Aviva, the UK-based insurance giant, today became the latest multi-national insurer to unveil a Singapore advisory business, with the announcement of the launch of a 280-adviser-strong operation.
Aviva said the advisers were licensed “to advise on a full range of life, health, general insurance and investment products”.
In a statement, Aviva Singapore chief executive Nishit Majmudar, pictured, said the company hoped the launch of Aviva Financial Advisers would “provide the catalyst for the shift of Singapore’s insurance industry towards more mature markets, such as the UK and Australia, where most financial advisers offer solutions from multiple product providers”, as the company believed that customers “benefit from greater options to meet their needs”.
The financial advisory channel in Singapore has grown significantly over the past decade, Aviva noted. At the end of last year it had a market share of 20%, while the tied agency channel has declined steadily, to 39% in 2015 from 68% in 2006. As in such other markets as the UK, the growth of the advisory market has been accompanied by an increasingly regulated environment.
In today’s statement, Aviva made no mention of another large advisory business it already owns in Singapore – Professional Investment Advisory Services Pte Ltd, or PIAS, launched in 2001. According to the PIAS website, it currently manages “close to S$800m (US$590m)” in assets under advice, and employs “more than 500 advisers and staff”.
Aviva is also the parent of a well-established Singapore life company business, Friends Provident International. Aviva acquired FPI in 2015.
In targeting Singapore’s advisory market, Aviva joins such insurance industry rivals as Old Mutual Wealth, which acquired the 30-adviser-strong AAM Advisory firm earlier this year, and Manulife, the Canadian financial services group, which last year launched Manulife Financial Advisers. Last July, The Business Times, a Singapore business news publication, reported that three months into its birth, the Manulife business had “upset potential partners, including Zurich Life Insurance (Singapore), Axa Singapore and AIA Singapore”, by poaching so many of their staff.
The hardest hit was Zurich Life, which “had invested heavily in growing its advisory channel the past two years and now has a team of 180 agents”, The Business Times article went on to note.
A few months later, Zurich’s Singapore tied agency business was taken over by the Dubai-based Nexus Group, which has said it viewed Singapore as the region’s financial hub, although it has plans to open other Asian outposts as well.
As reported here today, Singapore is so popular among neighbouring Indonesia’s wealthiest citizens that it has had to make clear that it wouldn’t attempt to “thwart” that country’s tax amnesty scheme, which began last week, even though it could mean significant outflows from its financial institutions.
In its statement today, Aviva acknowledged that it was entering a market in which customers have become “increasingly savvy”, and who now expect “more options and accessibility to financial planning advice and solutions that cater to their unique needs and preferences”.
Such savvy consumers, Aviva noted, are taking advantage of such developments as the so-called compareFIRST web aggregator, which was introduced into the Singapore advisory market last year. CompareFIRST is a joint effort by the Consumers Association of Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Life Insurance Association of Singapore and MoneySENSE, which emerged out of a package of initiatives known as the Financial Advisory Industry Review (FAIR), aimed at boosting advice standards and value.
“The launch of Aviva Financial Advisers is aligned with [the FAIR] initiative – in addition to a comprehensive suite of Aviva solutions across life insurance, health insurance, general insurance and investments, [the company’s advisers] will also provide customers more choices, with access to an extensive range of products from other trusted providers as well”, Aviva said.
Majmudar added that the launch of Aviva Financial Advisers signaled the company’s “strong conviction that the financial advisory channel will dominate the future of insurance”.
In Singapore, Aviva is currently said to be one of the city-state’s largest providers of employee benefits and healthcare, with its client base including Singapore’s armed forces an, as of this year, employees of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Its Navigator investment platform is also said to be popular among Singaporeans.