Monthly Archives: April 2014

An Emerging International Coalition of Anti-ILAS Crusaders

For the past year, I have been witnessing and have become a part of an ever-expanding international network of anti-ILAS activists. This network stretches from Eastern Europe to the Middle East to Japan to Hong Kong to Singapore and anywhere else that ILAS is being flogged. Many of these activists are victims of the scam, but others like myself are involved because we know too many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who’ve been ripped off.

As we speak out, the number of infuriated investors continues to snowball, and the downfall of ILAS looks increasingly inevitable.

Daniel Brooks, based in Tokyo, is one ILAS victim who is fighting back with notable force. He recently wrote an excellent article that was published in the Japan Times, which exposes the deceptive practices of those who create and sell ILAS:

It’s their plan for your money, so assume deception

Daniel is also fundraising and organizing collective legal action against Generali International. Anyone wishing to learn more may contact him via his online petition:

Stop insurance companies paying high, undisclosed, front-loaded commission payments to advisors selling Investment-Linked Assurance Schemes (ILAS)

When ILAS victims work together, and especially when they utilize the media, the chances of insurers and advisers being held accountable increases dramatically.

If you are an ILAS victim and would like to link up with other ILAS victims, feel free to contact me at lindelll@gmail.com. A number of people from different countries have recently contacted me and are working hard to get newspapers across the globe to start reporting on this international scandal.

Key Legislator Admits that Unaccountable, Predatory ILAS Sales Force Needs to Be Reined In

In a series of articles published yesterday morning, South China Morning Post continues to expose one of Hong Kong’s biggest financial scandals of the past two decades, while putting legislators and regulators in the hot seat:

Scope seen for tighter regulation of insurance-linked investments

Let SFC regulate investment-linked insurance policies

Six top tips for avoiding financial disaster when investing in a fund

These articles explain how predatory “advisers” are using the so-called “insurance wrapper” of ILAS products to shield themselves from the normal rules and scrutiny of the SFC. They are thus able to flog unauthorized and potentially toxic funds by packaging them inside ripoff ILAS products. This practice is so common that the industry even has a name for it: “double dipping”. The term is a reference to the fact that advisers are secretly dipping into their clients’ pockets twice via large kickbacks (i.e., commissions) from both ILAS issuers and fund issuers.

Apparently, when asked to comment on this regulatory fiasco, Sin Chung-kai, chairman of the legislative committee responsible for the Securities and Futures Bill, basically admitted that the regulation of “insurance-linked investments” is flawed, that it has resulted in widespread exploitation of retail investors, and that the government needs to address this issue immediately by rewriting the relevant laws.

It’s about time that someone from LegCo has finally stepped up and acknowledged the truth.

The reporters and editors responsible for SCMP’s persistent coverage of ILAS deserve high praise. No other news organization has had the courage to hold regulators, legislators, and the vermin in the self-regulated insurance industry accountable.

Chinese Media Scooped by Shue Yan University Student, Wong Lai Yung

If you follow the Hong Kong news, then you’ve probably read about recent attacks against Chinese journalists and massive protests against press censorship.

Given how much coverage SCMP has devoted to the ILAS mis-selling scandal, it seems quite odd that Chinese newspapers have published almost nothing on the topic. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m tempted to believe that Chinese journalists have been bullied into silence.

Fortunately, not everyone is being quiet. My girlfriend and I were recently interviewed by a journalism student from Shue Yan University who was doing research for a report on ILAS. Her name is Wong Lai Yung, and she has given me permission to reprint her article on my blog:

投資相連壽險問題多多要提防

One of the most disturbing facts she discovered is that over 2 million ILAS policies have been sold in Hong Kong over the past decade:

Chinese ILAS Article Chart P1

She found this info on the Insurance Authority’s website. I didn’t know this information was public until she told me. I have since spent a lot of time looking through the data and will soon be posting several charts that tie together more than a decade of ILAS statistics.

I’ve also been working on an essay that explains how insurers and advisers have been violating Section 16A of the Theft Ordinance. I will post that soon as well.

