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Life insurance and private pension market - excess potential, not enough trust

29.01.2009, 18:01 17

The Romanian market of insurance and private pensions has a huge growth potential and the crisis the segment is going through has to do with trust rather than financial reasons, said the specialists at the "Insurance and private pensions in 2009 - the year of opportunities?" organised by ZIARUL FINANCIAR and ING yesterday.

Cornelia Coman, the chief executive of ING Asigurari de Viata, sees two opportunities for growth for the Romanian insurance sector in a time of major turmoil on the international markets. The first is the acute need for financial security that people feel in such times.
This need is calculated by players on the market through the so-called financial security deficit, that is "the difference between how much money we have in our pockets and how much money we need," Coman explains. In Romania, this deficit stands at 48,000 RON for one person, calculated for a five-year period, which means about 90 billion euros for the about 8 million active people.
Second, Coman says, the crisis has a positive effect in that it makes people more responsible about their future. These opportunities are also helped by the huge potential for growth of the local insurance market, given that the insurance penetration (the share of gross premiums underwritten from life insurance in the GDP) is of merely 0.5% in Romania, compared with 6-7% in the West. The increase of the insurance market, however, will have to be accompanied by an increase in the transparency of operations to avoid lack of consumer trust in financial institutions, specialists say.
ING Asigurari de Viata's official also sees a significant growth potential on the segment of private pensions, as only 3% of Romanians have a voluntary pension. ING estimates an increase of the voluntary pension segment of 7-10% in 2009 and a market with a mix of products: 20% unit-linked (compared with 30% in 2008), and 80% traditional products.
As for Pillar II (mandatory private pensions), there are more than 4 million participants and ING's chief executive estimates contributions to go up by 1.7 billion RON in 2009, so that the value of the assets in the system would reach 2.7 billion RON at the end of the year.