Insurers and regulators must stand together to build resilience - MAS

The insurance industry across ASEAN has adapted well to the changes forced by the COVID-19 crisis, which disrupted economies and financial markets, said Monetary Authority of Singapore assistant managing director Marcus Lim, at the ASEAN Insurance Summit on Wednesday morning.

“When we last met in 2018, the focus of the summit was on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how digitalization and new technologies could impact the insurance sector,” he said, during his keynote address at the summit, organized by the ASEAN Insurance Council and the Singapore College of Insurance. “Nobody could have foreseen the speed at which we had to embrace digitalization since then.”

Beyond the disruption to financial markets, the pandemic also forced insurers to transform the way they worked and how they interacted with customers. Despite the turbulence of last year, the insurance market across Asia remained resilient, with Asia-ex-Japan registering a 2.9% growth in total gross written premiums in 2020.

“While this was slower than the robust 6.8% growth in 2019, it was still significantly stronger than the global experience, which saw a decline of 2.1%. Looking ahead, the Swiss Re Institute has forecasted a global premium growth of 3.3% in 2021, largely driven by China and emerging Asian economies,” Mr Lim said.

Creating resilience

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of resilience, reflected in this summit’s theme, as the world continues to wrestle with what the new normal looks like.

Mr Lim noted that unity with policyholders and regulators would serve the insurance industry well and allow them to create a more resilient future amidst such uncertainty.

He highlighted the various relief measures that were introduced in several jurisdictions to help customers maintain their insurance coverage in a time of financial crisis. Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore had insurers extending the grace period for policyholders to pay their premiums, while insurers in Brunei and Singapore automatically provided their customers with free COVID-19 coverage.

“Asian insurance regulators also played their part by adjusting regulatory requirements to enable insurers to better manage the disruptions,” he said. “Indonesia’s OJK, Bank Negara Malaysia and MAS were among the regulators that extended the deadlines for regulatory submissions. The Philippines Insurance Commission introduced temporary relaxation of capital requirements. The trust and goodwill built up between insurers and their customers during this period will serve both sides well.”