投資相連壽險問題多多要提防

投資相連壽險計劃(Investment-Linked Assurance Schemes,下稱投連險) 於近年惹來不少爭議和批評,除了被斥產品複雜、收費昂貴和保單易貶值外,更嚴重的是不良的銷售手法。據保險業監理處的數據顯示,投資相連業務保單保費較去年下跌18.3%至171億元。

投連險是保險公司發行的一種人壽保險計劃,並混合基金投資,屬於一項長期保險計劃。投保人可以自選基金和投資比例,保險金額根據當時基金單位的淨資產而定。若投保人不幸身故,受益人將獲額外1%的身故賠償,即全數賠償額將是保單價值的101%,故投連險亦稱為「101計劃」。

人壽保險始見於約400年前,而最早的投資相連保單則是1957年在英國面世的。在香港,投連險產品於2003年,經濟和金融市場蓬勃時如雨後春荀般湧現,近十年最高峰時期,於2007年有近43萬張保單成交,可惜經2008年的金融海嘯打擊後逐漸回落,去年的成交保單數目為11萬張,回復十年前的水平。(見圖一)

Chinese ILAS Article Chart P1

保監處指,投資相連壽險計劃及其銷售文件、退保說明文件及推廣物品,除非已根據《證券及期貨條例》獲豁免,否則必須先獲證券及期貨事務監察委員會(證監會)認可,才可向香港公眾推出,現時共有264份受認可的投連險計劃,最早受認可的計劃自1990年開始,分別來自Generali International Limited和Friends Provident International Limited的產品。

不過,獲證監會認可並不表示證監會推介該計劃,或對該計劃的表現作出保證。證監會的認可程序包括審閱要約文件,有時亦會檢視產品的結構特點,以確定產品是否符合若干持平的準則,及有否披露所需資料,但沒有核實個別銷售文件內容,例如該等資料有否錯誤、遺漏或不正確。

投連險與直接投資基金大不同

Fundsupermart.com(香港)總經理黃展威曾撰文指,投連險表面上與直接認購基金相似,但兩者性質大有不同。(見表一)

作為投保者,除一般基金收費外,還包括由保險公司收取的行政費、計劃管理費及斷供費等;而直接投資基金則沒有多層收費,可減省更多成本,長遠而言有助財富累積。

有保險公司指該類型產品有最少18個月的「禁售期」(Lock-in period),如投保者想在期間把基金贖回,需付出一半甚至所有保金的退保費。

最值得關注的一點是,藉投連險認購的基金,其資產擁有權屬於保險公司,投保者的身份只是「保單持有人」,意味如保險公司不幸倒閉,有關投保者極可能損失全部投資。

Chinese ILAS Article Chart P2

隨著社會對投連險的關注日增,投訴個案亦有上升的趨勢。記者曾就有關投連險的投訴數字詢問消費者委員會及保監處,但於截稿前仍未收到回覆。據香港保險業聯會的數據顯示,62宗投訴個案由2007年跳升至2011年的211宗,升幅超過三倍。(見表二)

Chinese ILAS Article Chart P3

投保人敗訴促推披露佣金新措施

2012年1月,利邦前副主席Jeremy Hobbins興訟要求撤銷投連險計劃,但高院最後判Hobbins敗訴,這場極具標誌性的大案亦宣告結束,卻同時令投連險的規管措施邁前一步,保監處於7月要求中介人披露佣金的措施就是因此案而新增的。

2011年,Jeremy Hobbins指其前財務顧問Clearwater International Ltd.及另一公司Royal Skandia Life Assurance Ltd. Clearwater違反受信責任及賄賂,經紀為賺取豐厚佣金(八年賺100萬)向他推介不合適的Skandia保險投資計劃。

女友墮投資陷阱男友踏上抗爭之路

梁頌恩,幼稚園老師,去年發現乳房有癌變組織,最後需要借錢支付手術費,為準備日後的醫療開支,不諳投資的她決定向相識多年的好友Cat Lau,康宏理財的兼職理財顧問,購買了供款期為廿五年的標準人壽「盈聚101」投資計劃,月入萬四元的她,每月供款就需要一千元。當時身負超過四萬元卡數的她,並不知道自己購買的是屬長期投資的投連險。

一年後,她欲提取供款,怎料被告知若在第一年提取供款,將會失去之前所有的供款。她感到驚訝,「找朋友去購買(保險) ,就是認為你不會騙我」,並指當初Cat曾說可以隨時停供,卻無提及高昂的罰款。

