Authors: Eitra Myo & May Myat Thu
As part of Myanmar’s efforts to liberalise its economy, the Insurance Business Regulatory Board (“IBRB”) will allow foreign insurance companies to set up business operations in the country in the new 2018-19 fiscal year (i.e. October 2018 – September 2019). The aim of this move serves to boost the growth of investments and technology adoption by the local insurance sector. IBRB reports to the Financial Regulatory Department of the Ministry of Planning and Finance, and it serves as the regulator to ensure that Myanmar’s insurance industry complies with the Insurance Business Law (1996) and Insurance Business Rules (1997). According to informational sources, 100% foreign investment will be allowed for life insurance companies and a joint venture is required for the incorporation of businesses which provide other types of general insurance. However, the regulatory landscape in this regard is still developing, as the Ministry of Planning and Finance is expected to release further regulatory directives.
Initial Stages of Market Reform
In the past, the insurance industry of Myanmar had been monopolised by the state-owned enterprise known as “Myanma Insurance”. Starting from 2013, however, the government has opened up the insurance market to the private sector by granting operating licenses to local insurers and allowing foreign insurers to set up representative offices in the country. As of the date of this article, there are eleven (11) local insurance companies and twenty-eight (28) representative offices by foreign insurance companies, which include three (3) Japanese insurance firms that are located in the Special Economic Zone at Thilawa (“SEZ”).[i]
Private Insurers and their Grants
Currently, local insurers can be licensed to provide fourteen (14) types of insurance products, which comprises four (4) life insurance and ten (10) general insurance products.[ii] Among these products, travel insurance, vehicle insurance, fire insurance and life insurance are the best sellers in the market.
As for foreign insurance companies, their representative offices are allowed as liaison offices only with the sole purpose of conducting market research and to support the international clients of such companies who are present in Myanmar.
In 2014, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc., Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. Limited, and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group Holdings Inc., were awarded licences in the form of a provisional permit to provide insurance services (e.g. property insurance, fire insurance, motor insurance, marine cargo insurance, contractor’s all-risk insurance and cash transfer insurance) to businesses located in the SEZ. However, their licences confine their business activities to the area within the SEZ.
Future Market Opportunities
In summary, the insurance market of Myanmar is an untapped market with low penetration rates. Insurance companies still need to spread greater awareness of their insurance products and policies to the general public in Myanmar. Greater awareness can be achieved especially if, in the words of Daw Sandar Oo, the Managing Director of Myanma Insurance, state-owned insurance providers “welcome foreign insurance firms”. Further, according to Daw Sandar Oo, the local insurance market needs investments and a greater adoption of advanced technology in order to grow. If foreign firms are allowed to expand their presence and footprint in Myanmar’s insurance market, local insurance providers can cooperate with these foreign firms to develop and advance Myanmar’s insurance market. [iii]
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[i] http://184.108.40.206/frd.gov.mm/?q=en/content/insurance , FRD Insurance, Para 2
[ii] http://220.127.116.11/frd.gov.mm/?q=en/content/insurance , FRD Insurance, Para 4
Vanessa Ng, COO
+65 6535 8100
Eitra Myo, Legal Manager
May Myat Thu, Corporate Affairs Executive
Written by: Eitra Myo & May Myat Thu