THE contest for experienced insurance agents in Singapore has renewed in recent months with about 300 agents poached by a rival - the biggest migration in recent years.
Market sources shared with The Business Timesthat a group of about 300 - some peg the number at 400 - agents from Great Eastern are moving to rival AIA's newly-set-up financial advisory (FA) arm, AIA Financial Advisers.
They noted that many of the agents are under the Chuan group, reputed to be productive.
BT understands that a smaller group of AIA agents will also move to the new FA firm.
In response to queries, AIA Financial Advisers chief executive Tan Chuan How reiterated a point made earlier that the FA firm has received "strong interest" from a wide range of candidates.
He said "this includes our own AIA tied agency, professionals within the financial industry and career switches new to our industry".
In July 2016, there was a similar tussle for experienced insurance agents following the setting up of Aviva Financial Advisers. At that time, AIA had urged industry players to "adopt responsible recruitment strategies".
When asked how the current development squares with what AIA had said previously, Mr Tan said: "AIA FA adopts sound recruitment practices to protect consumers' interests and strongly advocates that packages offered to experienced representatives should (be) commensurate with each individual's qualifications, track record and experience.
"Our core philosophy remains consistent and that is to reward fairly, commensurate with the efforts and productivity of our representatives."
Separately, Great Eastern confirmed that "some agents" have recently resigned.
"Our priority is to ensure that our affected policyholders' interests remain protected as we continue to deliver the best service and trusted professional advice. We will continue to invest in our strong established distribution channels to further grow our business," it said.
While not uncommon, the Chuan group movements have raised some eyebrows. Some industry players explained that the group's leader has deep roots in Great Eastern. Others described AIA as having a "very big war chest" to be able to start the FA firm with possibly 400 agents.
This, they pointed out, would be almost double that of the 250 initial recruits of Manulife Financial Advisers and would also be more than the 250 former Prudential agents who went to join Aviva Financial Advisers.
While not uncommon, the battle for agents has intensified in recent years as the FA channel becomes increasingly favoured by insurers.
The pressure to set up AIA Financial Advisers follows the move by several players including Great Eastern, Manulife and Aviva, which have already formed their affiliated FA firms.
Those in favour of an FA firm say it is a means to cater to consumers' preference for choice. This, as tied agents or insurance agents can only sell exclusively the products of whichever insurer they join, unless the insurer has agreement with third-party manufacturers to supplement its offerings.
Among the earlier ones to set up shop in the FA space is Great Eastern, which launched its Great Eastern Financial Advisers (GEFA) six years ago. BT reported in July 2016 that GEFA had more than 700 advisers then.
In April 2015, Manulife Financial Advisers opened its doors to consumers and Aviva Financial Advisers followed in July last year. AIA Financial Advisers has said it will start operations in October.