On November 25, 2018, The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) made the announcement that Germany's Allianz had won approval to set up the first wholly foreign-owned insurance holding company in China.
The move aimed to open up the mainland insurance industry earlier than initially scheduled - seen as a deft political move on the part of the regulators - and was described by the CBIRC as starting “a new chapter in opening up the financial sector”.
The regulator had previously announced that foreign firms could own up to 51% of insurers after three years, with that limit being removed after five years. Then, announcing more detailed rules on the opening of the financial sector in April 2018, the watchdog said that 51% cap would be removed within three years.
Allianz already had a joint venture with local investment manager Citic Trust – Allianz China Life which was set up in 1999.
Allianz said in November 2018 that it expected the Shanghai-based company to be established in 2019 and that this milestone move would help enhance the firm's strategic flexibility to expand investment and growth in China.
That happened on January 16, 2020, when Allianz (China) Insurance Holding Company, which then had a registered capital of Rmb2.7 billion ($389 million), officially opened up in Shanghai, just as Covid-19 was starting to shake up China and the globe.
“China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, strategically important for Allianz and central to our growth strategy in Asia,” a company spokesman told AsianInvestor in January 2020.
On November 17, 2021, Allianz announced that Allianz China Life Insurance (Allianz China Life) had received approval from the Shanghai Regulatory Bureau of the CBIRC to transfer the 49% shareholdings owned by CITIC Trust to Allianz (China) Insurance Holding (Allianz China Holding).
Upon completion, Allianz China Life would become a 100%-owned subsidiary of Allianz China Holding, and the first wholly foreign-owned life insurance company in China developed from a joint venture.
Shortly after the Allianz announcement, on December 10, 2021, the CBIRC released a public consultation document, "Regulations on the Management of Insurance Asset Management Companies (Draft for Comment)" setting out draft rules that would remove the existing 25% cap on ownership by foreign entities, enabling foreign investors to raise their stakes in insurance asset managers to 100%.