A new, low-cost means of screening for cervical cancer could save tens of thousands of lives in parts of the world where women simply cannot afford expensive cancer screenings treatments. A large clinical trial out of India, which was released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology this week, found cervical swabs using vinegar to be an effective means of screening for cervical cancer where pap smears are not available. Read more
In 2003, China and Hong Kong experienced a SARS pandemic; the first one in recorded history. This pneumonia-like disease began infecting people in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam; eventually spreading to 37 countries around the world. Especially scary was the virus’ quick rate of infection – in less than nine months, SARS managed to infect an estimated 8,000 people, leading to the deaths of nearly 800.
These frightening statistics give some clue as to why health officials in Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries are more than a little concerned that just this week, at least two more people have died from a SARS-like virus. This virus has been infecting citizens on the Arabian Peninsula since last year, but recently, deaths related to the virus have greatly increased – the World Health Organization reports a current death toll of eighteen. Read more
The political struggles of Pakistan are well publicized: party offices under attack, pre-election bombings, and entire cities being shut down due to domestic terrorism. Unfortunately, it is politically unstable places like Pakistan that struggle the most in terms of health care, especially when it comes to children. This month, news network Al Jazeera has been running a story on the problems Pakistan faces with early childhood deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea. Read more
Thanks to modern advances in health care and disease control, traveling abroad is not nearly as dangerous as it once was: yellow fever can be prevented with a vaccination, Imodium will slow a gurgling gut, and bottled water can ward off everything from E. coli to cholera. However, there is one tropical disease that is not only increasing in prevalence, but also cannot be immunized against: dengue fever.
2013 is looking to be another promising year for insurance giant Cigna, as the company continues to win prestigious awards, bring in new leadership in key regions and expand services to win new clients.
In January, Cigna Global Health Benefits Asia-Pacific received the “Employee Benefits and Services Provider of the Year” award at the annual Asian Expatriate Management and Mobility Award in Hong Kong. These awards are often considered the “Oscars” of the international mobile profession. Cigna’s award demonstrates the company’s overall superiority in the area of employee health insurance.
The problem of tuberculosis in India is multifaceted: Years of inequitable distribution of health care services helped an epidemic grow, and while public health response to tuberculosis has greatly improved in the past two decades, drug resistance is greatly complicating these positive strides.
In Part 1 of “India and Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis,” we looked at tuberculosis in India, and how drug-resistant strains (collectively known as MDR-TB) are occurring more and more. In Part 2, we will take a look at the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program’s 2012 response plan for tackling MDR-TB in India. Read more
Counterfeit handbags and counterfeit sunglasses may be a bane to the fashion industry, but they’re probably not going to kill anyone. Counterfeit drugs, on the other hand, just might. Thanks to a study published last week in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, we now know that counterfeit tuberculosis drugs are shockingly common, and they are helping to create more dangerous and drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis. Read more
There are more reasons to keep an eye on Asia other than its emerging economies. Research from UBS CIO, a global firm providing financial services to private, corporate and institutional clients, indicates that the consumer spending will continue to increase at an annual growth rate of about 13 percent and reach US$1 trillion by 2016. In an article published in the South China Morning Post, Carl Berrisford, an analyst for UBS CIO Wealth Management, explains the report’s findings and what it means for the region. Read more
Smog, tobacco smoke, car exhaust fumes – we all know that pollution is bad, and there’s no mystery about where it comes from. Most of us, however, do not stop to consider that not all air pollution occurs outdoors. Indoor air pollution, usually resulting from the use of unclean fuel in traditional cook stoves, is an extremely pressing issue to environmental and personal health in many parts of the world. Read more
President Obama meets today with both Myanmar’s party leaders in Rangoon, the country’s commercial centre. It will be the first official visit for a sitting US President to Myanmar (also known as Burma) in an effort to support recent reforms undertaken by its President Thein Sein. Obama has revealed a strategy that ‘re-focuses on engaging fast-growing Asian nations’, choosing South East Asia as his first destination since his re-election as Head of State.
Manulife Financial Corp plans to double insurance sales, quadruple wealth management sales and double wealth management funds under management in Asia in a move that exhibits their future confidence in the region.
