MB Ageas Life thrives on bancassurance

08:00 | 17/07/2018

MB Ageas Life Insurance Company, a joint venture between Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank and two foreign shareholders – insurance group Ageas and Muang Thai Life Assurance PCL – has reaped outcomes beyond expectations just over a year after its debut. Gary Crist, CEO in Asia of Ageas and vice chairman of the MB Ageas Life Members' Council, spoke to VIR’s Bach Quang about the next steps in a high-potential market such as Vietnam.

mb ageas life thrives on bancassurance
Gary Crist

Could you tell us something about Ageas?

Ageas is a listed international insurance group, headquartered in Belgium and with a presence in 15 countries across Europe and Asia. It operates successful insurance businesses in Belgium, the UK, Luxembourg, France, Portugal, Turkey, China, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, and the Philippines. We rank among the market leaders in most of the countries where we operate.

With special expertise in partnerships, we have developed long-term agreements with market-leading local financial institutions and key distributors in these markets.

We offer life and non-life insurance solutions to 39 million customers. We adopt a local and omni-channel approach combined with smart innovations to create a positive customer experience.

The company represents a staff force of over 50,000 people and reported annual inflows close to EUR34 billion ($39.79 billion) in 2017 (all figures at 100 per cent).

What is your assessment of MB Ageas Life Insurance Company’s performance over one year after its debut?

Overall, after one year, MB Ageas Life’s performance has exceeded our expectations, especially the results of our bancassurance channel, thanks to the strong support of Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank (MB Bank), our key distribution partner. MB Ageas Life has also built up a team of high-quality staff who are passionate about delivering our shared ambition.

Leveraging the combination of MB Bank, a strong prestigious bank in Vietnam, with Ageas and Muang Thai Life, who both bring strong technical and commercial skills to the joint venture, has helped facilitate the strong start. We are proud of MB Ageas Life and we are confident we will continue to see growth.

Which distribution channels does MB Ageas Life aim at?

I can say that our bancassurance channel has significant potential for growth. MB Bank is our biggest shareholder and this will help MB Ageas Life to develop as a successful company.

In Vietnam, life insurance is relatively new, with a low penetration rate at the moment. The Vietnamese economy shows promising growth and offering life insurance solutions by the bank to bank customers has increasingly become a daily practice.

Sales by insurance agents cover approximately 85 per cent of life insurance revenue in Vietnam, although the share of bancassurance is increasing. In the first year of MB Ageas Life, we gave priority to developing the bancassurance channel with MB Bank. MB Ageas Life has recently launched what we strongly believe will become a successful agency channel, too.

We aim to be an omni-channel life insurance company, with a strong focus on bancassurance and agency. Furthermore, we also explore innovative digital solutions to create more opportunities for potential customers to experience our insurance solutions.

What do you think about the potential of life insurance in the Southeast Asian market in general and the Vietnamese market in particular?

Ageas has been in Asia for 18 years. Our confidence in and commitment to this region have never been stronger. We are more and more convinced that there is continued potential in this region and in particular in those key markets where we are operating, such as China, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Singapore, the Philippines, and of course Vietnam.

Vietnam is an emerging market with low penetration rates and the people have become more and more conscious of and receptive to the concepts of insurance, protection, financial planning for the future, and health and wealth planning. We believe there is a huge potential in this market, both in life and non-life insurance.

What is the development strategy of Ageas in Vietnam and Southeast Asia at large?

Ageas in Asia is about partnerships. We are partnering with strong local financial institutions and key distributors where we can leverage on their strong brands, distribution capabilities, market knowledge, and networks.

This partnership model has proved very successful, and it is also our goal to make this happen in Vietnam. Our successful partnership business model is reflected in the latest Ageas financial results from the first quarter of 2018, where Asia contributed 41 per cent to the Ageas group’s total net profits, and 70 per cent to the group’s total inflows.

As a main shareholder of MB Ageas Life Insurance Company, what is Ageas’ direction for the development of MB Ageas Life in the near future?

We will continue to develop MB Ageas Life into a fully fledged premier insurance company in Vietnam. There is much room to grow. We will continue to provide day-to-day on-ground management expertise, commercial support from the regional office, and innovative initiatives and solutions as we move along with the needs and trends in the industry.

As mentioned earlier, we have included our successful Thai joint venture Muang Thai Life, twice voted “Life Insurance Company of the Year” in Asia, in this joint venture in Vietnam.

This signifies that we attach high importance to our business in Vietnam by the provision and transfer of the best insurance knowledge, skills, practices, and expertise from both Ageas and Muang Thai Life.

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