Shopee owner puts up insurance venture in Philippines

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Singaporean tycoon Forrest Li, owner of e-commerce giant Shopee, has entered the insurance business in the Philippines, becoming a new player in the life and non-life segments.

The Insurance Commission (IC) has approved the license of SeaInsure General Insurance Co. Inc., owned by Li, to operate as a non-life insurer in the country.

Likewise, The STAR learned from IC Commissioner Dennis Funa that the regulator is processing the license sought by SeaInsure to offer life insurance as well.

According to Funa, SeaInsure has brought in at least P2.6 billion in fresh funds to comply in advance with the capital requirements under the Insurance Code. He said both the insurer’s life and non-life divisions can satisfy the upcoming changes in capitalization.

In its website, SeaInsure introduces itself as a newly minted digital insurance company based in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City. The firm strives to become the leading digital insurer in the Philippines at a time when insurance technology is gaining ground among Filipinos.

As of June, SeaInsure offers just one product – called Credit Protection – that the insurer describes as a security from debt burden brought about by unforeseen events.

Rebecca dela Cruz, former chair of the Philippine Insurance and Reinsurers Association, is the new firm’s president, while Karen Ann Perez, head of HR at Shopee Philippines, serves as treasurer.

Funa said the entry of SeaInsure expands the number of options that Filipinos can choose from when selecting insurance products that best suit their needs.

He said clients can trust the financial viability of SeaInsure even though it just entered the Philippine market. The firm is managed by the Sea Group, operator of digital entertainment Garena, e-commerce platform Shopee and digital payments SeaMoney.

Li, Sea Group’s founder, infiltrated the ranks of Singapore’s richest when he listed the firm in the New York Stock Exchange in 2017. Afterward, Li’s enterprise secured investments from several multinationals, including multimedia titan Tencent and private equity General Atlantic.

In the Forbes World’s Billionaires List, Li posted a net worth of $5.3 billion, making him the 509th richest person for 2022.

For the year, the Sea Group has signified its intent to expand its reach around Southeast Asia in a move to breach the digital space and offer insurance policies there.

In May, the Financial Times reported that the Sea Group is eyeing to acquire Indonesian insurer Asuransi Mega Pratama in line with its program to sell insurance products through e-commerce in select markets.

SeaInsure, for its part, has leaped ahead of some of its competitors struggling to raise their capital to P1.3 billion. The Insurance Code mandates insurers to elevate their capitalization up to that level in 2022 to build up confidence that they can cover the financial claims of clients.

However, the IC said that just 23 of the 52 non-life providers in the Philippines have crossed the P1.3 billion mark as of September 2021. On the contrary, at least 19 of the 31 life insurers in the country have complied with the P1.3 billion requirement for the year.

“The statutory net worth requirements ensure that by 2023, insurance companies should be in a favorable solvency position to address the needs of the insuring public,” Funa said.

SeaInsure enters an insurance market that showed signs of growth in the previous quarters, as Filipinos realized the importance of saving up for future emergencies like the pandemic.

Insurance penetration has increased to a record 2.03 percent as of September 2021, from 1.69 percent in September 2020, as Filipinos raised their average spending on insurance products to P2,528.65, from P1,989.94, during the period.


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