Bancassurance inspections imminent

March 19, 2024 | 10:05
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The Ministry of Finance is going to conduct inspections on six insurers, with a focus on those involved in bancassurance.

A report has been submitted by the ministry (MoF) for the Q&A session of the National Assembly Standing Committee, scheduled for March 18. The report highlights issues in the management of the insurance business sector, particularly in life insurance and concerning the quality of advisory services, customer care, and claims settlement.

Bancassurance inspections imminent
Bancassurance inspections imminent, source:CafeF

“The emergence of new distribution channels, such as bancassurance, alongside traditional agent channels, has added complexity to the market. While these channels diversify insurance operations, they also require careful reconsideration and rectification,” the report said.

In past years, the MoF has taken proactive steps to improve the implementation of insurance products, focusing on the bancassurance channel. Measures include enhancing regulations, standardising contracts, and increasing transparency. State agencies are also ramping up inspections to prevent forced insurance purchases and ensure accurate advice.

The report revealed that in 2022 and 2023, the MoF conducted inspections and examinations on 10 out of 17 life insurance enterprises selling insurance through credit institutions and foreign bank branches.

During these inspections, violations were uncovered in the bancassurance channel, including breaches in regulatory processes and compliance with product fee schedules, as well as instances of insurance agents failing to adhere to company and legal regulations.

As a result, a financial settlement totalling approximately $913 million was proposed, including deductible expenses excluded from corporate income tax calculations for 2021 and 2022, amounting to over $85 million.

Minister of Finance Ho Duc Phoc emphasised that Vietnam’s insurance market will prioritise the development of quality and aim to “harmonise benefits and share risks”.

“Achieving quality and sustainable development requires a gradual process, not an immediate change,” he said. “This will require coordinated efforts from regulatory agencies, along with active involvement from insurance businesses, the Vietnam Insurance Association, and policyholders in implementing tangible actions.”

In 2024, the ministry plans to conduct inspections on six insurance businesses, with a specific focus on the implementation of related sales through credit institutions and foreign bank branches by Mirae Asset Prevoir and Cathay Life Vietnam.

Bancassurance has encountered significant challenges in the market over the past year. In November, the State Bank of Vietnam issued Circular No.67/2023/TT-NHNN to address these issues and promote sustainable development of the distribution channel.

The circular not only highlights the prohibition of bundling life insurance products with credit products but also outlines specific requirements regarding banking infrastructure and human resources necessary for banks to prepare when distributing life insurance products.

In January, amendments were approved to the Law on Credit Institutions, effective from July, with some provisions taking effect from 2025. The law now prohibits the practice of “tying the sale of optional insurance products to the provision of banking products and services”.

According to Can Van Luc, BIDV’s chief economist, this amendment aligns with regulations outlined in Circular 67, aiming to safeguard the rights and interests of consumers in response to recent customer complaints.

“This new regulation will directly impact bancassurance activities, a significant non-interest revenue source for credit institutions. Consequently, it is expected that credit institutions may experience a reduction in revenue from this segment in the short term, particularly concerning optional insurance products,” he said.

From a revenue perspective, despite the flourishing years of 2020-2022, the majority of commercial banks experienced a decline in bancassurance revenue in 2023, although not all banks publicly disclosed this figure.

Notable decreases were reported by SeABank, Techcombank, and TPBank, with income from bancassurance decreasing by 73, 62, and 57 per cent, respectively, in 2023. VIB and MBB also reported declines of 33 and 19 per cent in income from this segment, respectively.

“The most unreasonable thing about implementing bancassurance in Vietnam is that the bank hasn’t prepared an appropriate infrastructure. Unlike other traditional banking products, insurance products need a consultation to thoroughly assess their suitability to customers,” said Le Hoai An, a banking consultant and trainer at Integrated Financial Solutions.

“An insurance product consultant at the bank must be trained and positioned as a product consultant and aimed at exploiting customer financial needs rather than exploiting the existing customer base for sale enhancement,” he said.

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By Linh Dan

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