Insurers ramp up efforts in financial opening-up

Updated: Jun 11, 2024 By SHI JING in Shanghai China Daily Print
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In 2018, Taiping Life customers' newly added health insurance coverage rose by 12.2 trillion yuan ($1.8 trillion), making it one of the best performers in the sector. [Photo/IC]  

Recent moves by Chinese insurers to advance two-way opening-up can help in furthering the high-quality development of China's financial industry, industry leaders and market mavens said.

Taiping Life Insurance has, for instance, improved services to foreigners who hold Chinese permanent residence ID cards. As of early May, 82 foreign clients holding such ID cards had purchased 242 policies from Taiping Life.

This is in line with the National Financial Regulatory Administration's requirements, which said in December that financial institutions should adapt their services to provide a more convenient experience for foreigners.

Its progress on services rendered to foreigners has also been propelled by the new Chinese permanent residence ID cards issued by the National Immigration Administration from Dec 1, said Huang Tianjing, head of operations management at Taiping Life.

Foreigners who hold the new cards are entitled to almost the same consumer experiences as domestic policyholders because the company had upgraded related hardware at all of its 1,252 franchises by the end of February, Huang said.

With the new ID, a telephone and a deposit card, any foreigner can complete most of the services via the company's official WeChat account, she added.

Among the 80-plus new clients, more than half are from Africa and countries such as Russia and Singapore. The rest are businesspersons seeking opportunities or choosing to live in China thanks to the country's rapid economic development over the past few years, according to Huang.

The changes made in the company's services to address the needs of foreigners — for example, their greater importance attached to privacy protection — can help elevate the company's awareness about client privacy, enhancing its service quality in general, she said.

On the other hand, by reaching out to more international clients, China's overall progress made in technology can be demonstrated to a larger audience with concrete experiences, said Huang.

"As long as it is the right thing to do, it is always wise to make earlier moves," she said.

The services rendered to foreigners holding the new ID cards are just a reflection of the many steps that China Taiping, the parent company of Taiping Life, has taken to address China's ongoing financial opening-up.

China Taiping is the country's only State-controlled financial corporation with its headquarters located in an overseas market. Taiping Life has introduced two foreign stakeholders since its inception: Belgian insurer Ageas and Belgium-based Goldpark International Investments. The two companies now hold a combined stake of 24.9 percent in Taiping Life.

The strong annual return rate from Taiping Life shows that the two foreign shareholders' investments have been successful.

Encouraged by the strong growth in China, Ageas made a tender in November 2023 to increase its capital in Taiping Pension Co, a subsidiary of China Taiping. The Belgian insurer on May 20 confirmed the transaction, following which Ageas will hold 10 percent of the enlarged share capital of Taiping Pension for over 1.07 billion yuan ($148 million).

In August 2020, Ageas said it would increase its capital in Taiping Reinsurance, another China Taiping subsidiary, for a total consideration of HK$3.1 billion ($400 million).

During the Financial Street Forum in early November, Li Yunze, head of the National Financial Regulatory Administration, said half of the world's largest insurance companies have entered China.

According to Zhou Yanli, a former vice-chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, the country's insurance industry has developed quickly over the past four decades, which is inseparable from the continued opening-up policies.

China's large insurance market has significantly facilitated economic growth and stability, he said.

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