Life industry transformation just beginning, says Ailo's Pain

Added 14th June 2016

As the Association of International Life Offices (Ailo) prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary, chairman Bob Pain talks about the trade body’s development, how it is embracing technology, and the headlines driving transparency.

Life industry transformation just beginning, says Ailo's Pain

Bob Pain, Ailo chairman

Pain, who is chairman of Investors Trust Assurance, has more than 30 years of experience in the life insurance industry, having also worked for the Target Group, Axa, and Friends Life.

His experience spans sales, business development, marketing, customer services, change management and business process outsourcing.

Bob, what is Ailo up to?

Since its launch Ailo has progressed from its beginnings in the Isle of Man to European jurisdictions, and more recently to other continents.

Although our core work is in Europe, we have had a working group in Hong Kong for the past 15 years, we launched one in Dubai this year and I am hoping I can set one up in Singapore when I go there in June.

There is an appetite for having people on the ground in these jurisdictions, to network, discuss good practice and to help mould regulation.

"Transparency in our industry is coming very fast.. I can foresee further movement on this matter in the years to come."

A new idea for Ailo is affiliate membership, which will allow it to work alongside other associations that are lobbying their regulators and legislators.

Ailo can support affiliate members as it has experience of regulation in a mature region, such as Europe, which has already implemented many of the regulations that emerging markets now face.

How do you view recent changes by life companies?

A number of larger, more established, composite companies have been reviewing their strategies and considering how much risk and reward is coming from each unit of their business.

Some offices have decided that the reputational risk of some markets are too great and so have either withdrawn from the sector or closed to new business.

The dynamics of life insurance mean there are usually higher costs in the acquisition phase – as a result of high upfront commissions and administration charges – than in the maintenance phase. Closed books can be run very profitably.

We are also seeing many new companies entering the international insurance market where more established companies have withdrawn. This ensures the independent financial advisers still have a choice of products for their clients.

What are the risks insurance companies are considering?

Risk is fundamental to any business, small or large. The risks are also numerous. For the international life companies, the larger risks would be reputational, regulatory and legal, financial, market and operational.

Where do you think we are in this process of structural change? 

We have just started as we are overstocked with insurers, particularly in the developed markets, and there are more and more consolidator companies emerging. These companies prefer critical mass, so will keep adding companies until this is reached.

Another area that is topical is the role of offshore financial centres and the question of greater transparency in their operations.

Transparency in our industry is coming very fast and with initiatives such as the common reporting standard and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and the reaction of people globally to the Panama Papers, I can foresee further movement on this matter in the years to come.

What about the role of the offshore financial centres?

There is much misunderstanding about their role, hence the sensational coverage in the media. The international life insurance industry does not, for example, hold assets in shell companies. It is a mainstream industry with many legal benefits for policyholders.

One reason life companies set up subsidiaries in international offshore centres was because of the tax position, not only for the potential policyholder but for the life company itself. Their tax treatment is often lower than it would be in their home countries.

Many islands have become reliant on the financial services industry, which has attracted many talented workers who have brought prosperity where previously none may have existed. Also, the quality of product offered by offshore centres has brought competition in the countries where they are sold, often improving onshore products.

Inside the International Adviser - June 2016 Issue

International Adviser - June 2016

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  • Why Hermes’ Harriet Steel is passionate about TERs
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About Author

Richard Hubbard

Group Editor

Richard Hubbard is the group editor at Last Word. He is responsible for the editorial content of International Adviser, Portfolio Adviser, Expert Investor and Fund Selector Asia. Richard previously worked for Thomson Reuters and has covered the financial services industry and investment themes from its offices in London, Singapore, Hong Kong and New York. Richard started his career at the Australian Financial Review in Sydney.


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