Japanese giant Nippon Life has hinted at an expansion of its Australian presence into the investment and retirement market following its 2015 acquisition of MLC Life.
Speaking at the AIOFP 20th anniversary conference in New York, Shinichi Okamoto, a senior Nippon Life executive currently embedded at Australian subsidiary MLC Life Insurance as CIO and deputy CFO, said the 129-year-old company was pleased with the progress made with its Australian business.
Since acquiring NAB’s MLC Life Insurance business in 2016, the insurer has doubled new business and taken market share from Australian competitors, partly off the back of demand from the financial advice sector.
The company is known as a mutual life insurer, but owns asset management businesses in Japan and overseas markets, including a 25 per cent stake in American fund manager TCW, which it purchased in November 2017.
Mr Okamoto (referred to as 'Okomoto-san' by the MLC Life executives in attendance) revealed that a similar strategy could be brewing for the Australian market.
“Nippon Life is eager to expand [our Australian business] into both asset management and life insurance,” he said.
“We believe we can leverage our asset management capability to enhance life insurance. The US life company, for example, is turning into a retirement lifestyle solutions provider.”
Specifically, Mr Okamoto mentioned the prospect of launching annuity-style products which would see the Japanese life company become a welcome competitor in the near-monopolised annuity market dominated by Challenger.
Asked by InvestorDaily whether the company might consider purchasing the remaining wealth subsidiaries of MLC — which owner NAB has now confirmed it will seek to divest from – MLC Life chief operating officer Sean McCormack said while there is “nothing concrete on the table” about the purchase of NAB’s wealth business, it is not outside the realm of possibility.
“Okomoto-san mentioned the attractiveness of the funds management business. Our majority and minority partners speak to each other often and have a good relationship.”