Asia-Pacific: how to pick the top insurance growth markets
SiriusPoint’s Heerasing on growth strategy and the importance of Asia
Investing in the Asia-Pacific insurance markets can yield substantial rewards, but how can you best capitalise on growth opportunities once you’ve carefully selected them?
Identifying the best insurance growth opportunities in the extensive and fast-moving Asia-Pacific region is just the first hurdle to realising its huge market potential.
Once the markets and lines are selected, another challenge looms into view: how do you decide on the best strategy to make the most of these prospects—and ultimately secure a cracking return on investment?
Three senior leaders from insurance industry businesses that are expanding in Asia-Pacific discussed how they capitalise on regional growth in an Intelligent Insurer panel debate.
The panellists included Christian Stobbs (pictured right), managing director–Asia, Markel International Singapore; Lucien Mounier (pictured left), head of Asia-Pacific, Beazley; and Lee Ellis (pictured center), chief strategy officer, Ramon International Insurance Brokers.
“Making sure that we are an incubator for our own talent, and more broadly for the industry, is extremely important.” Lucien Mounier, Beazley
For Mounier, maximising growth investment in Asia-Pacific comes down to two things: diversifying the product suite, and hiring great talent to lead these new products. Beazley’s Asia-Pacific business has “dramatically” diversified its product suite over the past few years and, at the same time, has hired great senior talent who understand the region and have access to it or to markets in it, he explained.
Beneath this senior management level, the insurer has “built depth” in its teams, he added.
“One of the things we did to that effect in 2021 was to create a graduate programme just for Singapore where we’re focusing on hiring a few people every year to bolster our teams.
“We run them through a curriculum, and bring them up through our underwriting teams that need the most support. Focusing on talent at both ends and making sure that we are an incubator for our own talent, and more broadly for the industry, is extremely important.”
Leverage local intel
Stobbs is also an advocate for hiring and developing talent within and for the region. In 2019, he took the reins of Markel’s Asia-Pacific business, which employed 25 people at that point. By the end of 2023 Markel will employ 75 people in the region, he told Intelligent Insurer.
“We’ve tripled the size of the team over a four-year period. There is our investment, tangibly illustrated, in terms of the quality and capability of people we have on the ground.”
Stobbs wants to see these hires grow and develop within the organisation, adding that one indicator of success will be “when one of them takes my job”.
This ambition is supported by the launch of its Asia-Pacific graduate scheme this year, as well as a two-way secondment programme between Markel’s Asia-Pacific and London offices to support talent development.
Stobbs said that growing and developing in-country presence and expertise can help tackle a problem felt across the global insurance industry.
“Our industry is hopelessly inefficient and it's embarrassing that it costs us about 40 cents in the dollar to process and administer a policy. As a whole industry we need to work on this. It’s not an Asia problem, it's not a London problem—it’s a universal phenomenon in insurance.”
He said that Markel’s view is that the company wants to bring its capital as close to the customer as it can. “If we do that, we will be more efficient. From a broker or cedant perspective, they will get quicker decisions if they are able to speak to a decision-maker on the day and in the time zone.”
Avoid overtraded markets
Broker Ramon has gone from being a small, almost in-house, broker to its parent company to becoming an international brand. Ellis said that “everything is pretty greenfield” for the business at the moment but, he acknowledges, the business cannot be everywhere.
“In Asia, we went through an enormous process of looking at where we felt we could go in and get immediate returns and put something into a market that isn’t heavily overtraded, or as overtraded as certain other markets within the region,” he said.
The market Ramon chose was Korea rather than Singapore. Part of the reason for this is that while Singapore is the regional hub, the cost of doing business there is very high, Ellis explained.
“For broking organisations that sit in that smaller to mid-market segment, there is an enormous cost of doing business, the acquisition of skills is very expensive, office space, etc. It is undoubtedly a market which we will see ourselves in, in the mid-term future, but at this point we don’t see that there is an ability or a necessity for us to be in Singapore.”
The broker is currently selecting partner brokers to work with in Singapore to access that market. But Ellis added: “Korea is the first of, I hope, many investments that we make into the region.”
For more on how to maximise insurance growth, the best business structures, and the panel’s future growth plans watch the full discussion video above.
You can also read the sister article to this one titled: Asia-Pacific: how to pick the top insurance growth markets
Asia Pacific, Insurance, Reinsurance, Christian Stobbs, Lucien Mounier, Lee Ellis, Markel Singapore, Beazley, Ramon International