Vietnam's life insurance segment is expected to exceed its annual target of 15 percent with 19-21 percent growth in the previous three quarters, a senior industry official says.

This year's revenues for this segment is estimated at more than 21.15 trillion VND (1.01 billion USD), Vietnam Insurance Association general secretary Phung Dac Loc said at a two-day conference that opened in Ho Chi Minh City on November 28.

The "Vietnam Insurance 2013 – Capturing Vietnam's Fast Growing Insurance Market" conference is organised by IBC Asia, a division of Informa Plc, the largest publicly owned organiser of conferences and courses in the world.

The non-life insurance segment is expected to meet the 10 percent growth target for the year, although it saw a negative growth rate of minus 5 percent in the first quarter.

However, the segment rallied in the second and third quarters with growth of 5 percent and the third quarter sees 8.6 percent growth. It is expected to post revenues of 25.034 trillion VND (1.19 billion USD) this year.

The country would celebrate 20 years of Vietnamese insurance market development next month, Loc said, adding the demands on life insurance and health insurance has increasing rapidly in the past time.

Over the past 20 years, there were 20 million school students, 5 million labourers, 1.5 million auto owners, 7 million motorbike owners, 200,000 business owners and more than 6 million other people who have joined life insurance schemes.

Many foreign-invested companies in transportation, telecommunication, oil exploitation, electricity, tourism and shipbuilding sectors have also purchased insurance, he said.

Organisers said the conference aims to provide a platform for insurance companies and finance organisations to capitalise on the Vietnamese market.

The conference will focus in particular on the latest strategies in product development, designing effective marketing campaigns and establishing cohesive distribution channels.

Among the topics discussed yesterday were the strengthening of regulatory frameworks to support further development of Vietnam's insurance market; growth potential of the life insurance segment; mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and impact of the restructuring process on the insurance industry.

Jack Howell, chief executive of Prudential Vietnam, said the Vietnamese insurance market is relatively small now, but poised to grow in the near future.

He said, "strong GDP growth will help drive the Vietnamese insurance market and a strong distribution system will help drive growth for firms in Vietnam."

The market growth needs to incorporate anticipated product needs based on the economy and demographics, Howell said.

Along with sales, companies are responsible for educating consumers on the value of life insurance and financial planning since it (customer education) is key pre-requisite to customer acquisition, he said.

Education will help to ensure that the market enjoys sustainable and responsible growth, he said.

Le Hai Phong, executive director and chief financial officer of Bao Viet Holdings, said that the insurance industry played a relatively weak role in the Vietnamese economy, but has the capacity and potential to expand and contribute much more.

He said there were still many gaps between local practices and international best practices that need to be narrowed, especially in capital management, risk management and International Financial Reporting Standards. Industry regulators in Vietnam should ensure consistency and enhanced transparency, he said.

Conference participants on November 29 will continue their discussions on raising insurance awareness in developing markets, the future of micro-insurance and private health insurance development in Vietnam.-VNA