Life insurers break records in Vietnam - but from a very, very low base


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Life insurance premiums in Vietnam are on track for yet another record year, but industry observers say the gains are coming from a very low base and that foreign insurers have yet to truly crack the market despite dominating the sector.
Premiums from life insurance plans are expected to rise 15 percent to a record 31.5 trillion dong ($1.45 billion) this year, or 3.3 times the value in 2007, finance ministry data shows. Still, the number of life insurance policies totalled just 5.96 million at the end of April - that's less than the population of the capital Hanoi. State television estimates 90 percent of the country's 90 million people do not have life insurance policies.
It will take a few more years before insurers make more substantial headway into the market. Most households still have low understanding and awareness of insurance policies, and despite a rising middle class, most can yet afford coverage, BMI Research said in a report last month.
Trinh Van Anh, 24, a manager at an international school in Hanoi, has no life insurance and hasn't thought of getting one, even though her monthly salary of about $1,000 is higher than most of her peers. "There's no one telling me to get one," she said. "No one knows what life insurance covers, what it gives the policy holder, or what the benefits are."
By 2019, at least one of the major players may achieve significant success in developing and distributing micro-insurance products among the lower-income population, according to BMI. Prudential, AIA, Manulife and Dai-ichi currently dominate the market. Baoviet Life, a unit of Baoviet Holdings, is the only domestic player, and the market's second-biggest player after Prudential.

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