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Insurance in Vietnam: Industry Overview 2024

Vietnam’s insurance industry has grown rapidly in recent years. As incomes have risen and Vietnam’s middle class has begun to accumulate valuable assets, the need for insurance has become readily apparent. This culminated in 2022, with reported gross written premiums in excess of US$10.2 billion up from US$9 billion in 2021. 

This rapid rise of insurance products in Vietnam, is also partially attributable to several types of insurance being compulsory by law. This includes for motor vehicle owners and businesses in the construction sector.

As a result, insurance has become a very popular sector for foreign investment. In 2022 there were at least 15 branches of foreign insurance firms operating in Vietnam, according to the Annual Report of Vietnam Insurance Market 2022

Indeed, Vietnam’s insurance industry is moving in leaps and bounds, constantly evolving as new players and products enter the market. But in order to understand the intricacies of this market and the opportunities therein, a broad understanding of insurance in Vietnam is fundamental.

In this light, this article covers the broad strokes of the insurance industry in Vietnam including key regulations, private insurance products, the key industry players, and the recent bancassurance controversy.

The Vietnam Insurance Association

The Vietnam Insurance Association (VIA) is the peak insurance industry body in Vietnam. In operation since 1999, the VIA has been at the centre of the development of the insurance industry in Vietnam. Among its key functions, the organisation lists arranging training courses and seminars and making representations to the government on behalf of insurance companies.

There were about 76 members of the organisation as of August 2023. Among them were big name international insurance brands like QBE, Prudential, and Generali.

Regulations

There are a number of Decrees, Circulars, Laws, and Decisions that govern insurance in Vietnam. This section covers those elements most important for foreign insurance firms, though there are quite a few more.

Law on Insurance Businesses

At the heart of Vietnam’s insurance industry is the Law on Insurance Businesses. This dictates the regulatory framework within which insurance business must operate. The latest iteration of this law was approved in June of 2022 with a number of circulars, decrees, and decisions guiding its implementation.

Foreign ownership limits, requirements

Foreign investors can own up to 100 percent of the charter capital in an insurance business per Article 68 of the Law on Insurance Businesses.

There are, however, a number of additional requirements for foreign insurance companies looking to contribute capital to an insurance firm in Vietnam. These include:

  • Proof of no criminal proceedings against the company in the last three years;
  • It must have experience providing the insurance services it intends to provide in Vietnam with the last seven years; and
  • It must have had total assets of at least US$2 billion in the year preceding its application.

See also: Vietnam’s Foreign Ownership Limits: Quick Guide 2023

Charter capital

On July 1, 2023 the Government of Vietnam issued Decree 46/2023/ND-CP revising minimum charter capital requirements for insurance firms in Vietnam. These are:

  • Life and health insurance businesses: VND 750 billion (US$31 million).
  • Unit-linked insurance or retirement insurance businesses: VND 1 trillion (US$41.2 million).
  • Unit-linked insurance or retirement insurance businesses: VND 1.3 trillion (US$53.6 million).

Note that the second and third points above appear identical in the decree. Insurance firms should plan for a minimum capital contribution of US$41.2 million, the higher of the two, though could reasonably expect to only need US$53.6 million.

Compulsory insurance

Decree 7/2023/ND-CP outlines insurance that is compulsory in Vietnam. This includes third party insurance for cars, motorcycles, and mopeds, as well as for construction businesses including professional liability insurance, third-party insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance.

Private insurance products in Vietnam

Note that there are a number of insurance products in Vietnam administered by the state. These include unemployment insurance, social insurance, and health insurance. This article, however, focuses on private insurance products.

Auto insurance

Car and motorbike insurance in Vietnam is compulsory, however, whereas most cars have insurance, most motorcycles and mopeds do not. Of note, when there is an accident on the road it is generally settled off-book by the parties involved–scratches and minor fender-benders that do not involve injury are generally part and parcel with travelling on Vietnam’s often chaotic streets and more often than not go unreported.

