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2016 All-Asia Research Team: Insurance, No. 2: Li (Jenny) Jiang, Sara Lee & team

At No. 2 is Morgan Stanley’s regional insurance crew, which topped the roster the past two years.

Li (Jenny) Jiang, Sara Lee & team
Morgan Stanley
First-Place Appearances: 4

Total Appearances: 12

Team Debut: 2003

At No. 2 is Morgan Stanley’s regional insurance crew, which topped the roster the past two years. Longtime leader Bin (Ben) Lin left the firm in November for U.S. money manager Capital Group, and newcomers Li (Jenny) Jiang in Hong Kong and Seoul-based Sara Lee are at the helm now. One client appreciates the analysts’ “available access, clear view of the sector and timely comments.” In general, says Lee, “we expect the insurance industry to continue to outperform the Kospi Index, given its multiyear underwriting profitability and recovery outlook, especially for nonlife insurers.” An exception, however, is life insurers, whose shares they project will “remain weak, due to the declining market interest rate environment,” she notes. The industry in China is attractive, Jiang reports, driven by strong growth prospects, solid balance sheets and low valuations. Moreover, headwinds from lower yields are fully priced in, the researchers believe, and improving product mix, continued asset diversification and stabilization of China’s A-share and bond markets are potential catalysts to support a valuation recovery. Among the 40 regional insurers in their coverage universe, South Korea’s Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance Co. is a favorite. “We expect a multiyear strong earnings recovery, given the company’s focus on profitability in the underwriting side through premium rate hikes,” Lee notes. She and her colleagues also foresee earnings recovery of 50 percent in 2016, thanks to improvement in the auto loss ratio, and a further 20 percent earnings gain next year. Their price target for Hyundai Marine is 45,000 won; its stock closed at 33,100 won late last month. Another preferred name is AIA Group, owing to the Hong Kong–based provider’s diversified and balanced business mix across Asia, as well as its robust and resilient growth profile. In addition, Jiang advises, “a solid balance sheet and low interest rate sensitivity also make the company a safer insurance play in the volatile environment.” Trading at HK$46.80 in late April, AIA bears a price objective of HK$55. Jiang holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from China’s Peking University and a masters in statistics from University of Victoria in Canada. Lee earned a BSc in industrial management and computer science and a master’s degree in management engineering from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. She signed on with the firm two years before her co-captain.

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