South African insurer opens doors

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Last updated 14:39 31/07/2014

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South African insurer Youi has started selling house, contents and car cover over the internet in New Zealand.

Youi received its licence to sell insurance here on Monday, and quietly began issuing policies yesterday, but today marks the official the start of its attempt to win a share of what is one of the world's most concentrated general insurance markets.

The New Zealand insurance market is dominated by the Australian-owned IAG group, which owns the NZI, State and AMI brands, and fellow Australian giant Vero, which also majority owns AA Insurance.

The ratio of claims paid to premiums gathered for house and contents insurance, excluding natural disaster cover, and car cover, have fallen over the past five years, according to figures from the Insurance Council.

This indicates competition is not driving prices down.

Youi's chief executive Danie Matthee indicated Youi, which the company says stands for "You. Insured", would be competing on price.

Many Kiwis were "paying too much" for their cover, Matthee said.

"We're all about tailored products, priced very competitively and accurately, because we don't make assumptions about what our clients need - we ask relevant questions to really understand our clients better so that we can offer a competitive price."

To promote public transparency, policyholders could share their experiences using "The Youi Wall" online message board.

Youi has made significant inroads into the Australian market since it launched there in 2008, and now claims to be the fastest growing car and home insurer across the Tasman. It has had a new Zealand presence for over a year, with a call centre in Auckland servicing customers in Australia.

It's now a sizeable employer with over 280 staff in New Zealand, which it says will rise to over 420 by April next year.

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