Despite initial promises to hit the $4 billion (US$ 3.99bn) mark by 2015, the corporation now pledges to move forwards from the unstable earnings seen in their recent records. A loss of $227m was measured as the third quarter finished at the end of September.
In order to help develop growth and regulation of professional insurance services in South East Asia, The World Bank is looking to appoint Thailand as the new ASEAN insurance hub.
The Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC) made the decision in line with the formation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) scheduled to be ready in 2015. With ‘regional economic integration’ as the ultimate goal for the AEC, the insurance industry will be keeping a close eye on the role Thailand will play in promoting insurance products throughout the region.
Read the rest of the Thailand to be ASEAN Insurance Centre article
In a move that has caught agents and brokers off guard, Nordic Healthcare, a provider of international health insurance, has announced that it will cease sales of new individual policies in all but its core markets. This means that, with immediate effect, Nordic will no longer be issuing new IPMI policies anywhere in the world except Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam. The announcement deals mainly with individual clients, it is understood that corporate business will be assessed on a case by case basis. This announcement follows close on the heels of Nordic’s announcement earlier this year to pull out of South America.
Although Nordic will no longer be accepting new business in areas outside of the aforementioned countries, it insists that all existing policies will continue to be renewed and that customers with policies currently in force will not be affected in any way, a move that is warmly welcomed by clients and intermediaries. To date, Nordic has continued to treat its existing customers fairly and continued to support them even after pulling out of selling new business in a particular market.
The move appears to be an attempt by Munich Re, the owners of Nordic, to make the Nordic Healthcare business more compliant. Historically many international private health insurance providers were prepared to sell a policy to an expatriate in almost any country, particularly to individuals. The nature of the business and associated regional regulation, means that insurers, mostly based and licensed in Europe, have been selling policies to client anywhere in the world in an uncompliant way. All insurers are regulated in their home country, but because international health insurance policies are aimed at non nationals and are sold by foreign brokers or insurance companies, they fall into a grey area (particularly individual policies) which makes it difficult for local regulators to exercise any oversight of their operations. Most regulators require an insurance company to have a local presence before it can sell insurance products to nationals, but it is not always worth the investment for an insurer to open a local office if the IPMI market in a particular country is very small, and in many countries the legal requirements to be registered as an insurance provider represent a large financial commitment.
In the past twelve months, many insurers have been making efforts to become regulated in key markets. Recent moves by Bupa and Allianz in China and Aetna in Singapore are early indicators of an industry wide shift taking place.
This drive to be more compliant explains Nordic’s actions as far as most of Asia is concerned, withdrawing from poor or developing countries with very small expat populations will not affect Nordic’s balance sheet much. What is puzzling is that they have also stopped selling new policies in China and South America, some of the biggest emerging markets around. Nordic is the only European insurer to have made such a massive exodus, it has obviously deemed the risks high enough to justify pulling out of such potentially lucrative markets. Whether this move is reflective of internally motivating factors for Nordic Healthcare or whether it is more indicative of issues brewing in the wider IPMI market is difficult to tell.
It is possible that Munich Re will follow the lead of Bupa and launch a locally based IPMI product in China, where it is seeing 20% annual growth in its reinsurance business, and is clearing the way for a similar move by pulling Nordic’s operations from the region. It is hard to imagine Nordic have completely abandoned the region since China is such a valuable market for all types of insurance business. While there is bound to be more than regulatory pressure involved, right now, we can only speculate as to what is really happening, whilst keeping an eye out for more developments that are sure to follow soon.
A recent publication from the Singapore Department of Statistics has stated that the city state has continued to see a year-over-year increase in its population from 5.18 million in 2011 to 5.31 million in 2012. However, the reality of the situation is that annual population growth has slowed from 3.5% to 2.5% and officials and academics in Singapore have recognized that the city may eventually run into the same aging population issues that have begun to effect other developed countries.
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Reliance Life Insurance, India’s largest private insurance company, has announced that they will be going through with an expansionary move that will see over 55,000 staff added to their force. This move is in anticipation to its future plans to move into different marketing channels.
