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Enriching Lives

A History of Insurance in Hong Kong, 1841-2010

Bangyan Feng, Mee Kau Nyaw

Publication Year: 2011

Insurance is one of Hong Kong's oldest industries. In the nineteenth century the lucrative trade between China and Europe carried many risks — piracy, warfare, fire, loss of goods, and other mishaps. Dozens of different insurance firms — some home-grown, others imported — established themselves in the colony to protect ships and their cargoes. With the diversification of Hong Kong’s economy into manufacturing and services, and the development of life and health insurance policies, Hong Kong became a global centre of insurance. The industry continues to transform itself today through changing practices and new lines of business. This is the first comprehensive history of Hong Kong’s insurance industry, and argues its central importance in the economy. Typhoons, shipwrecks, fires, wars, political turbulence and unexpected events of all kinds provide a dramatic background to a fascinating survey. The book is richly illustrated with photographs and documents.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Table of Contents

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pp. v

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pp. vii

Having grown from a cottage industry covering commercial seafaring ventures to a full-blown diversified and globalized financial centre, Hong Kong’s insurance industry has withstood the test of many vicissitudes over the past...

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pp. viii

The writing of Enriching Lives: A History of Insurance in Hong Kong, 1841–2010 was made possible by the scores of industry veterans who generously contributed their time and thoughts. Their recollection of little known vignettes casts the industry in a humanistic...

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pp. ix-x

When I joined the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers in 2004, one of my mandates was to improve the image of the insurance industry, so that more seasoned professionals and young university graduates alike would be inspired to enter the field and the public would put more trust in the...

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pp. xi-xii

This book was made possible by the contributions of many people. Numerous industry veterans generously gave us their efforts and time. We specifically extend our gratitude to Bernard Charnwut Chan, Chan Kin Por, Johnny Chen, M. K. Cheng, K. P. Cheng, Clement Cheung, Vincent Cheung, H. C. Wong, W. S. Ching, Andrew Chow, K. S. Choi, C. F. Choy, Jackie Chun, K. C. Hong, Y. Ko, Agnes Koon, Kenneth Kwok,...

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pp. 1-3

Insurance is one of the oldest industries in Hong Kong, and it has long played a significant role in the city’s economic development. Suffice it to say that the insurance industry has evolved in step with the economy at large. In essence, the industry’s development encapsulates that of the overall development of the...

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Chapter 1 - Pioneer Insurers in the New Crown Colony: Canton and Union

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pp. 5-39

Sir William’s words have stood the test of time. Writing fifty years later, an insurance executive considered them again in a book called Adventures and Perils: The First Hundred and Fifty Years of Union Insurance Society of Canton, Ltd.1 ‘That speaker [Sir William] knew then, as we know today, that trade is not simply a matter of two parties agreeing to an exchange of goods or services...

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Chapter 2 - The Establishment and Development of the Chinese-Owned Insurance Sector

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pp. 41-57

Toward the end of the Qing Dynasty, foreign insurers in China began to open up to investments from local merchants. However, Chinese investors were entitled only to profits and not voting rights or any voice in management. In other words, these insurance companies were lopsided joint ventures at best and far from equal...

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Chapter 3 - Post–World War II Rejuvenation and Transformation

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pp. 59-97

On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and occupied Shanghai’s International Concession. World War II thus spilled into the Pacific theatre. By Christmas day, Hong Kong was invaded. The war nearly destroyed a century of painstaking effort among British firms in Hong Kong and China. The colony’s insurance sector was not spared the...

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Chapter 4 - The Rise of Hong Kong as an Insurance Centre and the Industry’s Diversification

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pp. 99-127

As Yu-ching Jao, a retired honorary professor at Hong Kong University’s School of Economics and Finance, has pointed out, Hong Kong’s rise as an international financial centre was only one of its two postwar achievements. The other was its successful transition from an entrepôt to a prosperous industrial town. Many locals and even some foreigners would declare Hong Kong as the world’s third-largest financial...

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Chapter 5 - The Formation and Evolution of Industry Supervision

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pp. 129-149

In the 1950s, the Hong Kong government set about laying down laws for the insurance sector. Hence, both the Third Party (Rights Against Insurers) Ordinance and the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Ordinance were enacted. The former guarantees a third party’s right to seek compensation in the event that a policyholder or insurance firm files for bankruptcy. The latter is based on the Road Traffic Ordinance, which...

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Chapter 6 - Changes and Innovations in the Market

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pp. 151-177

The impact on the insurance sector could not have been more direct. The traditional general products such as marine and employees’ compensation, all associated with manufacturing, no longer brought in the most premium. In their stead, long-term products such as life coverage began to rake in increasing revenue. In 1987, general insurance still accounted for two-thirds of the $10 billion in premium income,...

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Chapter 7 - The Development of Life Insurance and Bancassurance in the Post-Handover Decade

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pp. 179-211

The handover on 1 July 1997 made Hong Kong a Special Administrative Region (SAR) within China. Around that time, the provisional government set about adding seats in the Legislative Council to represent such specific industries and other ‘functions’, such as finance, insurance, real estate, and commerce; hence these members were representatives of ‘functional constituencies’. On 24 March...

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Conclusion - Future Prospects of Hong Kong’s Insurance Industry

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pp. 213-223

The reform and opening up of China in the 1980s set off a rapid transformation of Hong Kong’s economy. Where manufacturing had once been king, the services sector became dominant. In 2007, manufacturing accounted for a mere 2.5% of GDP (as opposed to 70% in 1970), while services in 2007 accounted for 92.3% of the economy. Within the sector, finance, insurance, real estate, and...


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pp. 225-229


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pp. 231-239

E-ISBN-13: 9789888053537
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888028702

Page Count: 252
Illustrations: 93 b/w illus and photos
Publication Year: 2011