Zurich Insurance Malaysia aims to be ‘outstanding’

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Five years after setting its footprint in Malaysia, Zurich Insurance Malaysia Bhd says being innovative and agile are key factors for growth in the competitive insurance industry.

Industry players should be accessible, approachable and adaptable, while trying to walk away from traditional concepts, said its chief executive officer Philip Smith.

“The insurance industry does not have a reputation for being the sexiest and glamorous.

“Hence, we got to make ourselves outstanding in ways that we do our business,” added Smith, who has 22 years experience in the industry.

He pointed out that the focus for Zurich Malaysia this year will be “tweaking products based on consumers’ concerns, which includes protection against escalating medical concerns and making investments in a subdued market.

“Given the changes in regulations, we are able to price our products differently, spread our distribution channels and online capabilities in many ways,” explained Smith, adding that Zurich Malaysia is currently in discussions with a lifestyle consumer portal website that deals with clothings, among other products. But, he declined to elaborate further.

After acquiring Malaysia Assurance Alliance Bhd’s Takaful operations in 2014, Smith said: “Standing out in the business is the focal point since Zurich had set its presence in a market that’s long been dominated by bigger players here.”

The strategic rationale for MAA Takaful’s acquisition in 2016 was clear since Takaful is a syariah-compliant product and caters for the broader population segment.

“It’s a solid acquisition in its own right, but also act as a development centre from which Zurich can learn and ultimately export skills, capabilities and knowledge in this field to other parts of the world,” he added.

With the regulatory changes, Smith said that the insurance industry landscape is poised to change over the next decade that will have a direct and profound impact on the experience that consumers and businesses have with insurance.

For the financial year 2016, Zurich achieved RM1.45bil in topline, of which life insurance business contributed RM800mil and the remaining from general insurance segment.

Despite the weakening ringgit, the company launched more foreign funds in 2016.

“Our suites of foreign funds provide customers easy access to emerging and developed markets around the globe with different economic cycles that have potential for capital appreciation in the long run.

“Given today’s economic climate, our latest foreign funds are excellent investment vehicles for customers to safeguard their investments against currency devaluation and market depreciation,” explained Smith.

ZIMB launched its first three foreign funds, Zurich India Edge Fund, Zurich China Egde Fund and Zurich Global Edge Fund in 2015 that performed well and has a total fund size of RM85.2mil as of July 2016.

Its latest offerings include Zurich US Edge Fund, Zurich Europe Edge Fund and Zurich Health Care Fund, which invests in the Unites States and Europe.

Meanwhile, Smith thinks that the agency business will likely see rapid changes once the various regulatory measures come into place.

“Those who do not have long-term commitment in the industry will be squeezed out, as regulatory changes will make it touch for part-time insurance agents to survive.

“Those who survive will become professionals and eventually start to form their own companies,” he said, adding that Zurich would be engaging with them on a business to business level.

As for branding, Zurich is a simple and clear brand associated with financial strength and prudent management.

“Our acquisitions here in Malaysia are a testament that it is an important market for Zurich,” Smith concluded.