AIA insurance is still planning to expand more in Myanmar amidst COVID – 1918 พฤษภาคม 2563
Having just obtained insurance licences with four other foreign insurers last November, AIA is operating in full swing. And the coronavirus is not slowing them down.
“There’s no ‘during the crisis’ or ‘after the crisis’, I feel like we're still moving at 100 miles an hour,” said Luc Nhon Ly, chief executive officer of AIA Myanmar.
COVID-19 has forced a large part of AIA’s operations online, and this has allowed customers to purchase life insurance through their online platform.
The Hong Kong-headquartered insurer was among the first five fully foreign-owned firms to receive life insurance licences last November.
Mr Ly said it has not been easy, but he continued to observe the potential for growth.
“In everything that we do, especially in the new market, there will be challenges, but the potential is there, and we can see all the positive early signs,” he added.
AIA has a solid presence in Yangon with around a thousand agents in its salesforce. It has also soft-launched in Mandalay and plans to expand to all three major cities in the country this year.
How has the crisis affected the insurance industry overall?
The global pandemic has impacted other industries, but us as well. I think what's interesting from this is, we can see how resilient, how quickly we were able to adjust.
For the insurance industry, we do a lot of gatherings, training, and planning sessions. But we cannot do that anymore. So, we quickly adjusted, we moved everything online. And everything was done within the month of April.
For Myanmar, the disease started becoming serious around the beginning of April. So that's when we started shifting everything online - meetings, e-learning, and even our branding. So, it went from something about “healthier, longer, better lives” to something about that, but under an angle of being resilient and being strong.
In terms of sales and operations, how is the situation for AIA Myanmar amidst COVID-19?
We received our licence at the end of November. So, we are still new to the life insurance industry in Myanmar. As you can imagine, when it is a new industry, the growth is very strong every month. It is, therefore, hard for us to say that it is because of COVID-19, or because our presence, that people know more about life insurance and about AIA Myanmar. But we are definitely growing very quickly.
One thing that we have noticed is that after COVID-19 became more serious in Myanmar, we received more inquiries and requests for information on our social media about life and health insurance. So, we can definitely see that the interest for insurance has increased quite a lot.
How do you adapt to the current environment when in-person sales of insurance products are almost impossible?
We have developed remote selling. Products can be sold through video conference calls. That makes everything paperless. We have an interactive point of sale that's done through a mobile phone or tablet. Now, we just added a remote selling feature, so we can see the customer. And then we can send a document electronically for them to sign and send it back and confirm with us. We don't need to meet the customer face to face anymore.
The central bank has cut interest rates and the government announced its plan to reduce treasury bond sales. What is the impact of these monetary measures on AIA’s investment plans here?
There's no impact for us. For us, we know that we are in Myanmar, which is a growing economy with a lot of potential. It is to be expected that interest rates will go down as we move forward, and as the market grows and develops. That is normal and expected. I guess the only thing we don't know is how quickly they will go down, and by how much.
But so far, there is no impact on our investment plan, because our investment is more about providing life and health insurance to everyone in Myanmar. So, it's an expansion plan on how to reach everyone. Our investment plan goes along with the expansion. It has nothing to do with the interest rates.
For our investment portfolios here, we just invest in government bonds. They have options auctions almost every month. And we do participate in those auctions when we have the capital.
Myanmar adopts a file-and-approve system before insurers can launch new products. In other words, insurance firms have to obtain approval for new products before launching. Does this regulation stall your timeline for launching new services during the COVID-19 outbreak?
For us, we would love for it to be file-and-use system, but it is fine if it's file-and-approve. Other markets do have that also. At some point in Myanmar, we will get to the file-and-use system. For Myanmar, I think it is fine for the first few years to use file-and-approve. So, we just need to plan for the possible transition. We also need to plan ahead in terms of the products we want to launch in Myanmar, and submit proposals ahead of time so we will be ready when the products become available in the market.
For emergency or crisis situations like COVID-19, we have been able to work with the regulators very quickly. There is some flexibility. For example, we are offering the “COVID-19 benefit” to all our existing customers which is financial support amounting to one million kyat if they become infected by COVID-19, and hospitalised in the intensive care unit. We were able to work with the regulators to get that product approved very quickly, and we launched it in the second week of April.
(The Myanmar Times: https://www.mmtimes.com/news/a