First fully foreign-owned insurer kicks off operations

By Zhang Hongpei and Wang Bozun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/16 22:53:40

A general view of the Bund along the Huangpu river in Shanghai. File photo: VCG

Allianz (China), a subsidiary of German insurance company Allianz, started operations on Thursday, making it the first wholly foreign-owned insurance holding company in China, as the country strengthens efforts to further open up its financial sector. 

China has taken the initiative by rolling out measures to broaden access to its financial sector in recent years, which is in line with the country's long-term goal of reform and opening-up, analysts said.

Oliver Bäte, CEO of Allianz, said at the opening ceremony that starting operations in China had gained strong support from the national financial regulators and the Shanghai municipal government, according to the Shanghai government's official WeChat account.

"Shanghai is an exciting city, and Allianz will put more resources into Shanghai to better serve Chinese customers and other institutional investors," Bäte said.

Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong said at the ceremony that "Shanghai vows to make itself into an international financial center that matches China's economic strength, and it will conduct pilot programs of many financial opening-up and innovation policies…We welcome Allianz's further participation and will provide a better business environment."

According to media reports, Allianz has been doing business in China for nearly three decades, In November 2018, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission announced it had approved Munich-based Allianz SE's application to begin setting up Allianz (China) Insurance Holding Co. 

Allianz (China) was officially approved by Chinese regulators in November 2019 to start operations in the country.

Since China vowed to open up its financial sector, the country has gradually released measures and policies to provide easier access for foreign capital. 

The country has introduced 34 opening-up policies in the banking and insurance sectors in the past two years, including expanding foreign-invested firms' business scope and easing market access, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said in December.

According to the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), foreign ownership limits in fund management companies will be removed nationwide as of April 1 and foreign ownership limits in securities companies will be removed as of December this year.

"Moving forward, the CSRC will firmly implement the national opening-up policies and plans to facilitate overseas participation in the financial services sectors," the CSRC said on its website.

Despite China's efforts toward further opening-up, skepticism persists as to how China will open its different sectors. Doubts about whether China is only willing to open up sectors where it already has an advantage have never been absent.

But Xi Junyang, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Thursday that China has its own pace of opening-up, which must be based on the domestic situation.

"Compared with other segments in the financial services sector, insurance is on the path of opening-up at a faster pace due to having fewer challenges and risks." 

As its ability to head off risks and its competitiveness with foreign capital keep improving, China has forged relatively sufficient and steady industry conditions to embrace competition, Xi noted.

"China's determination to open up its financial sector is completely at its own pace instead of being forced under certain external pressure," Xi said.


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