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AON Note Chinese Market Progress, Challenges

Posted on Dec 06, 2011 by Sergio Ulloa ()

China's share of the world insurance market has quadrupled over the past decade, owing to a strong economy, surging demand and evolving industry regulations. A new report published on Monday by Aon Benfield, the global reinsurance intermediary of Aon Corp, acknowledges the opportunities the Chinese market now presents to the international insurance industry as well as the challenges now apparent after years of rapid growth. The Chinese insurance industry has experienced phenomenal growth over the past decade and still has much to look forward to due to favorable economic conditions and an under-penetrated market. China now represents close to 4 percent of all life and property insurance premiums worldwide at CNY1.45 trillion (US$226 billion), moving up from just a 1 percent share decade ago. Industry analysts in the world's second largest economy are now targeting a 15 percent compound annual growth rate over the next five years. Aon's report, titled 'The China Property & Casualty Insurance and Reinsurance Market Report,' is chiefly concerned with the slow development of the Chinese catastrophe insurance and reinsurance sector, which has become particularly glaring given the country's increased exposure to widespread catastrophic risk. Indeed, given recent events in Thailand and Japan, the potential for supply chain disruptions in China due to natural disasters has become a growing concern for executives at large multinational corporations. According to the report, China's property and casualty (p&c) insurance market is now growing only at the same rate as GDP, whereas the insurance sector overall is still growing much faster. Over the last ten years, the Chinese p&c market had grown by over 20 percent annually, outpacing the country's GDP growth in that period and reaching CNY402 billion (US$63.4 billion) by 2010. While this has occurred, Chinese government subsidies have also been working to support the growth of agriculture premiums and have doubled in size since 2005, now amounting to CNY13.6 billion (US$2.15 billion)). Aon observed a similar growth pattern in aggregate reinsurance premiums acquired by China's p&c insurers, which have seen a 67 percent compound annual growth rate since 2005, now totaling CNY44 billion (US$6.9 billion). Aon's findings indicate that insurance will continue to be a necessity in the country. The China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), the Mainland's chief industry oversight body, recognizes that the insurance sector will keep on facing structural challenges due to the tremendous scale of the market combined with the recent speed of its development, and is planning considerable action over the next five years to address this. Aon notes that China has been hit by 5 of the top 10 most deadly natural catastrophe events in history, with recent disasters (earthquakes, mudslides, blizzards) affecting more than 70 percent of the country's total land area and over half the population in some way as well. The CIRC is aware of this persistent catastrophe protection risk shortfall and is thus establishing a national natural disaster risk transfer program (similar somewhat to Japan's in design) as part of its upcoming 5-year plan. According to Aon's report, this new risk pooling program could lead to a spike in the uptake of catastrophe insurance and reinsurance policies and work to better address overall protection issues in the country for years to come. Commenting on their new report, Malcolm Steingold, Aon Benfield CEO for the Asia Pacific region, explained that while China's insurance industry would no doubt continue to expand, being able to solve explicit coverage gaps in the market quickly would enable the country to realize its sizeable commercial potential. "Over the past 10 years, China has emerged as an insurance and reinsurance market that cannot be overlooked. However, when we look beyond the macroeconomic growth, underlying opportunities and challenges are not necessarily what they first appear to be. For example, a detailed analysis of the property market shows that growth has been more in line with gross domestic product than with the faster overall market growth, which is largely driven by motor business," Steingold said. Indeed, China's motor vehicle insurance market could be subject to its own revision efforts, with the introduction of foreign insurance players potentially on the horizon. Ralph Butterworth, Partner at an Aon Benfield consulting division, added that the Mainland's transition to more refined and comprehensive risk management strategies would work to the benefit of their overall marketplace. "The evolution of Chinese insurance regulation is bringing the market closer to international best practice. Over time this should support increased transparency and improved profitability, potentially hand in hand with the entrance of more foreign insurers into the Chinese market and the global expansion of Chinese reinsurers," Butterworth said, adding that "expertise and experience accumulated and tested in the global market are still of much relevance to China as it targets further growth over the next five years." In conclusion, Henry To, CEO of Aon Benfield's China division, expressed confidence in the Chinese insurance industry's ability to overcome recent hurdles. The CIRC's latest 5-year plan, which introduces the national natural disaster risk transfer system and improves loss models and underlying data, should encourage sound risk strategy and ensure more protection options are available before disaster strikes. "Over the years from 2001 to 2010, the Chinese insurance market (P&C and life) was the second fastest growing national market in the world behind Malta and now represents close to 4 percent of the world's total insurance premiums - up from about 1 percent in 2001. Given the still low insurance penetration rate and China's comparative economic outlook, this share can only be expected to grow," To concluded. Companies mentioned AON Benfield AON Aon is a provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, human capital and management consulting, and specialty insurance underwriting. It is based in the Aon Center in the Chicago Loop area of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Aon bought Benfield in 2008. Aon Benfield Analytics is the industry leader in actuarial, enterprise risk management, catastrophe management, and rating agency advisory. Their track record of innovation and world-class position in analytics, modeling and client-facing technology helps companies to optimize their portfolios. Proprietary tools include ReMetrica, CatPortal, and ExposureView. Also, their Impact Forecasting team develops tools and models that help companies understand financial implications of natural and man-made catastrophes around the world.
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