Muang Thai to expand through new channels

CHIANG RAI : Muang Thai Life Assurance Plc has set its sights on increasing gross premiums to over 50 billion baht this year through a larger distribution network which covers alternative channels such as department stores and hospitals.

The company remains upbeat about its business prospects this year, with written premiums projected to outpace the life insurance market's growth, said president and CEO Sara Lamsam.

Last year, it continued to record healthy growth, with gross written premiums of 48.86 billion baht, a 30% rise over the previous year. Of the total, new business saw exceptional growth of 32% to 21.66 billion baht, with renewal premiums increasing 26% to 27.20 billion baht.

The overall industry grew by about 18% as of November last year, with the figure estimated to outpace the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2-3 times, or around 15%, this year, Mr Sara said.

Muang Thai Life's business growth was attributed mainly to its multi-channel distribution strategy, which offers a diversity of products tailored to meet the varying needs and changing lifestyles of all customer segments, as well as digital marketing.

The company reported sales growth in all distribution channels, with gross written premiums through the agency channel increasing by 22%, bancassurance 35% and direct marketing 29%.

At the end of 2012, Muang Thai Life's assets grew year-on-year to 150 billion baht from 116.3 billion. Of the total, investment assets represented as much as 94-95%.

Its life-policy reserves exceeded 125 billion baht last year, with capital funds of 20 billion baht and capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of over 370% compared to the minimum 125% required by Office of the Insurance Commission regulations.

The risk-based capital ratio represents the amount of capital based on risk assessment that a company should maintain to protect customers from adverse developments.

Last year, Muang Thai Life added 16 customer service centres, bringing its nationwide network to 132.

It also plans this year to open 10 more branches in Sa Kaeo, Lop Buri, Kanchanaburi and Mae Hong Son provinces, as well as at several leading department stores nationwide, said Mr Sara.

As part of a pilot project, hospital-based customer service centres will also be added in addition to those at Kasemrad Hospital Bang Khae and Ramathibodi Hospital.

The centres provide more convenience for clients by approving claims payouts for health and personal accident coverage at medical facilities.

Muang Thai Life has also authorised around 40 of its customer service centres to approve applications for loans against life policies.

The service will be available at all centres nationwide this year.

"The life insurance industry this year has nothing much to worry about," said Mr Sara.

"Having weathered the storms over the past several years, the industry has returned to growth. More importantly, people are now fully aware of the importance of life insurance to protect themselves from financial risks and products are more diverse to cater to their varying demands and lifestyles."

The current insurance uptake of about 30% of the population is considered low considering Thailand is turning into an aging society, with people aged over 60 now making up over 10% of the total population. The elderly customer group is quite huge with high potential which remains untapped, he said.

About the author

Writer: Charoen Kittikanya
Position: Business Reporter