Chinese insurers promise the moon - and more

Chinese insurers promise the moon - and more
An aeroplane is silhouetted against a full moon in the sky on a Mid-Autumn Festival night in Xuyi, Jiangsu province, September 19, 2013. Picture taken September 19, 2013

Singles can get compensated if they are not married within the next 12 months to China's "Singles Day" on Nov 11 next year.

Moon-gazers in some Chinese cities received 188 yuan (S$38.50) each in insurance payouts when the full moon did not show up in their patch of sky on Mid-Autumn Festival day in September.

And for spouses who want to safeguard against the intrusion of a third party into their marriage, they can buy "xiao san" (third party or mistress) insurance.

These are just some of the weird and wacky schemes some Chinese insurers have conjured up to boost their profiles - and profits - in a fiercely competitive industry marked by fast growth and growing pains.

Some proclaim such schemes as proof that Chinese players are going all out to answer top insurance regulator Xiang Junbo's recent clarion call at a major insurance summit in September for "more product innovation".

Others dismiss them as gimmicks. "They distract insurers from addressing problems in their bread-and-butter products and in the overall industry," claimed one netizen in an online forum.

In any case, the proliferation of schemes shows the world's fourth largest insurance market is finally coming of age, say analysts.

"After 30 years, China's insurance industry is starting finally to cater to the numerous customer segments," said Capital University of Economics and Business insurance professor Tuo Guozu.

Indeed, the industry has come a long way since the 1980s when one single insurer - the People's Insurance Company of China, which was dissolved and split into four state-owned firms in 1999 - offered just a range of one-size-fits-all products.

Some 165 national insurers and seven reinsurers - along with hundreds of smaller outfits - have mushroomed across the country as the state allowed more players to enter the market.

They manage combined assets of 7.9 trillion yuan. And they are raring to enter what Mr Xiang, who heads the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, described in September as "a golden era of opportunity" over the next two decades, as increasingly affluent Chinese warm up to commercial insurance as additional protection to state insurance schemes.

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