Wednesday, January 09, 2008

ING Life eyes record premiums this year


ING Life eyes record premiums this year


ING Life, the Thai insurance unit of the Dutch financial-services giant ING Group, forecast the best-ever operating performance this year, particularly driven by the recently agreed partnership with TMB Bank.

New sales based on first-year premiums are expected to grow by 22% to 2.1 billion baht while total premiums could rise 26% to over six billion baht.

''The projected figures have yet to take into account those to be generated through bancassurance,'' said Rajesh Sethi, the company's president and CEO, at the company's ''Kick Off 2008'' agency campaign held on Monday night. ''We have not yet started engaging with TMB Bank. But bancassurance is something that is definitely going to happen in the middle of this year.''

ING Life's parent firm ING Group late last year agreed to acquire a 30% stake in TMB Bank for approximately 460 million as part of the group's plan to extend its footprint in the fast-growing Asian market.

Sethi: Simple and easy products are key

According to Mr Sethi, ING group is willing to invest more in Thailand to help bring its banking and insurance ventures into the top five in their respective sectors.

According to Mr Sethi, bancassurance still has ample room to grow given the fact that the market has not yet had products specially designed for bank customers.

''The key to success, we believe, is to make the insurance products simple and easy _ simple to understand and easy to sell. That's what we are trying to do this year,'' he said.

But he admitted the major contributors would still be agency and telesales channels.

Despite the country's political and economic difficulties last year, the performance of ING's tied agency was outstanding, producing premiums totalling 1.4 billion baht, a rise of 44% over a year earlier. Telesales, however, dropped by 9% to 325 million baht.

ING Life ended 2007 with 1.725 billion baht in first-year premiums, up 30%, while total premiums rose 36% to 4.812 billon baht.

The number of its tied agents increased by 12% to 7,737 from 6,900 as of the end of 2006.

According to Somphot Kiatkraival, senior executive vice-president and chief agency officer of ING Life, ING projected this year to write about 2.1 billion baht in first-year premiums, a rise of 22% from 2007, with the tied agency channel generating 1.65 billion baht, up 18%, and telesales contributing about 450 million baht, a 38% increase.

''We need to grow this year with new or 'green' agents. A lot of emphasis will be given to training to our tied agents, especially outside Bangkok,'' he said.

The company has set a target to raise the number of its tied agents to 8,500 at the end of this year, a rise of 13% from last year.

''For telesales, for which the story was not so great in 2007, we are committed this year to upgrading the quality of calls and the number of our partners. At the moment, we have 3-5 partners, we plan to double the number of partners at the end of this year to six to 10.''

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