Insurance plans to target wealthy local and mainland Chinese clients, where it sees strong demand for insurance and health policies, and is not concerned about recent regulatory tightening, its chief executive said on Friday.

The company, formed from the takeover of Hong Kong’s Dah Sing Life Assurance by mainland Chinese investment firm Tahoe Investment Group in June, will offer savings, critical illness, life insurance, medical protection and investment-linked products. It currently has 400,000 high-net-worth customers split equally between Hong Kong and mainland China.

“We are confident that China’s internationalisation will continue and regulatory policy will loosen once the market normalises again,” said Paula Choi Wai-yee, chief executive officer at Tahoe Life, at a media conference in Hong Kong to launch the Tahoe Life brand.

“Demand for insurance and health products from Chinese customers remains strong given the country’s growth,” Choi said.

Tahoe Investment Group bought Dah Sing Life Assurance and Macau Life Insurance for HK$10.6 billion (US$1.36 billion) from Dah Sing Financial on June 19, one of a series of acquisitions by mainland Chinese companies of Hong Kong insurers in the last three years.

However the takeovers triggered concern over whether acquirers had the management capabilities and commitment to make sure the interests of policy holders were protected, prompting Hong Kong authorities to set up new regulator, the Insurance Authority, in June this year.

Across the border, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission has been cracking down on misconduct in the industry and on practices that break China’s foreign exchange regulations. It has closed down websites and social media accounts selling Hong Kong insurance policies to mainlanders.

It is illegal for mainland Chinese to take out Hong Kong insurance policies while living on the mainland, but they can buy them while visiting Hong Kong.

Choi however said the increased regulatory scrutiny was actually beneficial to the long-term development of the industry as it cut out “unhealthy companies” while at the same time it was unlikely to significantly hurt business from mainland customers.

Tahoe Life currently employs 180 people, a number expected to grow to over 200 by the first quarter in 2018, Choi said. It will also invest in technology and automation for future development and is targeting a spot in the top 10 of Hong Kong’s insurance industry, from its current position of about 20th, she added.

Huang Qisen, chairman of Tahoe Investment Group, said at the same media conference that the Hong Kong market was important to the new company as it looks to enter the international arena.

“There is a competitive life insurance market in Hong Kong but I am confident we can deliver something that is different to our customers,” Huang said.

Established in 1993, the Fujian-based Tahoe Investment Group has businesses in real estate and financial services, and is moving into health care, medical and education services.