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Singlife’s USD 2.3 billion merger with Aviva to fuel Southeast Asia expansion: CEO

Singlife eyes Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia as potential markets, and is “well underway” to becoming licensed in one other country aside from the Philippines.

The merger with Aviva Singapore will integrate Singlife’s mobile-first technology, its digital and daily engagement with Aviva’s quality advisory capabilities, Singlife founder and CEO Walter de Oude told KrASIA in an exclusive interview. Singlife will be able to leverage on the depth and experience of Aviva’s product range. “We see it as highly complementary,” said de Oude.

Insurtech startup Singlife on Friday night announced that it will join forces with the Singapore arm of Aviva, in a deal that is valued at USD 2.3 billion, one of the largest in Southeast Asia’s insurance sector. Aviva will retain 25% in the combined business. Global private equity investor TPG, Sumitomo Life, and other existing Singlife investors will also be shareholders in Aviva Singlife.

Aviva Singlife will focus on mobile-first engagement, but will also encourage its customers to obtain financial advice through third-party providers to “take advantage of the products and services that we collectively offer.” De Oude said that “mobile-first is not just a specific market segment. Everybody today is mobile-first.”

In March, Singlife launched “Singapore’s first mobile insurance-savings plan,” according to the company. It recorded 100,000 downloads within the first three months, accumulating SGD 500 million (USD 367 million) to date.

The deal itself took place over a period of about six months, de Oude said. As most of the discussion was held during the COVID-19 period, it made the process quite complicated, especially with the complexity of the shareholder base. “But bringing it all together was really satisfying, and an achievement of which we’re really proud,” said de Oude. After receiving regulatory approval, which is expected by January 2021, the parties will formerly merge through the Singapore courts, which will take place before the end of the first quarter of 2021, he hopes.

Expansion in Southeast Asia

Singlife was established in Singapore in 2014 and currently manages almost USD 5.1 billion in life insurance coverage. Most recently, the firm has expanded into the Philippines, where it partnered with the mobile wallet service GCash to provide microinsurance. De Oude noted that they tailored their offering to the Philippine market. Singlife rolled out “Cash for Dengue Costs,” a protection product for medical costs due to dengue fever, and another one for payment protection.

“Singlife has an ambition to be a homegrown Southeast Asian operation,” de Oude said. “With the additional capital and strength of our shareholders behind us, we have an opportunity to do more than just Singapore, to play around the region.” Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia are possible markets. De Oude hinted that Singlife is “well underway” to becoming licensed in one other adjacent country.

While Singlife managed to acquire their license to operate in the Philippines barely two months after submitting the application, de Oude noted that the barrier to entry is higher in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. “We continue to pursue and look for those opportunities as they present themselves,” he said.