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    Sep 02, 2014

    China's insurers get wacky to woo clients


    DID your child throw a tantrum and smash something? Take out "naughty child insurance". Or buy cover against your bride becoming pregnant before the honeymoon, burning your tongue eating steamboat or if smog ruins your holiday.

    Quirky, maybe, but China's insurers are turning to ever more creative ways to drum up business in a market where growth has stalled and penetration rates of around 3 per cent, half the global average, are little changed from a decade ago.

    Premiums in China are less than US$278 billion (S$347 billion) a year, way below the US$1.3 trillion paid in the United States and below even Britain's US$330 billion, according to Munich Re and Swiss Re data.

    "It's consumer acquisition, a way to engage new customers," said Joseph Ngai, who heads the Greater China financial institutions practice at McKinsey in Hong Kong. "It's primarily marketing."

    While most of these policies are short-term promotions, they offer insight into daily concerns in the world's most-populous nation - such as marriage and children.

    Ping An Insurance Group Co of China, the world's second-biggest life insurer by market value, has offered an "Accidental Pregnancy Before Honeymoon" policy to cover the cost of cancelling a honeymoon.

    It also offered a payout just to wives in the case of divorce, and another policy that pays out if a couple stayed together, local and state media have reported.

    In an e-mailed response to Reuters, Ping An Property & Casualty said it seeks to "solve or alleviate real life problems". While it still sells "innovative" products, it said it is no longer offering pregnancy, marriage and singles insurance.

    Many insurers have latched on to this wave of creative policy marketing.

    For young children, there is now insurance for recalled infant milk formula, and for little ones who get out of hand, People's Insurance Group of China Co (PICC) offers a policy against "mischievous and destructive" habits. The policy, which has a tagline: "Why not let us pay for the child's fault?", costs 44 yuan (S$9) and provides cover up to 100,000 yuan for 12 months.

    Other attention-grabbing tactics cover Chinese cultural norms. Ancheng has a policy covering any medical costs resulting from burns while eating steamboat.

    Other Ping An and PICC policies - which were quickly shut down by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission - gave payouts if city smog levels topped a certain level for a specified period, if customers were hospitalised due to smog, or if tourists spent at least two days in a smoggy city.

    Foreign insurers, too, have tried their luck.

    During last year's Mid-Autumn Festival, Germany's Allianz teamed up with Alibaba's Taobao insurance to guarantee sightings of the full moon, paying out between 50 and 188 yuan - and in some cases, a pack of mooncakes - if bad weather obscured the view.