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Industry experts discuss Hong Kong's role as an Asian insurance hub

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 2:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 2:23pm

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The inaugural Asian Insurance Forum brought together industry influencers for their insights on a range of Asia-focused topics.

Aside from Hong Kong’s unique geographic advantages, industry leaders recognized that the city’s well-regulated and open insurance market made it an exceptional testing ground for world-class insurance companies.

Asia-focused insurance conference

Presented by the Insurance Authority of Hong Kong, the one-day event featured multiple keynote speeches, panel and breakout sessions that focused on the growth in Asia, with special reference to the position of Hong Kong as a global risk management centre and a regional insurance hub.

Speaking to more than 400 attendees, Dr Moses Cheng, Chairman of the Insurance Authority, highlighted that the organisation's responsibility goes beyond just regulation, "[The Insurance Authority is] privileged to be tasked with promoting the stable and sustainable development of the Hong Kong's insurance industry and its competitiveness in the global insurance market."​

Delivering her opening address, Mrs Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said Hong Kong is primed to play a key role in the country’s rapid development, as it can anticipate strong demand for financial services in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA).

She reasoned: "An integrated GBA fused by quality infrastructure, quality services and quality talent will in turn stimulate demand for high quality insurance and risk management services."

The role of Hong Kong was probed in much greater depth by two panels - “Hong Kong as Home Base” and “Emerging Market Landscape in Hong Kong”.

Hong Kong insurance market: competitive and efficient

Moderated by Mr Chan Kin-por, Member of Legislative Council (Insurance) of the HKSAR, the panel on “Hong Kong as Home Base” featured a lineup of top executives from leading insurance companies.

"Hong Kong is a strong base to grow the insurance business; it is a well-regulated and yet seriously competitive market," said Mr Ronald Arculli, Chairman of FWD Group, who has steered the remarkable growth of this fledging insurer since its inception in 2013. Similarly, Ms Winnie Wong, Chief Executive Officer of Asia Insurance, cited the city's "clean and efficient government, sound public finance, free information flow and a pro-business and pro-insurance regulator" as main factors that prompted the 60-year-old business to anchor itself in Hong Kong.

Echoing these views was Mr Ng Keng-hooi, Group Chief Executive and President of AIA, who added that no other place in Asia has such a readily available pool of international talents, and the fact that Hong Kong is a launch-pad to the world's most exciting insurance market, Mainland China, is also a determining advantage.

According to Mr Franz Hahn, Chief Executive Officer of Peak Reinsurance, Hong Kong is an ideal place to "optimise and diversify risks adequately on a global scale." He noted that Hong Kong enjoys easy accessibility to 65 per cent of the world's population and perhaps the planet’s biggest middle-class community, and the insurance market in Asia is lagging behind its booming socio-economic development - meaning that there is huge scope for growth in the years to come.

The panellists also shared their thoughts on challenges on the horizon. While Hahn tested the audience’s thinking by suggesting "to bring in the biggest [human] capital pool from Mainland China, to build our own think-bank for a solution", Wong asked the Insurance Authority to consider more actively promoting Hong Kong internationally, speed up the development of Insurtech, and strive to open up opportunities arising from the GBA development.

Insurance regulator facilitates business growth

Moderated by Mr Clement Cheung, Chief Executive Officer of the Insurance Authority, and joined by all four Executive Directors of the agency, namely Ms Carol Hui (Long Term Business), Mr Simon Lam (General Business), Mr Stephen Po (Market Conduct) and Mr Raymond Tam (Policy and Development), the final panel on “Emerging Market Landscape in Hong Kong” had a strong regulation focus.

This wrap-up session offered the audience a chance to understand how the Insurance Authority goes about fulfilling the dual mandate of being a proactive market facilitator and a prudential regulator. It also allowed the panellists to receive direct feedback from industry stakeholders. Hui gave an update on the watchdog's participation in regional and international activities, tax incentives associated with the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme and deferred annuities, as well as approval-in-principle of the first virtual insurer under the Fast Track pilot scheme.

Lam elaborated on efforts directed towards enhancing competitiveness of the local insurance market and exploiting potential brought about by the Belt and Road Initiative; Po recited the close partnership between his team and the industry in formulating rules, codes and guidelines to pave way for implementation of the statutory licensing and regulation mechanism of insurance intermediaries. Tam, meanwhile, highlighted the compressed schedule to which he and his team was committed in adoption of the Risk-Based Capital regime.

The Asian Insurance Forum will become a recurring event. “With the rising importance of Asia as the engine driving global insurance business in the next decade, we expect a larger turnout and an even more lively event next year.” Cheung concluded.