Reliance Life Insurance is a business unit of Reliance Capital and led by Anil Ambani. Despite being one of India’s larger life insurance companies, Reliance only controls a staggering 5 percent market share. The reason for this is due to the LIC – the Life Insurance Company of India. The LIC is a government-controlled corporation which dominates the market, consuming 70 percent of the market. Reliance’s aim is to become the main alternative to the LIC.
Currently, Reliance is recruiting over 55,000 agents to join its sales force. However, not all agents will be on a commission basis – roughly 5,500 agents will be admitted to full time status with a base salary, in addition to incentives for performance, such as commissions. The rest of the hiring, over 50,000 agents, will be on a purely commission basis.
Reliance is seeking to bolster its workforce to 150,000 by the end of the current financial year, up from 120,000 which it has now. The company experiences high turnover due to the nature of the business – it is vastly pure commission so the stability of income and performance of individuals forces them to leave the business. As such, Reliance sees high attrition rates, which it hopes will not be the case with the 5,500 that they are hiring full time.
This increase in agents is aimed at replacing the 30,000 agents that left the firm during the April – June 2012 quarter. In addition, it appears that the move is in anticipation for a strategic business move that it is making.
Reliance Life Insurance is in talks with many banks in both the public and private sectors, seeking to add its products into the banks offerings. They are looking to get into bancassurance, which is a form of distribution for insurance companies by way of distributing insurance products through banks (also known as a bank insurance model or BIM).
Alternatively, Reliance can distribute its insurance products via its own agents, which it has been doing so historically. This business model is known as a tradition insurance model (TIM) whereas Reliance’s new strategy is known as a Hybrid Insurance Model.
Reliance Life Insurance’s latest move is an attempt to gain more traction in the market space not taken up by the government-run LIC. Excluding the LIC, there are 20 firms competing for 30 percent of the market share and 5 percent belongs to Reliance. Competing with Reliance are companies such as SBI Life, Metlife, ICICI Prudential, Bajaj Allianz, Max New York, and Sahara Life. Much of Reliance’s business originates from the rural markets, including over 34 percent of its new business. Moreover, Malay Ghosh, President and Executive Director of Reliance Insurance, stated that only 15 percent of the company’s business is from Tier-1 cities. With that in mind, Reliance’s new approach via bancassurance channels should allow Reliance to gain more momentum and volume throughout Tier-1 cities.
However, with Reliance’s late entry into the bankassurance market, the availability of suitable and preferred partners is low due to existing contracts and relationships in place. Reliance is in talks with many different banks, including some banks in the public sector. Currently, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority has regulations whereby every bank can only represent one partner for selling insurance products. To negate this reality, Reliance may be offering a small equity stake of up to five percent for banks who choose to partner with them. This incentive represents a large investment as Reliance Life has over Rs. 18,700 crore ($3.36 billion USD) assets under management and the company itself has a valuation of Rs. 11,500 crore ($2.06 billion USD).
This move by Reliance represents a significant decision with regards to its long term strategy. To be offering up to 5 percent to incentivize a partnership, Reliance is willing to further dilute its current shareholder percentages through this new direction. This isn’t the first time that Reliance had given up equity for a significant partnership.
In addition to the expansion in to bancassurance, Reliance is looking to facilitate more market penetration by its business partner Nippon Life. Official since October 2011, Nippon had acquired a 26 percent stake in Reliance for Rs. 3062 crore (US$ 551 million) and this investment represents Nippon’s faith and commitment to the Indian market. Reliance Capital, the parent company of Reliance Life Insurance, wants Nippon to bring its AUM products to the Indian market. Nippon has over US$600 billion in its management but very few of those assets are in India. Reliance is aiming to bring their assets into India in order to gain a higher market share.
Over 60 percent of Reliance’s policies are sold through their strong workforce. Their distribution networks include brokers, corporate agents, and commission-based agents. With the inclusion of their bank network, it is unsure whether their commission force will suffer due to the introduction of the new channel. Since it represents such a large percentage of business and commitment from the company, Reliance will need to be careful in how it deploys its bancassurance in a way that it doesn’t cannibalize or encroach on the commissioned agent’s territory.
