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Great Eastern to help Myanmar in insurance model study

Publication Date : 10-03-2014


Insurer Great Eastern (GE) will help the Myanmar government to study a health insurance model for the country.

This is one of the initiatives the Singapore-listed insurer's newly opened representative office in Yangon plans to undertake.

Great Eastern is also the first Southeast Asian insurer to set up a rep office in Myanmar, joining the fast-growing financial services sector in the country.

While it does not yet have a licence to operate there, there are plans for Great Eastern to work with Myanmar regulators to develop insurance in the country, said group chief executive Chris Wei at a lunch event at Yangon's Traders Hotel, held in conjunction with the opening last Saturday.

"The government is very proactive in studying health insurance. For a start, we will be providing training support, and to be considered a subject matter expert to Myanmar insurance as well as the financial regulator as they look to define a model that works for this government."

Its training plans include providing know-how to the state-owned Myanma Insurance, said Wei, adding that Great Eastern is likely to provide input to a government panel that is studying the future model of health insurance for the country.

He said: "It's a much more systemic review, not just studying the insurance products. That's one component of a broader review that will include the Ministry of Health, the medical association, the financial services industry and so on."

The new representative office sits in the Union Business Centre in downtown Yangon, which bustles with business activity.

The office is near various foreign embassies and well-known spots such as Kandawgyi Lake, Shwedagon Pagoda and Bogyoke Aung San Museum.

Myanmar Deputy Finance Minister Maung Maung Thein, who is also chairman of the Insurance Business Supervisory Board, said at the event: "We should welcome the arrival of Great Eastern into our insurance market, which is very young and has high potential."

Foreign and local insurers such as the nine-month-old Grand Guardian Insurance, the insurance arm of the Shwe Taung conglomerate, were among the guests invited.

There are 12 private Myanmar insurers that started operating from June last year after winning government licences in 2012, the first time they have been allowed to trade in the country.

Three firms offer only life insurance, while the others, such as Grand Guardian, also offer non-life insurance products. Myanma Insurance is the dominant player in Myanmar.

Aung Zaw Naing, Shwe Taung group chief executive and Grand Guardian vice-chairman, said: "Even though it is just a representative office, the arrival of Great Eastern, together with other foreign insurers, is a meaningful entry to the Myanmar market because we can grow together.

"The first thing we can learn from their experience... is to shape the life insurance sector of Myanmar into one with proper foundation."

He noted that out of Myanmar's population of 60 million people, only about 0.1 per cent have life insurance coverage.

"It's not about who reaches there first but how we can educate the population together, so I don't see the foreign insurers as competition, but as a strength to the Myanmar industry."

As for when the licence to operate will arrive, Wei said: "As an Asian company, we understand that we are here to support and help the Myanmar government and its financial regulator to determine what the best system is for them.

"As and when they feel the timing is right and they find a model that works for them, in terms of inviting foreign participation, then hopefully we will be first in line for them to consider us."


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