Source: The Star, 31st May 2010
Promoting takaful via agency is fast gaining prominence with more players now investing significantly to beef up their agency channel and grab a larger slice of the competitive takaful market.
This mode of distribution, according to an industry player, had become more significant in view of the “Takaful For All” approach adopted by newer takaful entrants whereby takaful could be sold or promoted by anyone regardless of faith and religious beliefs.
“The success of the newer takaful operators, especially those who started operations in 2006-2007, using agency as their primary channel has prompted other earlier operators to review their distribution strategies and many of them have adopted the agency channel as their main channel and ‘Takaful For All’ approach as their new direction.
The earlier operators were mainly using direct marketing to promote their products and services,” he told Starbiz.
He said agency allowed players to reach a bigger customer base at lower management expenses. The commissions (wakalah fee) paid to agents at the same time were also factored in the pricing of the takaful products, the observer opined.
Prudential BSN Takaful Bhd (PruBSN) CEO Azim Mithani said historically, bancatakaful was the main distribution channel for takaful business, however, in recent years, agency-based distribution had been fast gaining ground.
This, he said, was evident from the latest trend with many operators starting to develop their own agency distribution channel.
According to Bank Negara statistics, there were some 55,000 takaful agents last year selling family takaful products compared with about 11,000 agents in 2006 and this figure was expected to continue to grow in the coming years.
Azim added that the agency distribution would further enhanced the penetration rate of takaful in the local market as it allowed takaful operators to access a wider segment of the population and enjoy economies of scale.
He said significant investment was required to establish an agency channel, which involved recruitment and training of agents as well as maintaining the infrastructure.
He said it was vital to ensure that agents were properly equipped and trained to provide the necessary advice. In this regard, Azim said it was paramount that appropriate compliance and risk management standards be put in place.
For this purpose, he said PruBSN had established a dedicated training academy to provide comprehensive training to agents as well as rigorous compliance monitoring processes.
PruBSN currently has about 1,400 tied agents and expects to grow this channel significantly this year.
He added that the company also leveraged on its sister company Prudential Assurance Malaysia Bhd’s agency force, which has 8,000 agents licensed to distribute PruBSN’s products.
MAA Takaful Bhd CEO Salim Majid Zain said in terms of quality of advice to policyholders, service and need-based risk management, the agency model was the more sustainable channel in the long term, especially for regular premium protection products. Agency was currently the dominant distribution channel for MAA Takaful and the company foresees its importance increasing over time.
Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd (STMB) regional chief retail officer Wan Azman Wan Mamat said it was looking at establishing its very own business training institution to provide quality and professional training courses to the agency force.
This enabled agents to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to enter untapped market, he said.
In addition, Wan Azman said the company would develop activities to promote positive culture among the agents such as awards recognition events, leadership development club and regular agency meetings.
STMB started its retail agency structure in March this year and to date has 25 agency leaders with over 400 agents. It plans to grow its agency force to 2,000 by year-end.
Bancatakaful, according to Takaful Ikhlas Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Syed Moheeb Syed Kamarulzaman, will continue to play an important role in the distribution of takaful as it provides economies of scale, whereas agents are seen as a way of penetrating the non-Muslim customer market.
In addition, he added, agents were also able to expand both family and general takaful product lines. To date, he said Takaful Ikhlas had more than 5,000 family agents and more than 1,000 general agents.
“We are always on the lookout for more corporate and individual agents. Agents are and will continue to remain the dominant channel for the company,” Syed Moheeb noted.