AIA Thailand, the country’s biggest life insurer by assets, has seen its general manager and chief investment officer Anucha Laokwansatit move on after some 15 years with the firm, AsianInvestor has learned.

The former deputy CIO, Sukkawat Prasurtying, replaced him on June 1 as CIO, but not as general manager. It is understood that Sataya Tepbunterng, GM for agency distribution, will now act as the sole general manager.

Anucha joined Siam Commercial Bank, one of Thailand’s biggest lenders, as chief risk officer on June 1. He now oversees credit, market and operational risk management for the group and its subsidiaries, including the life, asset management and securities companies. He has replaced Yokporn Tantisawetrat, who retired last month.

Sukkawat had joined AIA Thailand as deputy CIO in June 2011, as reported. Before that, he spent four-and-a-half years at Manulife Asset Management, most recently as chief executive and CIO for Thailand.

Anucha had been CIO at AIA Thailand since 1999 and took on the additional post of general manager in 2009. Since he arrived at the firm, its assets under management have grown to around $20 billion from around $2.5 billion in 1999.

As chairman of the Thai Life Assurance Association’s investment sub-committee from 2011 until early this year, Anucha was at the forefront of encouraging regulatory change in the industry.
Moreover, last November AIA Thailand received AsianInvestor’s inaugural institutional investor award for Southeast Asia.

The firm is recognised as one of the country’s most pioneering investors, having been among the earliest of its peers to move into infrastructure funds and local real estate, when they were approved for investment last year. As of February this year, it was still thought to be the only local insurer to have made direct investments into domestic property.

This follows Thailand’s Office of Insurance Commission (OIC) raising the limit of offshore investments to 15% of total invested assets in October last year. It also for the first time allowed investment in offshore corporate bonds, with the minimum rating for foreign issues lowered from BBB to BBB-.

There was previously a specific dollar limit for each asset class and each life insurer with no clear rule on how the OIC determined the approved amount.

Thai insurers are now moving to build up their foreign exposure, but most are nowhere near the 15% cap, one senior insurance executive told AsianInvestor.

AIA Thailand had been anticipating the progressive changes in OIC’s investment rules for some time and had been building up its capabilities in the new asset classes and alternatives, Anucha said late last year.