Insurance companies and insurance intermediaries are regulated in Hong Kong under the provisions of the Insurance Ordinance.
Insurance companies carrying on business in or from Hong Kong have to apply to the Insurance Authority(IA)(Note) for authorisation. To be an authorised insurer, the company has to fulfill requirements relating to capital, solvency, fitness and properness of management and shareholders and adequacy of reinsurance arrangements.
An insurance intermediary can be an agent or a broker. An insurance agent acts as the agent of an insurance company and sells insurance products on behalf of that company. An insurance broker, on the other hand, acts on behalf of the purchasers of insurance and looks for policies from a range of insurance companies.
Under the Insurance Ordinance, any persons selling or advising on insurance products are required to be appointed insurance agents or authorised insurance brokers. The registration of insurance intermediaries and complaints about their misconduct are handled by three self-regulatory organisations (SROs) approved by the IA.
All insurance agents need to be registered with the Insurance Agents Registration Board (IARB) set up by the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers under the self-regulatory system of insurance intermediaries.
The IARB is approved by the IA to implement and administer the Code of Practice for the Administration of the Insurance Agents. It handles complaints relating to the misconduct of insurance agents.
When the IARB considers that a complaint is substantiated, it may take disciplinary action against the insurance agents involved. Some examples of disciplinary actions are the issuance of reprimand, suspension, termination of registration, or other actions as the IARB thinks fit.
An insurance broker needs to become a registered member of one of the two approved broker bodies, namely The Hong Kong Confederation of Insurance Brokers (HKCIB) and Professional Insurance Brokers Association (PIBA).
To be a registered member of HKCIB or PIBA, one has to satisfy the minimum requirements relating to qualifications and experience, capital and net assets, professional indemnity insurance, keeping of separate client accounts and keeping of proper books and accounts.
Note: On 7 December 2015, the independent IA was established under the Insurance Companies (Amendment) Ordinance 2015. The IA is a new insurance regulator independent of the Government. The IA took over the regulatory functions of the then Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, which was a Government department, on 26 June 2017. It is expected that the IA will take over the regulation of insurance intermediaries from the three Self-Regulatory Organizations, and implement a new statutory regulatory and licensing regime within two years thereafter.