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In this article we will first present our findings of the premium increases and premium inflation rates in each region and country we studied, with specific insurance findings to be presented at the end. Overall our findings were that International Private Medical Insurance (iPMI) premium inflation was very high, at roughly 10.8 percent per year over a 5 year average. While variations exist between countries, the reality is that iPMI inflation rates were extremely consistent throughout the world. However, it is important to note that this is medical insurance premium inflation at the high end of the sector, and not necessarily with regards to the mass market.
Even presenting the argument that premium increases are fairly consistent on a global basis, there are some immediate outliers – Hong Kong, for example, runs at an iPMI premium inflation rate of roughly 13 percent per year, while Kenya’s premium inflation rate is approximately 9 percent per year. Although there is a difference in premium inflation rates between Hong Kong and Kenya, the difference is not overly substantial – as will be seen inside this report.
Globalsurance is pleased to reveal the results of our latest study on the international health insurance industry and rates of international medical insurance inflation around the world as of August 1st 2012. Read more
Aviva Indonesia is introducing an International Health Insurance product offering to the Indonesian market in response to a growing number of expats and well heeled local Indonesians.
The portfolio offers international health insurance coverage with limits between US$1-2 million, depending on the product, and will allow holders of a policy to travel internationally in order to receive qualifying medical treatment.
According to Aviva Indonesia’s vice president, Albert Wanandi, the products are targeted squarely at the wealthy Indonesian and expatriate market, with premiums starting at around US$ 1,360 per annum.Read the rest of the Aviva Indonesia Targets Affluent Indonesians and Expatriates with International Coverage Offerings article.
Bank Danamon Indonesia has announced that, in partnership with Asuransi Jiwa Manulife Indonesia, the bank will be offering new insurance and wealth management products.
The bancassurance deal, which is set to run for ten years, is a follow up of a partnership agreement between the two companies in October 2011. The agreement was to grow bancassurance in Indonesia, and has now come into effect a little under a year later.
Speaking about the new partnership, Alan Merten, the CEO and President of Manulife Indonesia was quoted as saying: “I am very pleased that the partnership between Danamon and Manulife is now officially launched! This is another significant step Manulife is taking towards realizing our vision to provide strong, reliable, trustworthy, and forward-thinking solutions to our customer’s most significant financial decisions.”Read the rest of the Bank Danamon Indonesia Partners Up With Asuransi Jiwa Manulife Indonesia article.
Insurance Australia Group (IAG) is planning to expand its presence in Asia following successful initial investments worth around US$735.5 million in five countries including India and Thailand. The expansion is part of IAG’s long term goal to have 10 percent or more of its premiums come from Asia by 2016.
IAG’s CEO, Mike Wilkins was confident that building on the company’s investments was the right decision, stating that: “The Asian opportunity is here and now. Over the past couple of years we’ve quietly gone about our Asian strategy and are now getting real traction. We are entering an exciting phase of our Asian ambitions as we shift from a market entry focus to one of driving operational performance from our enlarged regional presence”
Despite his confidence, shareholders are wary of investing even more money into Asia as it brings back memories of the company’s last offshore investment; a costly and damaging expansion into the UK market. The company expanded into the UK in 2006 with the purchase of motor insurer, Hastings Insurance. The investment was considered a failure after the Hastings posted losses which in turn brought down IAG
Some IAG shareholders have expressed that they want the company to focus on domestic markets rather than going abroad. Portfolio manager at Tyndall Investment Management Jason Kim said on his company’s stance: “[Asia] might be exciting but it’s very, very long term. They’ve got such a great business in Australia and New Zealand, and it would be really good to focus on that and harness that.”
Wilkins said IAG will be relying on the ever expanding middle class in Asia to ensure that the company’s latest investments prove to be successful as it is expected that middle class consumption will experience a 200 percent increase by 2020.
The investments that IAG has already made in Asia, including a venture with the State Bank of India and Malaysia’s AmBank have contributed approximately 6 percent to the group’s total premiums and it is next looking to expand into Indonesia.
While a merger in Indonesia is still some ways away as no official deal has been reported, IAG does have a number of possible merger partners. Citing a number of reasons including Indonesia being a “very-high growth market” with “very low insurance penetration” Justin Breheny, Chief Executive of IAG’s Asian operations said: “Its [Indonesia's market] got the characteristics which are very attractive to us.” If a deal occurs, the company will be leaning towards a bancassurance model, teaming up with a bank to provide insurance products through the bank’s existing sales channels.
