Life insurers eye bigger slices of Vietnam’s growing market

With life insurance revenues tripling in the last five years, there is intense competition between the country’s three top players.

Vietnam, life insurance, Manulife, Prudential, Bao Viet

Vietnam had 18 life insurance companies with combined premium revenues of VND106.6 trillion ($4.6 billion) last year, up 24 percent year-on-year and 2.8 times since 2015, according to a recent report by the Ministry of Finance.

In terms of new contracts, Manulife Vietnam led the market for the first time with 17.7 percent, followed by Bao Viet Holdings with 16.49 percent and Prudential Vietnam with 15.78 percent. The latter two have taken turns to lead the market in recent years.

Canadian insurer Manulife has in recent years been seeking to increase sales of bancassurance, which refers to selling insurance products through banks. It signed an exclusive bancassurance contract with leading private lender Techcombank in 2017.

The company has reportedly emerged as the leading bidder for the Vietnamese operations of British insurance company Aviva Plc. The deal, if successful, would allow it to sell its products via VietinBank, one of the country’s four large state-owned lenders.

After making losses in 2017 and 2018, the company managed to earn a pre-tax profit of VND1.26 trillion last year.

State-owned Bao Viet Holdings, the second largest insurer, saw its share of new contracts drop by 4.4 percentage points between 2016 and last year.

The company, in which the Ministry of Finance holds a 65 percent stake, has not made any major bancassurance deals and relies on traditional channels. It had 2,500 salespeople last year, equal to that of Manulife and Prudential combined.

Its pre-tax profit last year was the lowest of the three at VND1.1 trillion.

Third-placed Prudential Vietnam has seen revenues drop in recent years since being overtaken by Bao Viet in 2017.

Company executives said they have been focusing on utilizing experienced employees instead of rushing to recruit new ones in recent years.

This strategy has apparently worked for one of the earliest entrants to the Vietnamese market as it topped in the industry last year in terms of profits with VND2.69 trillion, double that of second placed Manulife’s.

Industry insiders said competition is expected to become fiercer in the coming years.

Chung Ba Phuong, CEO of insurance consultancy TC Advisors, said bancassurance and sales through other organizations are set to dominate the life insurance market just as happened in other more developed markets.

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