New reinsurance managing director says language barrier limits underwriting options in the country

Maxwell Sung

Following his appointment as managing director for reinsurance at Arthur J. Gallagher (Singapore), Maxwell Sung told Strategic Risk that the risk surveys being submitted by companies based in mainland China often posed a language problem.

Sung said that AJG Singapore’s reinsurance book mainly stemmed from China (and South Korea), and that the company was concerned about “the risks coming out of China”. It’s usually the submission for the risk, in particular the presentation,” he said. “For example, the surveys are all in Mandarin, which limits what the underwriter can underwrite.”

Sung, who is originally from Taiwan and speaks Mandarin fluently, said brokers were not allowed to provide any translation services. “Even though we can read the survey in Chinese, we are not entitled to comment or make a recommendation,” he said. “People from mainland China like to partner with an underwriter who can read Chinese, and they often refuse to get some of the surveys translated into English.

“I can never understand why, and I’ve been telling clients for years, if you can get everything in an English version, you can reduce your premium spending by at least 10-15% because you are opening doors not only to mainland or Hong Kong underwriters, but to the Lloyd’s market in Singapore.”

Sung said translation of a risk survey into English gave AJG a “much better opportunity to broke the risk internationally, rather than just approaching the underwriters based in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore”.

Sung said AJG’s portfolio in the Asia Pacific primarily comprised property, energy and construction reinsurance. “On top of that, we have marine cargo reinsurance and terrorism reinsurance,” he said. “We believe that these are the areas where we’re going to see strong growth. At the same time, we believe our core business, which is the property class of business, will continue to grow.”

Arthur J. Gallagher (Singapore) is part of Arthur J. Gallagher International and the US-based Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. group of companies. In other news, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co has also just announced the purchase of the 21st-largest US broker, Bollinger.