Happy Life Insurance

Recently the president of Happy Life Insurance Limited (of China) told me about how to harvest wild Chinese Gooseberries (otherwise known as Kiwifruit) with a stone or stick in their native province. As he did so I got a chance to reflect on the differences between the life insurance business in New Zealand and China and how that provides some clues to where this business is headed in the next decade.

Wednesday, October 20th 2010, 9:00AM 3 Comments

by Russell Hutchinson

Fidelity Life fulfilled their good corporate citizen role by generously hosting the Chinese who were using their contacts at the Life Office Management Association (LOMA) to get a feel for what different insurers are doing in Australia and New Zealand.

Fidelity Life and Happy Life could hardly be more different: Happy sells traditional policies (whole of life) through 22 provincial offices in China with a sales force of about 1,000 agents supervised from each of those offices: that's right - about 22,000 agents. Their total staff (not counting agents) is about 1,400. They have been in business a similar length of time to Fidelity, and have seen incredible changes from a command economy to a far more open one. Actually - in that respect they are similar to Fidelity!

The big difference though is their agent network. In China being an agent is often a small at-home business. An adjunct for many to other kinds of work - a part-time role - think about the way some people participate in party plan selling, or selling make-up, here in New Zealand.

The idea of full-time, full-service, financial advisers is still relatively new. The revolution is one worth remembering - because once upon a time it was a revolution here, too. The long-run theme here is efficiency. A full time adviser is more efficient than a clutch of part-timers. It also runs that a collection of advisers organised in a financial advisory business may be a lot more efficient than lots of individuals. That's what's been happening with the continuing emergence of dealers, aggregators, and bancassurers.


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Comments from our readers

On 20 October 2010 at 10:00 pm Get Real said:
Russell .Part time advisers. You and I have both been around this industry for a long time. Todays advisers.Part timers by the dozen. How many advisers have more than five face to face appointments per week ? Of those appointments how many are new to them prospects? Not many.Has the inustry generated an adviser force of low appointment number, low prospecting skills? Sadly yes. This is why the banks are writing such a large share of the new business now written. This will increase with a bang in the next 12 to 18 months. Now is the time for advisers to change there attitude by becoming full time advisers, by seeing more new clients. If they don't the banks will continue to grow.The comments will come no doubt, that the banks only cover loans, the banks don't do a good job.The process to work with clients by the bank are good now.They deal with many people who have no adviser or has not heard from there part time adviser for years. The banks will get better. I know of bank insurance managers who are currently writing in excess of $400k in premium now.Advisers need more skills at working with there clients and prospects on building relationships instead of focusing on the policy wordings. Advisers please upskill now or your profit will reduce quickly. The outcome is in the advisers hands. Advisers might like to ask themselves this question? How much time have I spent on growing my face to face skills this year? Advisers please do something now.
On 26 November 2010 at 3:24 pm billy the broker said:
Some good points Get Real. But also lets be realistic about some of these comments.
Some bank insurance managers writing excess of 400k.I would guess that person/people is in a main city. And prospecting would be nil as clients are walking in the door (in their thousands).Minimal insurance analysis would be done! (Thats what they do in banks from my experience).And probably they write the client on 1st appointment by making the client feel obliged that they have to do the business with them because there is some sort of loan at stake. Now is that good selling. No brainer there.Does the bank insurance salesman offer up the options to the said client with various companies, I think not.No he/she will flog the product as inferior as it is to the bank client, and they the client will be none the wiser this will be after they have canned an existing policy done by a proper broker.Had it done to me, it is amazing the power of a mortgage ready to be approved. No disrespect to get real but there are always two sides to a story.This past year I have been doing exams in relation to this compliance and I have not really seen to many partimers to be honest. As as bank insurance insurance salespeople wont be doing because they are under the QFE umbrella.
On 25 February 2011 at 12:24 am Consumer Eyes said:
This explanation of the China market is short of reality explanations. In China business happens because of relationships first. The more agents in the system therefore, the greater the net of relationships. Insurers in China pay under the table deals to get big business. They also provide massive PR services to policyholders, such as driving them to the airport etc. How come? Because premiums in China are prepaid annually and with limited regulation, the policyholder base is milked for all its worth. Many insurers are simply gross wealth creaters for PRC officials. You just cannot compare - and the Chinese would be in NZ to check out if the lack of regulation here would allow them to steal from the pot as they do in China. Look at Colonial. It sunk $600m into China to get the first licence. A few years later the $600m disappeared off the balance sheet and Colonial disappeared too. Its all corrupt. Its corrupt here too - just that most dont see it, and those that do turn the other way because they are making too much.
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