DBS to seek bids for non-life insurance distribution deal: Sources

A DBS outlet at Suntec City.
A DBS outlet at Suntec City. ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (REUTERS) - DBS Group plans to invite bids from insurers keen to sell general insurance products across the key markets of Southeast Asia's biggest lender, in a deal potentially worth up to US$350 million (S$489.5 million), sources familiar with the matter said.

The move underscores the under-penetrated region's growing attraction to insurers who see a big opportunity to boost business as rising incomes generate demand for property, motor and travel insurance products.

In the last few years, banks such as Standard Chartered and CIMB Group have formed partnerships with insurers as they were willing to pay hefty fees for access to lenders' branch networks and digital platforms.

DBS, which has partnerships with subsidiaries of Japanese group MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings since 2005, plans to seek bids from insurers as soon as next month, three sources told Reuters. They declined to be identified as the news is not public.

Two of the sources said the 15-year deal is estimated to be valued at up to US$350 million, but it could change depending on the deal's structure and sales assumptions made by the bidders.

DBS is expected to pick one or two insurance partners for the deal, which could cover all of its key markets of Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, China and Taiwan.

MS&AD's units are expected to participate in the bidding process, which is also likely to draw interest from France's AXA , Italy's Generali and Australia's QBE Insurance Group Ltd, the sources said. DBS, AXA, Generali, and QBE declined to comment. There was no immediate comment from MSIG Asia, a subsidiary of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company Ltd to Reuters queries.

DBS has more than 7 million customers across its consumer, banking and wealth management businesses spread in 18 markets but the majority of these are from its key markets.

The bank has spent billions of dollars in the last few years to digitise its businesses.

One source said DBS was likely to leverage general insurance distribution partnership as a value-add offering for its wealth management clients. The sales volume for general insurance products tend to be lower than the mass-market life business.

The sources said DBS was likely to complete talks and seal the deal by the end of the year.

DBS' plan to seek partners follows the bank's move last year to allow Canada's Manulife insurer to sell life insurance through its Asia network in a 15-year deal.

Reuters reported in March that Citigroup will seek bids from global insurers keen to sell general insurance products across the US bank's Asia-Pacific markets, in a deal that could be worth at least US$500 million.

In January, StanChart and Allianz announced a 15-year deal that enabled the German insurer to sell its general insurance products to StanChart's customers in five Asian markets.