news om appoints top sa executive to head china business

Richards will report to Hasan Askari, head of Old Mutual Asia Pacific.

"The Chinese life insurance market has increased by about 30% each year over the last decade. Growing our market share in China is one of our main priorities and we will continue to use our international resources and expertise to do this," says Askari.

"Dean's experience in managing Old Mutual's large distribution force in South Africa will be invaluable when tackling the huge Chinese market."

Old Mutual has had a small presence in China since 2004, but through its acquisition of Skandia in 2006, it has significantly increased its market share. Skandia-BSAM is a 50:50 joint venture with the Beijing state owned asset management company (BSAM) and has been the second fastest growing Seino-foreign life insurer in the market over the last two years, moving from 20th position to 9th position today. The business sells unit-linked products and has licences to operate in Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu Province.

Strategy to increase distribution capability

Skandia-BSAM has its head office and primary sales branch in Beijing. It opened a sales branch in Shanghai in 2006 and recently opened its third branch in Nanjing. "I am looking forward to the challenge of growing share in one of the most exciting and fastest growing life assurance markets in the world," says Richards. "Our strategy in China is to increase our distribution capability and to broaden our product range to cater for the needs of the expanding high net worth and affluent segments."

Askari says that while Old Mutual's initial focus has been o�n the Skandia-BSAM business, it is continuing to look for additional opportunities. "China is one of the cornerstones of our Asia - Pacific strategy and therefore part of Old Mutual's global strategy."

China has the largest population in the world - 1.36 billion people. GDP growth has averaged over 9% per annum over the last 30 years and China's 40% household savings rate is one of the highest in the world. Most of these savings are held in low yielding bank accounts.

According to Askari, this creates opportunities for financial services companies such as Old Mutual to channel these savings into higher yielding investment vehicles.