Former AIG boss puts up PH insurance unit
After leading AIG to become the world’s biggest insurance firm only to watch it crumble from the sidelines during the Wall Street crisis a few years after he left, ex-AIG chair Maurice “Hank” Greenberg is now building an international non-life insurance empire under his Starr Group of Companies.
Starr recently set up its non-life insurance platform in the Philippines that will focus on commercial insurance, accident and health insurance—areas which Greenberg feels are underserved in this market and do not compete with the thriving life insurance business of Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co. (Philam Life).
Reinsurance would also be offered but on a selective basis, “if it meets our standards,” Greenberg said.
In a media briefing Tuesday, Greenberg said he was expecting more foreign investors to flock to the Philippines—whose government recently obtained an investment grade credit-rating from three major global credit watchers—saying this surge in investments would trigger an increase in demand for non-life insurance.
In the areas of disaster preparedness, pointing to the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that recently devastated Bohol and Cebu, Greenberg said it would make sense to think about such disasters in advance, noting that no study could ever really forecast how much damage such unfortunate events would create. “We’d like to participate in the planning that will go on,” he said.
Starr was among the founders of AIG but it remained as a niche and privately held player since then. Greenberg said that when he left AIG in 2005, the decision was to regrow the Starr companies.
“I built my former company to the largest company in history and we’ll build this one to a large company,” he said. To date, the Starr Group has about 2,500 to 3,000 employees worldwide.
In the Philippines, Greenberg said the goal would be to grow the non-life insurance business to “as big as we possibly can.” The products will be distributed mostly through brokers but Starr also plans to tap agents for special products such as “assist card.”
He said this “assist card” was probably the best product for people who travel any place in the world. One needs to just pick up the telephone and Starr will take care of the client’s needs—for instance, doctor or lawyer—and services wherever he is in the world.
Starr sees opportunities to serve some 10 million Filipino migrant workers. “We will insure many of Filipinos who work overseas,” he said.
Asked how significant the Philippines was for Starr’s Asia-Pacific strategy, Greenberg said this was a growing economy with bright prospects.
“The government has a lot of credibility,” Greenberg said. “The Philippines generally is viewed very, very positively and we will participate in this growth.”
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