SINGAPORE: NTUC Income on Thursday (Jan 6) announced it plans to convert itself into a corporate entity, citing the need to be more competitive amid “intensifying headwinds” in the insurance sector.
Currently a co-operative under the NTUC umbrella, the insurer said converting into a company governed by the Companies Act will allow it to “achieve operational flexibility and gain access to strategic growth options to compete on an equal footing with other insurers locally and regionally”.
Its existing insurance business and assets will be transferred to a new company called Income Insurance.
The transfer has been approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said chief executive officer Andrew Yeo at a media briefing. Income has also registered the new company with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.
The corporatisation exercise is expected to be completed in the second half of this year, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The co-operative will be liquidated thereafter.
The insurer stressed that the move, which only changes its legal form, will have no impact on staff or existing holders of its insurance policies.
Income said “significant shifts” have been under way in its operating environment, such as a mature domestic market and evolving regulatory expectations and requirements.
Competition has also stiffened, especially with the entry of new technology players.
Despite its status as a co-operative – defined as membership-based enterprises that operate on the principles of self-help and mutual assistance – Income is subjected to similar regulatory demands, sector competition and challenges like any other commercial insurers in Singapore, Mr Yeo said.
“Going forward, we are foreseeing intensifying headwinds,” the chief executive added.
For one, it anticipates increased capital needs in order to continue with its roll-out of new digital products, while exploring other capabilities to “future-proof” the company, Mr Yeo said.
It is also on the lookout for opportunities beyond Singapore after having expanded into Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia in October last year.
As a co-operative, it can only tap on capital from institutional members, which must be co-operatives and trade unions. “To that end, only NTUC Enterprise’s capital is classified as tier one capital to fuel Income’s capital adequacy ratio,” said Mr Yeo.
After the corporatisation exercise, Income will no longer face restrictions on its institutional investors, giving it “more flexibility in accessing capital to grow its business”.
“We do foresee that there will be increasing need for capitalisation as we fuel our growth plans and therefore, corporatisation is definitely a necessary step.”
Asked if Income is already in discussions with any potential investors, Mr Yeo replied that “there’s nothing on the horizon” for now but the planned move will position the insurer “to be ready for any opportunities”.