Swiss insurance giant Winterthur Life is racking up points in Taiwan with its innovative unit-linked products, an insurance package that combines pension cover with investment options, a top company official said yesterday.
"(Looking) at our December figures, we can see that 95 percent (of our new customers opted for) unit-linked products," company chief Sergio Bortolin said at a Christmas fundraising held at Winterthur's Taipei 101 office yesterday.
A great majority of those policyholders are between the ages of 35 and 55, and are more willing to take on investment risks in exchange for bigger returns.
Asked if Winterthur considered banks offering asset or wealth management packages and solutions as rivals, the official said they were going after two different types of customers.
"Most of the banks are more focused on (high net worth) individuals. We are more focused on Taiwan's middle class or (those who have recently gotten affluent)," Bortolin said.
"The (old rich) want to protect their money. Hence, they would likely not want our unit-linked products because they don't want any risks. They need financial advice (to protect their wealth)."
Present in Taiwan since the market opened up to foreign insurance providers in 1993, Winterthur today offers a comprehensive range of life, accident and health insurance products. The company benefited from the deregulation of the market in 2002 and launched unit-linked products, thus significantly enhancing its traditional range of products, the company said. The insurance player provides standardized and tailor-made insurance and pensions solutions to private as well as small and medium-sized corporate clients, it added.
For the past several years, Winterthur Life has adopted a dual channel approach to sales. This includes the successful training of the company's professional agents in the area of individual retirement benefits. Parallel to this, the company has signed distribution agreements with various alternative distribution channels.
"Compared with 2004, we have really grown this year. Of course, I am not satisfied yet," Bortolin said.
Winterthur is upbeat about its revenue prospects in Taiwan, he added.
"The market has become more aware of the importance of pension and retirement plans. A lot of people are starting to think about it," said the executive.
"I believe Taiwan's retirement market will hit maturity within the next three years."
Bortolin, who was appointed head of Winterthur Taiwan more than a year ago, made it his mission to rejuvenate his local team. In May, he moved his staff to Winterthur's stylish 700-ping office at Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper in the world and one of Taiwan's architectural icons.
Bortolin said their being Swiss had its advantages. They had the expertise, the professionalism, and the stability that Taiwanese consumers were looking for in a life insurance firm, he said.
The executive also does not limit his activities within Winterthur's boardroom.
Last month, Bortolin - an avid runner - joined the Taipei 101 race - running all the way up to the top floor in a little more than 18 minutes.
The company also supports the Hou Dan Foundation, which cares for the elderly, every year, he added.
At yesterday's charity auction, Bortolin even put his culinary expertise up for sale. The chief executive promised to cook for six employees who placed the highest bids on his tasty-looking lamb chops. A plate of Bortolin's chops, cooked medium-rare, was even presented at the auction.
One of the items that went on sale was Taipei 101 Chairperson Diana Chen's pearl necklace which carried a retail price of NT$30,000. The jewelry, Chen's donation to the Hou Dan Foundation, sold for NT$12,000.
"In addition to raising funds for the Hou Dan Foundation, we will also be volunteering our services to nursing homes in January 2006," Winterthur PR & Communication Manager Wendy Wen said.
"We will clean those facilities, and provide care for the residents. Often however, the residents of those homes only want some company."