Hong Kong can do more to expand non-life insurance business, such as offering services across borders and help companies mitigate risks in Belt and Road countries, says Asia Insurance chief executive Winnie Wong Chi-shun.
"It's not healthy that non-life insurance premium accounts for only around 10% of the total insurance premium in Hong Kong. An international financial centre should be able to offer a wide range of life and non-life insurance products," said Ms Wong, who is also a member of the Financial Services Development Council.
General insurance, or non-life insurance, has recorded low single digit growth every year and even booked a loss of HK$792 million (US$101 million) in 2017 compared with a profit of HK$1.6 billion a year ago, according to a report in The Standard.
Having been in the industry for more than two decades, Ms Wong says it is the first time in her career that she has seen an underwriting loss in the local general insurance market.
Ms Wong says there are many Hongkongers living and working across the border in China, where insurers could offer products, although technical issues are yet to be overcome, including aligning the different legal systems.
She says insurers can also facilitate the business of firms in other markets. "I have heard at many 'One Belt, One Road' forums that people worry about various risks when investing in those countries, but they rarely talk about solutions."
Meanwhile, she urges the government to offer tax incentives and the right regulatory environment to attract insurers. A Bill on tax concessions for the insurance industry is to be passed in the Legislative Council.
In addition, she hopes to see multinational corporations setting up captive insurance firms that provide risk mitigation to the parent or related companies.
She says Hong Kong has only three captive companies set up by mainland major energy groups, while Singapore has 65.
Her comments were made in the wake of the insurance hub ambition stated by Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in his Budget address in February. Mr Chan said that he would ask the Insurance Authority to intensify efforts to develop Hong Kong as a competitive insurance hub in the region through tax and other regulatory arrangements.