FWD Life books higher premium income in 2016

Posted on May 04, 2017

THE LOCAL unit of Hong Kong-based insurer FWD Life Insurance Corp. (FWD Life) booked double-digit growth in its total premiums last year on the back of robust sales and expansion, with the firm to continue increasing its presence nationwide this year.

FWD Life -- the first foreign life insurer to enter the local market in 10 years -- announced that its total premium income reached P3.04 billion at end-2016, soaring by 35% from the P2.26 billion recorded in 2015, causing the firm to place 12th among life insurers in terms of premium income last year.

“2016 was a great year for FWD. We were very pleased with our continued development. We saw strong sales growth and business momentum throughout the year,” FWD Life President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Grimes said in a press conference on Wednesday.

He added that the company was “bucking the trend a little bit,” noting the life insurance sector’s weak performance last year after the industry’s net premiums slid by 3.04% to P182.793 billion from the P188.531 billion recorded in 2015 amid a decline in the local equities market towards the end of 2016.

As a result of its premium growth, FWD Life was able to increase its overall market share to 1.7% last year from 1% in 2015, with its market share of variable unit-linked products rising to 2.3% at end-2016.

Its total assets likewise expanded by 67% to P6.34 billion from the P3.68 billion booked in 2015, putting the insurer at 16th place in terms of assets among life insurance companies.

The firm’s total investments also reached P5.09 billion last year, a 113% increase from the P2.39 billion booked in 2015.

“This probably reflects the trust and confidence customers have in our products,” FWD Life Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer Manish Kumar Jain said yesterday.

The firm announced yesterday that FWD Life now is the “highest-capitalized life insurer” in the country after its paid-up capital reached P2.3 billion at 2016’s close.

“We continue to have quite aggressive growth plans to take agency forward this year and beyond,” FWD Life Chief Distribution Officer John Johnson said yesterday.

The life insurer’s sales agents increased to 1,900 last year from 1,400. FWD Life has also expanded the number of its financial solutions consultants (FSC) in its bancassurance partnership with Security Bank Corp. (Security Bank) to more than 150 insurance advisors at end-2016 from 90, with FWD “looking to expand that even further this year.”

“Security Bank has about 300 branches. We had one adviser per two branches. In order to get better coverage and reach more customers, we need to grow that and we’re on track to achieve our objectives going forward,” Mr. Johnson said.

Security Bank received the central bank’s approval to sell insurance products of FWD Life in January 2015. Bancassurance refers to the selling of insurance products within bank branches. Under Republic Act No. 10607 or an “Act Strengthening the Insurance Industry,” also known as the amended Insurance Code, banks are no longer required to have a 5% equity in insurance companies to enter into a bancassurance deal.

Officials said yesterday that FWD Life plans to continue expanding its geographic footprint nationwide after it opened five new business hubs last year in Baguio, Davao and three branches in Metro Manila. It opened one new branch in Santiago, Isabela in the first quarter of this year.

“The most important thing for us is to have branches wherever there is a need for a branch... where our customers or potential customers are located and where we feel we need to be of service to them locally, then we will indeed open branches to satisfy that need,” Mr. Johnson noted. -- Janine Marie D. Soliman