Citigroup to Seek Bancassurance Distribution Partners in APAC Region: Source

Citigroup Inc. will seek bids from global insurers keen to sell general insurance products across the U.S. bank’s Asia-Pacific markets, in a deal that could be worth at least $500 million, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Citi’s move underscores how banks are leveraging their network of branches and customer base to generate assured revenue over many years, as demand for insurancegrows in the region, the source said.

The multi-year, bancassurance deal for products such as motor, property and travelinsurance, will be one of the largest of its kind in the region, and give insurers access to 15 million customers of Citibank in 12 markets including Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India and Australia.

Citi will kick off the process for the 15-year deal in a few days, and expects to choose a partner in a few months, said the person who declined to be identified as the information was not public.

The deal is expected to be pitched to a number of insurers including AIG and Allianz, two sources said.

The exact value of the non-life insurance deal will depend on various issues including how bidders structure upfront payments and calculate net present value of future commissions and deferred payments, the first source said.

A spokesman at Citi declined to comment. AIG and Allianz also declined to comment.

Citi’s plan to seek partners follows the bank’s move to allow insurer AIA in 2013 to sell lifeinsurance through its Asia network in a multi-year deal.

“The bank has invested a lot to grow its technology platform and digital engagement over several years. The idea now is to complement the life insurance partnership with another one for general insurance,” said the source.

Global insurers are increasingly relying on bank distribution tie-ups to help generate billions of dollars in revenue in Asia, where rising personal incomes are enabling individuals and families to afford insurance.

“You are bound to see participation across-the-board, from Japanese insurers to Europeans and others for this kind of a deal,” said the second person, who has dealt with bank distribution transactions, referring to the Citi deal.

“More and more banks are monetising their distribution networks as this doesn’t cost them much and the fees goes straight to the bottom line,” he said.

The first source said Citi has an initial preference for one partner for all markets but is open to considering more than one, given the range and scale of the bank’s retail platform.

Asia has seen a spate of bank distribution deals for life insurance in the last five years and transactions for non-life insurance are also heating up.

In January, Standard Chartered and Allianz announced a 15-year deal that enabled the German insurer to sell its general insurance products to StanChart’s customers in five Asia markets.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn in London and Suzanne Barlyn in New York; editing by Randy Fabi and David Evans)