Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 01/09/2014 -- At first glance, Vietnam's insurance sector appears to be one of the most dynamic in South East Asia. By many metrics, it is growing rapidly. In both of the main segments, companies are undertaking initiatives to grow premiums and profits. Nevertheless, a number of constraints and challenges remain. The small absolute size of the market, and a very challenging business environment mean that it may be some years before multinationals who have been attracted to Vietnam come close to building substantial local businesses in the way that they have in other countries in South East Asia.
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Key Insights And Key Risks
There was a time when Vietnam was one of the new frontiers of insurance in the Asia Pacific, but the sector has moved into a more exciting phase of its development. Foreign insurance companies (particularly in the life segment) are present, and see Vietnam as a natural extension of their regional or global footprints. In 2012, Sun Life Financial (through a JV with PVI) was a newcomer to the life segment, as was Generali.
In the non-life segment, Australia's IAG has taken a strategic stake in AAA, while Talanx has increased its shareholding in PVI. New products are being developed. Agency networks are being built. As in the rest of South East Asia, bancassurance is being seen as an opportunity by some of the players. In the non-life segment, the local companies have generally shown more pricing discipline than have their counterparts elsewhere in the region. Motor insurance - so often a thankless and profitless line in emerging markets -accounts for only about one third of the premiums written in the non-life segment in Vietnam.
Nevertheless, there are reasons for caution. Non-life penetration stopped growing in 2012 (although it appears to have recovered somewhat). The double-digit growth in overall premiums last year has been mainly the result of very strong rises in particular lines. In key areas such as property insurance, premiums stagnated at the levels of the previous corresponding period. Although the non-life segment is less fragmented than its peers in other countries in South East Asia, most of the players are sub-scale local firms that do not necessarily have access to the capital that they need to grow.
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