Hong Kong insurers thumped by 37pc plummet in life premiums paid by mainlanders
‘We will need to wait and see if Beijing relaxes its controls or offers any special incentives for the Greater Bay Area, whether there is another wave of mainlanders buying life products here,’ says sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por
There has been a record first-quarter fall in premiums spent by mainlanders on life insurance policies in Hong Kong, after Beijing imposed tighter curbs on capital outflows to clamp down on overseas buying.
Mainland buyers spent HK$11.8 billion (US$1.5 billion) on life premiums in first three months of 2018, 37 per cent down from HK$18.8 billion in the same period last year, and less than half of the peak spending of HK$23.7 billion recorded in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to latest data from the Insurance Authority.
A massive 95 per cent of their spending was on protective and medical products during the quarter, while the remainder was on investment-linked products.
“Beijing imposed a number of control measures on mainlanders buying life products in Hong Kong last year and this has led to the fall – but the decline should have already stabilised,” said Chan Kin-por, the lawmaker representing the insurance sector in Hong Kong.
Chan said in 2016 there was a rush by mainland Chinese to buy life policies issued in Hong Kong as they are denominated in US or Hong Kong dollars, so that they could hedge the risks of the weakening of the Chinese currency which fell 7 per cent against the US dollar that year.
“The yuan strengthened again in 2017 against the US dollar which also gave mainland buyers less incentive to buy policies in Hong Kong,” he said.
Mainlanders in 2016 spent a record HK$72.68 billion buying Hong Kong-issued life policies, double the 2015 total, and 39 per cent of all life premiums spent on new policies in 2016.
Policies bought by the mainlanders represented just 26.8 per cent of all life policies bought in the first quarter in Hong Kong, down from 32.5 per cent in 2017. This is, however, still higher than 2015, when the figure was 24.2 per cent.
But Chan is still confident mainlanders will continue to buy life policies in Hong Kong as they provide more flexible coverage and higher investment returns than mainland equivalents.
Having said that, he added if the yuan continues to remain at its current strong level against the US dollar, it could be hard to attract more mainlanders to come to the city to buy policies.
“We will need to wait and see if Beijing relaxes its controls or offers any special incentives for the Greater Bay Area, whether there is another wave of mainlanders buying life products here,” he said.
Despite the sharp fall by mainlanders buying life policies in Hong Kong, insurers were still able to sell more policies to Hong Kong residents.
As a result, total new life premiums edged up 0.9 per cent to HK$44.2 billion in the first quarter.
In the period, gross premiums for general insurance products rose 11 per cent increase to HK$15.5 billion, compared with the same quarter a year earlier.