Health insurance

Basic health insurance is provided by the Vietnamese state and paid for by employees out of their paychecks. The private healthcare sector, however, tends to be much more advanced and equipped than the public healthcare system and this has seen private health insurance become increasingly popular. Many employers include private health cover in their benefits package for their employees.

Life insurance

Life insurance has experienced a boom period in recent years. Gross written life insurance premiums in 2022 were just over US$7.3 billion. This was up from US$6.55 billion in 2021. This is partly due to a growing interest in life insurance products as the cost of living increases and Vietnamese consumers look to safeguard the financial safety of their families. That said, it may also be partly due to alleged aggressive sales techniques (see ‘controversy’ section below).

Key insurance companies in Vietnam

Vietnam’s insurance market is generally divided into two markets: life insurance and non-life insurance. The non-life insurance market is the smaller of the two accounting for just US$2.86 billion in gross written premiums (GWM) in 2022. Conversely, the life insurance market in 2022 brought in US$7.35 billion in GWM, according to The Annual Report of Vietnam Insurance Market 2022

In this light, all three top-performing insurance firms in Vietnam were concentrated in the life insurance market. These were:

Bao Viet

The top performer in the insurance market in Vietnam in 2022, across the board, was Bao Viet. Bao Viet earned US$1.35 billion in GWP in the life insurance sector alone. In the non-life insurance sector, it also had US$402 million in GWP. Bao Viet is one of Vietnam’s longest-running insurance firms. It first started operating in 1965. 

As of the end of 2022, domestic investors owned 72.7 percent of Bao Vietnam. This was mostly split between the State Capital Investment and Trading Corporation (SCIC) and the Ministry of Finance. Foreign investors controlled the remaining 27.3 percent. There is currently a 49 percent cap on foreign ownership of Bao Viet.

Manulife

Unlike Bao Viet, Canadian multinational, Manulife, is focused on the life insurance market in Vietnam. In 2022, Manulife’s GWP in Vietnam hit US$1.3 billion, up from US$1.22 billion in 2021. Its market share of Vietnam’s life insurance market was 17.7 percent.

Manulife has been operating in Vietnam since 1999. It is headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City.

Prudential

The United Kingdom’s insurance behemoth Prudential was the third top performer in Vietnam’s insurance sector in 2022. It recorded GWPs of US$1.28 billion up from US$1.19 billion in 2021. The firm has been operating in Vietnam since 2011.

Controversies

Vietnam’s insurance sector has struggled over the last year or so with a number of high-profile instances of consumers claiming they were duped into purchasing insurance products.

Manulife Vietnam and Saigon Commercial Bank

Allegations surfaced in 2023 that borrowers at Saigon Commercial Bank had been coaxed into purchasing Manulife Vietnam insurance through nefarious means. Bank customers were allegedly told they were making deposits into high-interest products but that they were actually buying insurance policies.

Ngoc Lan and MVI Life Insurance

A second high-profile case of alleged trickery in the issuance of insurance in 2023, involved Vietnamese actress, Ngoc Lan. In a teary social media post she claimed she had been duped into purchasing insurance. With annual premiums of VND 700 million she had expected to receive a return after ten years of VND 10 billion but was shocked to learn that it could be as little as VND 7 billion. Whereas Lan came to an agreement to resolve the issue with the bank, her status saw this incident covered widely in domestic news, and this subsequently has shaken consumer confidence in the sector.

What’s next?

Insurance in Vietnam is still a relatively new product but it is gaining in popularity very quickly. With foreign insurance firms able  to wholly own insurance businesses in Vietnam, the industry is likely to continue to expand quickly. That said, Vietnam’s economy is very dynamic and prone to change quickly. Foreign firms keen to keep abreast of the latest developments should make sure they subscribe to the-shiv.

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See also: Vietnam’s Financial Sector: An Overview 2023

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