American International Assurance



First established in Singapore in 1931 as International Assurance Co. Ltd. (INTASCO), AIA Singapore is now a leading life insurance company in the Asia-Pacific region.

Background
INTASCO was founded by Cornelius Vander Starr as the American Asiatic Underwriters in Shanghai, China, in 1919. It was renamed INTASCO in 1931. INTASCO began its operations in Shanghai, and established branch offices in Hong Kong, Malaya, Thailand and Singapore that same year. In 1948, Starr changed the name of the company to American International Assurance (AIA). That year, AIA reopened its regional office in Singapore.1

Postwar
In 1958, Robert Heatlie Scott, Commissioner-General for the United Kingdom office in Southeast Asia, officially opened the American International Building at the heart of Singapore’s business district. At the time, it was the largest building that AIA had constructed in Southeast Asia.2

In the 1950s, health insurance was at its infancy. AIA began finding out about the potential of health insurance in Singapore and the region. This venture turned out to be a new growth area for AIA. As a life insurance company, it provided a comprehensive range of insurance schemes such as group term life insurance, personal accident and hospital/surgical benefits.3

By the 1960s, the number of AIA competitors had grown. They included the New Zealand Insurance (NZI), AFIA Worldwide Insurance and British European Association. AIA, NZI and AFIA took a large share of the health insurance business. By the mid-’60s, AIA had successfully built up a large portfolio of clients. It continued to broaden its base in Singapore and Malaysia. Within a few years, AIA had firmly secured contracts from the “Big Four” petroleum companies: Shell, Esso, Mobil and Caltex. These took place against the backdrop of rapid industrialisation in the 1960s when many multinational companies heeded the call of the Singapore government’s Economic Development Board to build and establish their plants and factories in Singapore.4

Later developments
By the early 1970s, health insurance had established a firm footing in Singapore, as brokers and agents marketed health insurance as part of the insurance package. Lower-level employees, who were covered by health insurance schemes, were henceforth able to enjoy better ward facilities in government hospitals, while the managers and executives could opt to stay in the private hospitals for treatment. During this period, AIA began to face competition from insurers such as Red Shield, China Underwriters, Travellers and Insurope, ICS (Life Division), Netherlands Insurance (Blue Cross Scheme), NTUC Income, Great Eastern Life, Overseas Assurance, Royal and Norwich Winterthur.5


The 1980s was a period of significant growth and expansion for AIA. The company rented space for its administrative and agency offices in the Far East Finance Building, Parkway Parade, Shing Kwan House, Boon Siew Building, Concorde Hotel and Sea View Hotel.6

In the 1990s, AIA’s headquarters was located temporarily at Gateway East while the new AIA Tower was being built. At the ground-breaking ceremony of the AIA Tower on 19 November 1991, a time capsule – containing items such as a 1962 rate book and other AIA mementoes – was buried. Two years later, the 25-storey AIA Tower was officially opened. The agency also established permanent offices in the 1990s with the opening of AIA Tanjong Pagar on 24 February 1992, and AIA Changi and Alexandra on 19 July 1994.7

In the early 21st century, AIA became the first Asia-based life insurance company rated as “AAA” – the highest credit rating by Standard and Poor’s – and the first life insurance company in Asia to receive the ISO 9002 certification. The company also received local accolades such as the Productivity and Standards Board’s Singapore Quality Class (1994) and the first insurer to receive the board’s People Developer Award (2001).8



Author

Kartini Saparudin



References
1. Tan, P., & Koh, M. (2001, June). AIA celebrates 70 years in Singapore. AIA News. Singapore: AIA, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 368.0065 AIAC)
2. Tan, P., & Koh, M. (2001, June). AIA celebrates 70 years in Singapore. AIA News. Singapore: AIA, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 368.0065 AIAC)
3. Tan, A. (1988, May 29). Page 16 Advertisements Column 1: History of a growing business. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Tan, A. (1988, May 29). Page 16 Advertisements Column 1: History of a growing business. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Tan, A. (1988, May 29). Page 16 Advertisements Column 1: History of a growing business. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Tan, P., & Koh, M. (2001, June). AIA celebrates 70 years in Singapore. AIA News. Singapore: AIA, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 368.0065 AIAC)
7. Tan, P., & Koh, M. (2001, June). AIA celebrates 70 years in Singapore. AIA News. Singapore: AIA, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 368.0065 AIAC)
8. Tan, P., & Koh, M. (2001, June). AIA celebrates 70 years in Singapore. AIA News. Singapore: AIA, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 368.0065 AIAC)



The information in this article is valid as at 2007 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Organisations>>Companies
Insurance companies--Singapore
Business enterprises
Business, finance and industry>>Finance>>Insurance