US INSURERS SEEK TO OPEN DOORS IN ASIA DELEGATION GOING TO CHINA TO PROMOTE STRONGER TIES

US INSURERS SEEK TO OPEN DOORS IN ASIA DELEGATION GOING TO CHINA TO PROMOTE STRONGER TIES

A delegation of U.S. insurance industry representatives is going to China this week to teach about the Western insurance business and promote stronger relations.

While the representatives would not comment on their business goals for the trip, the Chinese government recently has begun to liberalize its economic policies, opening up opportunities for joint ventures and multinational projects in the country.The state-run People's Insurance Co. of China traditionally insures domestic risks, but China's increasing liberalization is opening a number of business opportunities for foreign insurers.

The unfilled need appears to be for external insurance, said Linda H. Lamel, president of the New York-based College of Insurance.

A college spokeswoman said the delegation's participants include representatives from Johnson & Higgins, a New York-based insurance broker; Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., Continental Corp. and American International Group, New York-based insurers; and Willcox Inc., a New York-based reinsurance broker.

Only Metropolitan and Willcox could confirm their participation in the delegation.

If you look at insurance and pensions, they provide a base of security which the Chinese are very interested in because they are trying to encourage risk-taking and entrepreneurial activity, said Craig Hupper, manager, new project development, in Metropolitan's corporate international department.

The insurance industry is one aspect of the financial markets that China is trying to expand, said Mr. Hupper, who is going on the trip with two other Metropolitan executives.

Ms. Lamel said the college is interested in setting up educational and exchange programs with China.

We have some shared goals, she said. We want to establish lines of communication with the portion of the Chinese community that is involved with insurance or wants to be involved with insurance.

They want to get a better understanding of Western insurance, which is not part of their usual way of doing business, Ms. Lamel said. We want to establish a business/educational fulcrum.

The delgation will visit at least four Chinese cities. We're going as part of a lecture tour on insurance and financial services, Mr. Hupper said. It's entirely an academic and exploratory trip.

Mr. Hupper said his company's representatives will talk about insurance products, the role of insurance companies as financial institutions, actuarial information, pricing of private insurance, management and marketing on the trip.

This is a process of information exchange, he said.

Ms. Lamel said the college has hosted Chinese teachers and students in the past. They are hoping they could get some of our faculty to do a sabbatical over there and get their faculty to study at the college, she said.

They've also been exploring how they can develop an insurance and actuarial curriculum, she added.

In Shanghai, the delegation will meet with the Shanghai Maritime Institute to set up seminars for executives on ocean marine insurance, Ms. Lamel said.