By SUCHEERA PINIJPARAKARN
Speaking on the business outlook for Asean countries in 2017 at the “Thailand Insurance Symposium” yesterday, Clarence Wong, chief economist for Asia at Swiss Reinsurance Company, said he believed that premium income would surpass those in North America and the European Union. Ten years ago, premium income in Asia was half that of North America, he said, adding that the growing income in Asia over the past few years had attracted insurance firms to broaden their presence in this region.
The insurance industry in Asia is in its third phase of development, in economic growth, income growth, solvency reform and personal lines, he said. Premium income from life and health insurance in the region is on an upward trend due to demographic changes and need for healthcare.
He said a contributing factor would be the investment opportunities presented by China’s One Belt, One Road policy. The insurance industry can reap opportunities from those investments, he said.
He said technology would have an impact on the whole of society and thus shift risk pools and create new opportunities. Wong raised the example of Uber, which is becoming the world’s largest transportation company even though it owns no vehicles and Airbnb the largest accommodation provider that owns no real estate.
Technology is challenging the insurance industry, which must give importance to data protection and privacy while making customers feel comfortable with insurers’ access to information on usage and behaviour.
Further, technology is allowing non-traditional players to enter the insurance industry across the value chain.
Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn, secretary-general of the Office of the Insurance Commission, said purchases of insurance online would increase in 2017 by 30-40 per cent year on year.