本年六月,事件經媒體報導後,康宏答應歸還她共萬三元的供款,她並無接受,因康宏理財表示不會道歉及承認錯誤,更求她要簽署保密協議。

康宏理財為香港最大的獨立保險及強積金計劃中介人公司,一直被指公司的經紀銷售手法不恰當。根據康宏理財2012的年度報告,從銷售投連險所賺到的佣金收入為630,098,000,即為六億三千萬元的利潤,97%來自投連險產品,以擁有超過2000名理財顧問來計算,每位經紀的年薪高達30萬元。

同是幼稚園老師的Lindell Lucy,梁頌恩的男友,經常研究投資產品,他認為無人可以剝奪他們的言論自由,並不會為萬三元的「掩口費」而妥協,「我們要的是一個道歉和公道」。

Lindell無奈地說,投連險是一個複雜難懂的產品,很多人都是透過親戚朋友去買,很容易就相信他所說的,即使遇到問題,也不想找他們麻煩和令關係惡化。

事件發生後,除了上班,Lindell就是經營「The Rape Of Hong Kong」,希望透過網站發布消息,可引起香港人對投連險的警覺及爭取廢除投連險。

保險從業員也喊停成立專頁助苦主

Chinese ILAS Article Photo P4

很多人認為,投資涉及風險,不可能「輸打贏要」。身為保險從業員的黎仁昌認為,投連險的苦主通常不是因為投資失利而投訴,而是有些條款他不知道,甚至被瞞騙。

雖然終極目標是希望投連險下架,但他明白不可能一下子將其廢除,現時只能盡量教育公眾更多關於投資理財的知識。

同是社交網站「投資相連式保單苦主大聯盟」專頁的發起人,黎仁昌表示只想有良心地賺錢。2011年,他曾在於中原理財當了半年經紀,發現公司將錯誤的銷售投連險手法給新入職的同事,逐漸了解到投連險的不合理條文。同年離職後在社交網站上成立專頁,除了希望藉著自己的保險知識去教育市民對投連險有更多的認識,同時希望有個平台集合投連險的苦主,向他們提供一些協助。

黎仁昌笑說:「起初可能是為了公義,後來發現原來對身為保險從業員的自己也有得益。」他的保險公司並不主張銷售風險高和高佣金的保單,主要客人是中小企業,透過推銷強積金和醫療保險去賺取利潤,希望賺得心安理得。

「投資相連式保單苦主大聯盟」於2011年6月成立,現時共有84人加入,黎仁昌指最近人數略有上升,反而覺得是壞事,因為可能代表越來越多苦主。Lindell亦於專頁結識黎仁昌,志同道合的他們不時會討論新方法去引起公眾對投連險的關注,現正籌備成立Youtube頻道,製作一些影片,例如拍下經紀在咖啡店賣保單的不良手法、口述一些苦主的個案和教授保險知識等。

監管分散薄弱苦主求助無門

據黎仁昌指,不是每位苦主都能收到賠償,只要保險公司的文件無問題,即使保險經紀或代理人有操守問題,例如對計劃有所隱瞞和誤導等,但只要投資者簽署作實,亦無法追討。他又表示,監管機構如香港保險顧問聯會和香港專業保險經紀協會等均為保險業界的自律組織,是「自己人管自己人」,有互相包庇之嫌。

對於投連險,實在難以理解是哪個機構負責監管,是證監會還是保監處的責任?抑或由保險業界自律組織來監管?就上文提及,雖現時的投連險要先獲證監會認可才可發售,但其權責亦僅限於此,若消費者對該產品有不滿時,證監會並不能處理投訴個案;保監處亦只負責監管所有保險公司的財政狀況穩健。(見表三)

Chinese ILAS Article Chart P5

全球也有投連險管制不一樣

Lindell和黎仁昌都曾生活於美國,Lindell認為投連險產品最初只是設計給外國人作免稅用途,外國對投連險的規管也較香港嚴謹(見表四),英國更是禁售投連險,因此他們都建議曾是英國殖民地的香港應同樣的禁售投連險產品。

Chinese ILAS Article Chart P6

[This article was written by Wong Lai Yung.]