HSBC Insurance targets a third of new policies sold from online sales by end of next year

8.2pc of firm’s new sales came from digital channels last year, says Hong Kong chief executive, adding customers like buying online as it is ‘convenient, flexible and quick’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 8:17am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 12:59pm

HSBC Insurance, Hong Kong’s third largest insurer by gross premiums, plans to sell more products via digital channels in coming years and is now targeting a third of its new policies sold to be delivered online by the end of next year.

“When we first sold products online in 2016, some people said customers won’t like buying insurance via the internet,” Edward Moncreiffe, chief executive of the Hong Kong office of HSBC Insurance (Asia), told South China Morning Post in an interview.

“But 8.2 per cent of our new sales came from digital last year, which shows they do like online buying as it is convenient, flexible and quick.

“I hope to see a third of our new business sales from digital channels by the end of 2019.”

Customers only need two and a half minutes to buy a policy online, he said, compared with about an hour buying a policy in the traditional way, via an agent.

The insurer – a unit of Hong Kong and Europe’s largest banking group – has previously sold its life and pension products through more than 100 bank branches and a network of brokers.

By digitalising it hopes to simplifying its product offerings, which will be available via the internet or by mobile banking.

It first started selling a term-life product online in 2016, a cancer protection policy last year, and more products are likely to follow this year.

A former sports reporter with The Daily Telegraph in the UK, Moncreiffe joined HSBC Insurance a decade ago and worked in the US and Brazil before coming to Hong Kong in 2016, and taking over as chief executive in August last year.

Going digital, he added, is only natural as he believes Hong Kong’s tech-savvy customers are readily embracing the idea of buying all kinds of financial products on their computers or by mobile phone.

Longer term, HSBC Insurance will also introduce digital-based information services for customers, and those allowing changes to policies, or handling claims.

But he emphasised, the insurer would never let digital fully replace its sales force, adding over the past two years the operation has also doubled the number of insurance specialists based in HSBC branches across Hong Kong.

“We will combine digital and staff sales channels. Some customers like to buy simple products online. However, when it comes to more sophisticated or longer-term products, many still prefer face-to-face contact with a specialist, to fully explain their features,” he said.

Moncreiffe added the recent government budget announcement to give tax relief on annuity or Mandatory Provident Fund contributions would boost demand.

The Insurance Authority is expected to detail exactly what types of pension products will qualify in the second half of this year.

“Overseas experience has shown us that tax incentives help encourage people to pay more into their pensions,” he said. “This will help them better prepare for retirement.”