This general view shows cars on a motorway running between commercial buildings between the Admiralty and Wan Chai areas of Hong Kong island, and a view of Kowloon (back, left) across from Victoria Harbour, in Hong Kong, May 12, 2021. (ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP)
The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area offers huge growth potential for the insurance industry, and Hong Kong insurance products will continue to attract a vast number of Chinese mainland customers once the cross-border movement resumes.
Carrie Tong, Manulife Hong Kong and Macao’s chief strategy officer and head of the Macao branch, made these remarks in an interview with China Daily.
“There is only 5.5 percent insurance penetration in the nine mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area while (it is) 20.8 percent in Hong Kong,” she said.
Customers from the mainland have been big spenders in Hong Kong’s insurance industry. They purchased HK$72.68 billion ($9.26 billion) in insurance policies in the city in 2016, more than a third of all premiums collected in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong’s insurers provide a wide range of sophisticated, designed solutions that are targeted to different needs of customers. These high-quality protection products are exactly what customers in the region are looking for.
Carrie Tong, Manulife Hong Kong and Macao’s chief strategy officer
However, the pandemic dealt a blow to the Hong Kong insurance sector in recent years, with cross-border visits restricted. Mainland customers spent only HK$688 million on the city’s insurance policies in 2021, shrinking nearly 90 percent compared to the data for 2020, according to the Insurance Authority.
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Tong still has strong faith in the Hong Kong insurance industry, as she said the insurance sector in the special administrative region is much more mature than in other cities of the Greater Bay Area.
“Hong Kong’s insurers provide a wide range of sophisticated, designed solutions that are targeted to different needs of customers,” Tong said. “These high-quality protection products are exactly what customers in the region are looking for.”
A survey conducted by Manulife in November and December found that 93 percent of respondents intend to buy insurance policies in Hong Kong in the next two years. The survey contacted 1,600 respondents from nine mainland cities of the Greater Bay Area, who have visited Hong Kong in the past three years.
“Among those who have plans to buy insurance policies in Hong Kong, they are most interested in buying critical illness products particularly,” Tong said.
Nicolas Aguzin, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, said last month that the insurance industry plays a significant role in portraying Hong Kong as a financial hub, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange will continue to provide financing to develop the sector.
Carrie Tong, Manulife Hong Kong and Macao’s chief strategy officer and head of the Macao branch (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Manulife will invest over HK$400 million in 2021 and 2022 to transform and upgrade digital applications for agents and customers, Tong said.
“For agents, Manulife adopts digital tools including electronic points of sale, and virtual face to face (meetings); for the customers, we continue to enhance digital assistance to optimize their experience.”
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Promoting mutual financial market access, including cross-border insurance product transactions, is one of the crucial plans to fulfill the Greater Bay Area blueprint, which was released three years ago.
“The Greater Bay Area plan will enable strong as well as tangible, long-term growth prospects for the insurance industry in the region,” Tong said.
China’s National Development and Reform Commission in January took a step forward for insurance in the metropolis circle, by rolling out a pilot program in Shenzhen and giving Hong Kong and Macao insurance companies hope of business expansion in the Greater Bay Area.
The program allows mainland people who see doctors in public hospitals to use imported drugs while making health claims with insurers in Hong Kong and Macao.
Manulife currently serves 2.4 million customers in Hong Kong and in Macao — approximately one-third of the Hong Kong population, according to Tong. The company set up a prestige customer center in Tsim Sha Tsui and expanded its agency office which is the company’s fourth major office location in East Kowloon last year.