Posted on Nov 10, 2011 by Sergio Ulloa
Manulife Financial Corporation, Canada's largest insurance company, has signed a new two-year cooperation agreement with Bank of China in a bid to further strengthen their bancassurance distribution network and sell more insurance products in the world's second largest economy.
The deal was announced at a signing ceremony in Bank of China's Beijing headquarters on Wednesday. The agreement will expand upon the existing partnership between the two firms, which has begun to bear fruit for both parties over the past 12 months. Through the terms of their updated venture, Manulife and Bank of China will strengthen their cooperative efforts on insurance and bancassurance distribution in Mainland China. At the same time, Bank of China will also be able to realize other business opportunities in North America. The framework of the new partnership agreement come into force immediately and the pact will continue for a minimum of two years.
Manulife has already established a presence in China through its joint venture wealth management and life insurance company, Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance (MSL
), which the Toronto-based insurer formed alongside China Foreign Economy and Trade Trust Co in 1996. Today, Manulife-Sinochem, which remains 51 percent owned by Manulife, has around 11,500 insurance agents, 1,100 employees, and branches in 49 cities throughout China. In May, the company signed an agreement with Bank of China, the country's oldest bank, to distribute life insurance products through their bank branches in Beijing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Zhejiang. The Bank has also become the custodian bank and distributor for Manulife's other joint venture fund company in China, Manulife-TEDA Fund Management.
In his speech at the Beijing signing ceremony, Mr. Donald Guloien, President and CEO of Manulife Financial, explained that this new deal would enable both companies to grow their business and would build upon the bancassurance deal signed last May. "As more and more Chinese and Canadian companies and citizens look to each other's home country for business opportunities, academic pursuits or simply as a holiday destination, we view closer cooperation between Bank of China and Manulife as an opportunity to realize business opportunities together."
Mr. Guloien also noted that China, with its robust economy and growing middle class, will continue to be an important marketplace for all financial-services firms across Canada, especially considering the stagnant forecasts for growth in their mature domestic insurance markets. Indeed, Manulife's decision to recommit to Bank of China follows similar moves made Canadian firms this season. In August, Power Corp. of Canada decided to enter China's emerging fund-management industry with the purchase of a 10 percent stake in China Asset Management Co. for US$271 million. This was followed by Bank of Nova Scotia's move in September to acquire a 19.99 percent stake in China's Bank of Guangzhou for US$707 million. For Manulife, the bancassurance partnership between their joint venture life insurance company MSL and Bank of China will be an important source for growth in the future.
Xu Chen, a Bank of China General Manager of the Financial Institution department, was also on hand at the signing ceremony to express a similar degree of confidence in the business arrangement between the two firms. "I strongly believe that, Bank of China will continue to adhere to its customer-oriented banking philosophy, constantly and consistently offering high quality and efficient financial services to all customers. We are confident that this mutually beneficial cooperation will further promote our business development and achieve win-win prospects for both institutions," Chen said.
China's insurance industry has experienced rapid growth and development over the past decade
and still has ample of room to grow as a result of generally stable economic forecasts combined with an under-penetrated protection market. Despite the volatility of the global financial market, Chinese insurers have remained attractive investment targets for large multinational insurance companies and investors from the financial-services sector. In 2010, total written premiums in the Chinese insurance industry reached US$221.4 billion, a 30.4 percent year-on-year increase. This considerable momentum has been able to continue through 2011 despite persistent international financial market turmoil and record catastrophe losses. According to the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) interim report figures, total premium income reported by Chinese insurance companies exceeded US$123.95 billion during the first half of the year, a 13 percent rise on 2010 amounts. At the moment, China is ranked the sixth biggest insurance market in the world and as the second largest in Asia. Many industry observes expect the Chinese insurance market to overtake the United States and become the number one overall protection and investment market, possibly as early as 2020.
Manulife recognizes Asia as the most important market
for the company's future growth. Asia now accounts for over half (55 percent) of Manulife's total insurance sales worldwide. Over the past nine months, the Canadian company has seen its insurance sales across Asia jump by 22 percent to US$902.4 million, with operations in Vietnam
, Indonesia and the Philippines
being the particular highlights. Going forward, the Toronto-based company will continue to focus on expanding insurance sales channels in these countries, in addition to innovating the range of their core offerings as the middle class consumer demand in these markets evolves and matures. Further investor involvement in this part of the world is only set to increase, as the emerging insurance markets in Asia are widely expected to outperform those in Europe and North America, with China likely leading the way.
Insurance Companies Mentioned
Manulife (International) Limited is a member of the Manulife Financial group of companies. Manulife Financial is a leading Canadian-based financial services group serving millions of customers in 22 countries and territories worldwide. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily through John Hancock in the United States, the Company offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners.
Manulife-Sinochem is a joint venture company between Manulife and China Foreign Economy and Trade Trust Company (a member of the Sinochem group). It was the first Chinese-foreign joint-venture life insurance company established in China. Manulife-Sinochem began operations in November 1996. To date the Company has more than 11,000 professionally trained agents and employees, providing financial and insurance services to over 500,000 customers. The company is now has operations in over 40 cities including Shanghai and Beijing, and in provinces including Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Sichuan, Shandong, Fujian, Chongqing, Liaoning and Tianjin.