Thanks to market reforms, financiers and insurers can show off their latest products

Tracy Li
Chinese banks and insurers as well as their foreign counterparts are upbeat about China's latest round of opening-up and reform and they are seizing business opportunities here.  
Tracy Li

Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced that the country will expand the access of foreign players in the market and further open up the financial sector, especially in insurance.

He made the pledge at this year’s Boao Forum for Asia.

In response to his call, the Shanghai Financial Services Office rolled out new measures on financial reform and market opening in May. Among other things, it approved an application from ICBC-AXA Life Co to establish an asset-management company and supported Shanghai-based Bright Food Group in its bid to set up a consumer finance company with a French bank.

Foreign insurance brokers are set to expand their business in China.

Willis Insurance Brokers Co, a subsidiary of London-based Willis Towers Watson Group, was the first to get the nod from the Shanghai bureau of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission to enlarge its business scope.

The firm’s business was previously confined to large-scale enterprises, but now it is allowed to serve companies of all sizes, as well as individuals.

Xu Huizhi, Willis Insurance chief executive officer, said he believes China’s newest policies offer plenty of room for foreign companies to bring more global expertise to the world’s second-largest economy.

In developed markets, more than 90 percent of companies use insurance brokers, Xu said, but in China the rate is only 20-30 percent.

To better capture the opportunities in this round of financial reforms, JLT Insurance Brokers Co (JLT China) has moved its headquarters from Guangzhou to Shanghai.

“It makes sense for us because Shanghai is building itself into an international financial hub, and we will be closer to our partners here,” said JLT China Chief Executive Rong Honggang.

Rong said JLT will target the rising number of affluent Chinese with tailor-made products.

As the world’s second-largest importer, China expects to import goods valued at US$24 trillion in the next 15 years.

The China International Import Expo in early November, a major initiative of President Xi, is expected to attract 150,000 participants from 130 countries.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country’s largest commercial lender, said that it will launch a cost-saving payment solution called ICBC Quick Remittance for the expo and customers.

The Beijing-based lender will tap its strong global clearing network to offer its customers same-day, cross-border payments through multiple channels such as the counter and Internet banking platform, Cao Qi, vice president of the bank’s Shanghai branch, said at a recent event hosted by the Shanghai Banking Association.

  Bank of China, one of China’s Big Four state-owned banks, said that it will provide a comprehensive service pack that includes payments, foreign exchange, guarantees and financing for exhibitors and buyers during the six-day expo.

The lender has developed a tailor-made transaction system called GMS specifically for the event. It will facilitate cross-border, deal-making platform for exhibitors and buyers.

Yu Weichi, vice president of the bank’s Shanghai branch, predicts that there will be sharp rise in the need for foreign exchange during the trade expo, and the bank will offer forex services in as many as 33 currencies.

Yu added that they will also provide fast and convenient onsite payment service by allowing people to scan a quick response code and offer on-the-spot translation services to better meet clients’ needs.

The Bank of Communications said it will provide participants special financial services including policy consultation, one-stop account services and convenient foreign-currency exchange.

Xu Bin, president of the lender’s Shanghai branch, said preferential treatment will be provide to customers in areas such as opening new accounts and cross-border settlement service fees.

Foreign banks are also gearing up their presence and services for expo.

Citibank (China) said it will offer supply chain finance services for exhibitors by leveraging its advantages in global trade and its experience in providing innovative business in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

MUFG Bank (China) Ltd, a member of Japan’s largest multinational commercial bank, said it will use its advisory expertise and experience in payment solutions and cash management to provide strong support during the event.

Insurance companies have also created diversified service solutions for the upcoming expo.

China Life, the largest life insurer in China, said it will offer free personal accident insurance for all exhibitors, spectators, media personnel and volunteers during expo under a plan valued at 150 billion yuan(US$21.5 billion).

China Pacific Property Insurance Co, a subsidiary of insurance giant China Pacific Insurance (Group) Co, said that it will offer a set of risk management solutions worth of 35 billion yuan for the gathering, based on its experience in property and casualty insurance, especially in serving large-scale exhibitions.

The Shanghai-based underwriter has set aside a special fund of 100 million yuan for insurance claims settlement and a special hotline which will provide 24 hours bilingual services during the expo.

To help guests better cope with new types of risks, it has rolled out policies to cover areas such as intellectual property right infringement, Internet security and customs tariff guarantees.

What’s more, participants at the exhibition can buy insurance policies on the official expo website or through a dedicated application developed for the event by the insurance company.

“Personnel security is our top priority,” said Shao Feihao, a risk management specialist from the insurer’s Shanghai office and also a member of the special team serving the trade fair.

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