ING Capital Life Insurance Company (ICLIC), the joint venture between ING Group N.V. and Capital Group will expand its mainland presence to include Beijing. In a press release, the Dutch group announced that its life insurance joint venture has received approval from the China Insurance Regulatory Committee (CIRC) to establish a branch office in nation's capital.

The inclusion of a Beijing branch office will expand upon the joint venture's highly successful business in the northern city of Dalian, where in the span of two years the company has achieved top three status in terms of individual new business.

ICLIC's Beijing operations are expected to commence in the first quarter of 2005, with the company initially employing 300 tied-sales agents and offering clients a mix of traditional life and personal accident policies. By the end of 2005, the Beijing branch is expected to increase its agent numbers to 1,000, with the product range expanding its scope to include universal life products and group insurance, which follows recent deregulation.

Approval of ICLIC's Beijing branch establishment will grant the company the right to apply to the CIRC for an operational licence within a six-month period, and then a business licence from the Beijing City Administration Bureau of Industry and Commerce.

Since becoming the first foreign-invested insurance provider in Dalian, ICLIC has grown substantially, now consisting of 220 employees and tied-agency force of 1,600. The Dalian business has also extended into the neighbouring Pulandian, Wafangdian, Zhuanghe counties and the nearby Jinzhou Economic Development Zone.

The prospects for ING's Beijing joint venture are high, with the city's market soaring 24.8% in total life insurance premiums for the 2003 year, a figure that the firm expects to remain robust.

The China expansion news follows another boon for the Dutch group's Asian life insurance business in South Korea. In first quarter of 2004, figures published by the Korea Life Insurance Association, ING Life has leapt into the top four insurers by premium income, following the nation's so-called big three (Samsung Life, Korea/Daehan Life, Kyobo Life) life insurance companies.

This feat follows its elevation into the top five last year and establishes ING Life as Korea's biggest foreign insurer by premium income. ING Life Korea also attributes its success to relationship with Kookmin Bank, which holds a 20% stake in the insurance company and distributes annuity products through its 966-strong branch network.

Commenting on the Beijing life insurance expansion, Patrick Poon, CEO of greater China, ING Insurance Asia-Pacific states "we are delighted with the success of ING Capital Life, and we view the approval to establish a branch in Beijing as a significant development in the growth and expansion of our joint venture. As deregulation in the industry continues and the product mix expands, we look forward to leveraging ING's expertise to launch new, innovative products into the marketplace."