New World Development-backed FTLife Poaches New CEO From AIA
(Bloomberg) -- FTLife Insurance Co., backed by Hong Kong property giant New World Development Co., has hired a new chief executive officer from rival AIA Group Ltd.
Joe Cheng, the former CEO of AIA Group’s agency distribution, joined FTLife this month and is waiting approval from the city’s Insurance Authority, a spokesperson said in an email. He replaces Fang Lin, who left the firm in June.
A spokesperson for the Insurance Authority said the regulator doesn’t comment on individual insurers subject to the secrecy provisions of the Insurance Ordinance. An AIA spokesperson declined to comment on an individual staff matter.
“Having a sales and distribution expert could help FTLife to ramp up its top line quickly,” said Steven Lam, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “But with upcoming changes in IFRS and the risk based capital regime, having someone who’s been more exposed to different areas of the insurance business would be ideal as well.”
New World acquired FTLife in 2018 in a HK$21.5 billion ($2.76 billion) deal from Jiuding Group. Hong Kong insurers have been badly hit in recent years as first massive protests and then the pandemic has kept visitors from mainland China away. In the first quarter this year, new policy premium derived from mainland Chinese visitors plunged to HK$100 million from HK$5.4 billion a year earlier, Hong Kong Insurance Authority data showed.
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Cheng joined AIA in 1988. As CEO of agency distribution, he oversaw a team topping the global league table at the Million Dollar Round Table for insurance sales with 5,135 members in 2021. FTLife ranked 59th globally, or 8th in Hong Kong, with 326 agents qualifying for the club of top insurance sales.
In the second half of 2020, FTLife contributed profit of HK$462.4 million, or 14%, to its parent, NWS Holdings Ltd., a unit of New World Group.
Fang said its local business annual premium equivalent was up 60% in the first quarter from a year earlier. The company planned to hire 1,000 more agents to tap pent up demand from mainland Chinese once borders re-open, he said.
“Being able to strengthen agency distribution should prepare well for a post pandemic rebound of mainland visitor business, as agency typically bring in sales of higher margin products,” Lam said.
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