A Matter of Risk: Insurance in Malaysia, 1826-1990

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By Lee Kam Hing

The insurance industry in Malaysia is a large and important sector of the economy in terms of capitalization, business turnover, assets, and the number of employees. Insurance companies played a crucial role in early Western economic expansion into Malaya, underwriting shipping, mining, and plantation ventures to protect entrepreneurs from excessive risk. The scope of the insurance business later broadened to cover fire risks, motor insurance, and workmen's compensation, while war risk coverage helped ensure that the economy continued to function during the 1940s and 1950s. After independence, the social and political environment of independent Malaysia offered new opportunities for the insurance industry.

A Matter of Risk shows how insurance companies established themselves in an unfamiliar environment, marketed new products, responded to diverse demands and safeguarded market share and profit against competition. Local firms faced a major challenge as overseas insurance companies moved from running agency offices to setting up of branches, taking over or collaborating with existing companies, and eventually incorporating themselves as local companies.

The study looks at the role of tariff associations and insurance trade organizations such as the Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia (Malaysian General Insurance Association) in maintaining order in the industry through self-regulation.

"The author is to be complimented on his industrious research and scrupulous scholarship. He has produced a work of lasting value in charting the significant contribution made by insurance to the development of Malaysia and Singapore.” - Peter Drake

“This is a formidable book even for the student of history. At 667 pages long and straddling two centuries, Lee Kam Hing’s history of insurance in Malaysia may very well be last word on the Malaysian insurance sector for a long time to come” - Neil Khor


Lee Kam Hing was a lecturer at the History Department, University of Malaya from 1973-1980, Associate Professor in 1980 and Professor in 1994. He also served as Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, University of Malaya, from 1978-1980.


Publication Year: 2012
480 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-460-9, Paperback
ISBN: 978-9971-69-668-9, Hardback

NUS Press