Mr Sutthipol Taweechaikarn, the newly appointed Secretary-General of the Office of Insurance Commission (OIC), aims to strengthen the insurance industry's regulatory framework so as to sharpen the competitiveness of the sector.
Mr Sutthipol, who assumed the OIC's top position on 1 November replacing Mr Pravej Ongartsittigul, plans to improve industry regulations by amending existing laws and creating new ones, while striking a balance with business operations and consumer protection, reported The Bangkok Post. For instance, the OIC plans to develop a new law, the Marine Insurance Act.
The regulator is preparing the Thai insurance industry for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which is to be launched next month. Improved regulations will help reduce barriers to doing insurance business, especially when it comes to expanding in the nearby markets of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Mr Sutthipol said: "Thailand has high potential to expand insurance services in the region, particularly in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam," he said.
The OIC will join hands with regional insurance regulators and other related organisations to facilitate business expansion and promote the Asean single market concept.
Mr Sutthipol said added that regulations in the region should be harmonised to support insurers preparing to expand their business in the region.
Helping smaller insurers
Industry stability is another key focus. The OIC will support insurers seeking to strengthen their capital base as well as pave the way for foreign insurers to jointly invest with local operators. But mergers and acquisitions will not be the sole avenue through which local businesses can be improved. Size does not matter because strong smaller companies can also survive, Mr Sutthipol said.
In the area of insurance products, the regulator will support better access for disadvantaged consumers such as low-income earners, farmers, the elderly and the disabled.
Mr Sutthipol also said that regulations should not, however, be a barrier to either insurers or consumers, and some new regulations might need to be relaxed in order to help small insurance companies adjust to them, reported The Nation newspaper.
For example, all insurers will have to meet a capital adequacy ratio of 150%, but some companies might need time to increase their capital to comply with the regulation. "Thai insurance companies cannot escape the globalisation trend, but the increase in capital should be executed gradually," he explained.
Mr Sutthipol said that the OIC must raise its role in serving as a convenient and clear information channel for consumers because, if they have more confidence about insurance and they know that they will be treated fairly, market penetration will increase.