Sales of insurance are growing in many Asian and western Pacific markets, despite the dominance of the agent channel, a new report says.

Locally, the bank insurance business has evolved in different ways in different countries sustained by deregulation of banking and insurance companies, according to the report, Bancassurance in the Asia-Pacific Region, from consulting firm Celent L.L.C., Boston.

The Asia-Pacific region is still agent-dominated in both life and non-life distribution, but banc assurance is growing quickly, the report finds. Penetration in the life insurance market by banks ranges from 10% of sales in India, Japan, and Thailand to as high as 50% to 70% of total insurance distribution in countries like Taiwan and Malaysia.

Celent expects the agent channel to decline in those markets and give way to nontraditional channels, including direct sales and aggregators as well as banks.

In mainland China, banks accounted for 27% of insurance sales in 2009, compared to 37% in the agent channel, Celent found.

In countries where the Muslim population is high, banks are offering a range of insurance-related products, known as Takaful, that meet Islamic religious restrictions. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are among the countries considering this opportunity, Celent reports.

-Trevor Thomas