It is expected that the Asian businesses will collectively lose US$50 million over the short term, however it’s not something that IAG executives will be losing sleep about. This is because by 2017, it is anticipated that the investments will bring in return rates of up to 17 percent, further cementing the point that the expansion into Asia is very much for the future rather than the present.
One of IAG’s three “developing businesses” is its joint venture with the State Bank of India. The venture resulted in the creation of the SBI General Insurance Company Limited, which IAG are hoping will be profitable by 2015.
Despite existing laws stating that IAG cannot immediately add on to the 26 percent of SBI General it already owns, it still expresses hopes that in the future a change in regulations would allow it to increase its stake to 49 percent. In the meantime IAG are hoping that the joint-venture’s plans to set up more distribution channels (including Bancassurance) will increase the amount of money it brings in.
The other two ‘developing businesses’ in China and Vietnam have both initially been successful. In China, IAG own 20 percent of Bohai Property Insurance. China’s insurance industry is dominated by domestic players, with foreign investors only holding 1 percent of the market, and as a result, one of IAG’s big goals for the future is to increase Bohai’s market share.
In Vietnam, IAG own 30 percent of the country’s 6th largest motor insurer, AAA Assurance. Much like China, the industry is dominated by local insurers, and through AAA, IAG are aiming to become the first foreign entrant to gain a meaningful market position by becoming one of the top 3 motor insurers.
With investments in China, India and Vietnam still in their infancy, it’s IAG’s ventures in Malaysia and Thailand that have been the most successful for the company. In Thailand, the company owns 98.6 percent of Safety Insurance, the sixth largest general insurer and one of the top three auto insurers in the country. In the future, IAG expect to increase Safety Insurance’s national presence and achieve a top two position in the motor insurance industry.
While IAG only has a 49 percent stake in its joint-venture in Malaysia, it also has proven to be a good investment up till now as the product of the venture, AMG Insurance, has become one of the top ten insurers in the country. In a couple of months the company is also expected to acquire Kurnia Insurans, a merger which will make AMG Insurance the largest auto insurer in the country.
In response to the seemingly positive investments made, Breheny attributed the success to a couple of elements: “Our extremely disciplined approach to market entry has resulted in an attractive portfolio of businesses, with differing stages of market development and associated growth and return profiles, but all with a clear ability to create value for the Group.”
Insurance Companies Mentioned
Insurance Australia Group
Insurance Australia Group was founded in 2000 and owns a number of smaller insurance companies around the world. It specializes in all sorts of insurance including general, commercial and auto.
SBI General Insurance Company Limited
SBI General Insurance Company Limited is a joint-venture between the State Bank of India and Insurance Australia Group. It has a presence in 20 cities in India and specializes in the retail, corporate and SME insurance industries.
Bohai Property Insurance
Bohai Property Insurance is partially owned by Insurance Australia Group. It has 25 provincial agencies and more than 200 municipal and county agencies and sepcializes in a wide variety of insurance.
Established in 2005, AAA Assurance is part owned by Insurance Australia Group. It boasts more than 30 branches in Vietnam and specializes in motor, property and other types of insurance.
Safety Insurance, a Thai insurer is 96% owned by Insurance Australia Group and deals predominantly with Motor Insurance.
AMG Insurance is 51% owned by AmBank Group and 49% IAG. It is Malaysia’s fourth largest motor insurer and has 2,900 insurance agents.
Kurnia Insurans is a Malaysian company that was formed in 1978. It is one of Malaysia’s top auto insurers and is expected to merge with AMG Insurance in the near future.
Moody’s Japan K.K., a Japanese based ratings agency, recently upped the outlook of Japan’s property & casualty insurance industry from negative to stable.
The established ratings company predicts that ongoing restructurings within the industry will lead to increased earnings within the next year or two.
Last year, according to Swiss Re sigma data, Japanese non-life insurers earned a 2.8 percent growth in premiums at USD131 billion, while life insurers earned a 6.5 percent increase in premiums at USD525 billion.
See the full article here .