Strong demand for coverage

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PETALING JAYA: The life insurance sector’s new business premiums are anticipated to grow by at least a single digit and up to 10% this year, notwithstanding the uneven economic recovery.

Last year, new business premiums grew slightly higher by 12%. New business premium is the premium acquired from new policies for a particular year.

RAM Rating Services Bhd co-head of financial institution ratings Sophia Lee told StarBiz that new business growth in the life sector may come in at 10% this year compared with 12% last year.

She attributed this to healthy demand for insurance coverage and greater awareness of protection gaps, particularly in the aftermath of a health crisis.

The nation’s favourable demographics and keen interest in medical coverage amid high healthcare cost inflation are still key structural growth factors in the long run.

RAM Ratings co-head of financial institution ratings Sophia Lee

Lee said, “We expect investment-linked plans (ILPs) to retain their popularity among life insurers, mostly due to insurers’ preference for marketing such products, given their capital efficiency as well as individuals looking for alternative investments amid the low interest rate environment.

“Despite our expectation of new business growth, the profitability of life players in 2022 will stay pressured by volatilities in the financial markets, given the uncertainties on the external front, including the Russia-Ukraine war and expected interest rate hikes in advanced economies that could affect their investment portfolios.”

However, she expects the sector’s capitalisation to remain adequate this year. Last year, the capital adequacy ratio (CAR) stood at 212% as at end-December 2021.

Overall new business generation of the life and family takaful sector rebounded strongly to 12% and 29% respectively in 2021. In 2020, life insurance new business premiums contracted by 3%, while family takaful saw a 7% growth.

As the sector rides the recovery wave, new business growth for life and family takaful players could come in at a respective 10% and 20% this year, Lee added.

On the whole, RAM has maintained a stable outlook on the life and general insurance sectors. It expects both sectors to remain resilient despite anticipated volatilities on the investment front and the normalisation of claims experience as the country transitions to endemicity.

Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (Liam) president Loh Guat Lan said she is positive on the performance of the life insurance sector this year.

She attributed this to, among others, the reopening of the economic sectors and the government’s proactive measures in providing social protection to the B40 segment through the Perlindungan Tenang Voucher (PTV) programme.

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