Although I work and live in Sydney, my role is entirely focused on Asia, which means I am constantly learning the many subtleties of the insurance cultures I encounter.
I am, of course, under no illusion I will ever understand it all. Understanding the appropriate seating arrangements for meetings in Japan alone could take the rest of my working life. However, with the Asian century upon us, and this being the energetic Year of the Horse, now is a good time to take a ride through Asia’s insurance landscape.
The Market’s History
Although Asia includes some of the world’s oldest civilisations, the region’s life insurance history is far shorter.
Life insurance has been sold in Asia for the last two centuries. Initially, the market consisted of multinational American and European companies, selling mostly to expatriates, with domestic insurers entering later and focused more on the local populations. Reflecting this history, today’s Asian life insurance market is a mix of domestic and multinational companies.
Many Asian countries have seen significant expansion in wealth and very material improvements in access to health care, which has spurred growth in the life insurance industry.
DemographicsThe differences in the underlying demographics of the countries should not be understated. According to the World Health Organisation, Japan in 2013 had 32% of its population over 60 years old, whereas in the Philippines, only 6.3% were over 60 years old1. These differences are driving differing products, sales channels and distribution practices. There are efforts to develop products targeting seniors in much of North Asia, while juvenile products remain very popular in other markets.
For three of the world’s most populous countries – China, Indonesia and India – the wealth of actuarial data available for issues can be breathtaking. Equally stimulating and challenging, however, can be the dearth of data in other areas. Simply acquiring an accurate picture of population mortality rates by age can be quite challenging in certain countries or regions.
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