April 18, 2017 11:51 pm JST

Swiss Re opening Asia headquarters in Singapore

Reinsurer aims to better tap the region's swelling insurance market

MAYUKO TANI, Nikkei staff writer

The logo of Swiss insurer Swiss Re is seen in front of its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

SINGAPORE -- Swiss Re, the Zurich-based reinsurance powerhouse, is opening an Asian regional headquarters in Singapore next year, the company said in a press release Tuesday. The region's growing wealth is creating a larger insurance market, increasing the need for reinsurance.

The company plans to restructure the group business in Asia to prepare for future expansion there.

Swiss Re will soon apply for a license to establish a legal entity in Singapore, a company spokesperson in Singapore said. The new entity, to be called Swiss Re Asia, will oversee the reinsurer's business in the region, which currently spans Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and India.

After the regional headquarters is established in 2018, Swiss Re will realign the regional office network by 2020 so that its clients and partners in Asia are served by Swiss Re Asia through the local branch network. Currently, the regional business is handled out of Zurich.

Jayne Plunkett, Swiss Re Chief Executive Officer Reinsurance Asia

"This move demonstrates our commitment to Asia as we become even closer to the market," Jayne Plunkett -- CEO of Swiss Re's reinsurance business for Asia -- said in the press release.

Plunkett will continue to head the regional operations as CEO of the new entity. The insurance penetration rate in some emerging Asian markets is still low, the company's spokesperson pointed out. Under the new structure, "local teams will be more empowered to deliver more tailored and relevant solutions" so they can work more effectively "to close the protection gap," the spokesperson added.

Asia now accounts for 30% of global insurance premiums, compared with 20% in 2007, according to Swiss Re. The company expects the region's nonlife insurance premiums to grow by 5% annually in the coming decades. For life insurance, the growth rate will be 6%, the company said in the press release.

India is the latest addition to the company's regional footprint. In January, Swiss Re received a license to operate a branch in Mumbai to offer nonlife and life reinsurance solutions directly to clients. "We will definitely continue to grow our reinsurance business in Asia," the spokesperson said, though she did not reveal any specific plans.

Industry rivals have been strengthening their Asian operations, using Singapore as the key base. Munich Re has a regional center in Singapore that serves Southeast Asian clients and supports reinsurance activities in India, Japan and South Korea. Lloyd's of London has regional operations in Singapore and recently expanded into Malaysia and India.

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