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Hong Kong watchdog in talks with companies for fast-tracked insurance licenses

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Hong Kong watchdog in talks with companies for fast-tracked insurance licenses

The Hong Kong Insurance Authority is in talks with more than 10 companies for traditional license approvals, while "several" others have shown interest in license applications via its new Fast Track initiative, the regulator's CEO told reporters Oct. 10 on the sidelines of an industry event.

The Insurance Authority launched late September two pilot insurance technology initiatives, Fast Track and Sandbox, to promote the development of new technologies in Hong Kong's insurance market.

The Fast Track scheme will expedite the license approval process for companies that solely use digital distribution channels. New insurers in Hong Kong typically face a wait of 12 to 18 months for licenses, John Leung noted, though he declined to predict if the Fast Track scheme could reduce this to within one year.

He added the authority has not received any formal Fast Track application.

The scheme is open to both life and nonlife insurers, though for the sake of prudence, companies will not be allowed to sell complicated life insurance products online. On the other hand, the CEO added, selling simpler life insurance policies online that bypass traditional intermediaries can provide customers with cheaper premiums and greater product choices.

A new life insurer must have at least one shareholder who owns more than 15% of the company and is already an insurer authorized or recognized by the authority, Leung said. There is no such requirement for potential general insurers.

The companies interested in traditional insurance licenses include entities seeking new licenses as well as those that may acquire Hong Kong insurers, he said.