By Gabriel Chen
CONSUMERS in Singapore have not lost faith with insurers even though many fearful policyholders wanted to cash out their policies at the height of the financial crisis, a top global insurance boss has said.
Aviva global chief executive Andrew Moss told The Straits Times in an exclusive interview yesterday that people here still trust their insurers, and are not turning their backs on buying new policies.
In fact, they are channelling more resources into policies that offer protection such as life insurance as well as health plans, said Britain-based Mr Moss.
He also spoke of new business openings. Many working adults in Singapore remain under-insured, creating opportunities for insurers including Aviva, he said.
He was speaking just 12 months after the insurance industry both here and around the globe faced a major crisis.
Last September, thousands of AIA policyholders rushed to the offices of AIA Singapore to surrender their plans after hearing about the possible collapse of the firm's parent American International Group. They were afraid their hard-earned savings, embedded in their policies, would go up in smoke.
The panic later led to calls from financial experts, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Life Insurance Association urging AIA customers not to act rashly.
Mr Moss, who is in Singapore as part of an Asian tour to visit key business operations, said Aviva policyholders do not need to be worried about such instability, as the group 'has come through the financial crisis in a very strong position'.
'Our customers are still dealing with us on an everyday basis and they absolutely can rely on us to be there to meet our liabilities and to pay their money when it is due,' said Mr Moss, 51, who joined Aviva as finance director in 2004 and became group CEO three years later.
He is unrattled by industry talk that Aviva has recently been losing revenue share in the competitive Singapore insurance market. He stressed that the firm will seek to continue to raise its market share and presence here.
'I think these things move around in the short term quite a bit,' he said, when asked about Aviva's supposed drop in its top-line market share in the first half of this year.
'Particularly as the bancassurance sales come back, we'll see that come back, so I'm not unduly concerned about that.'
He said Asia remains an important market and that Aviva plans to expand into one to two more countries within the region in the next year or so.
He added that it may consider re-entering the Asian general insurance market, which includes, for example, automobile and homeowners' policies, having exited this segment several years ago.
'I think we've done well in Singapore, but I think there are opportunities to improve our position,' he said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.