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International insurance groups are setting their sights on Latin America, drawn by rebounding economies and generally low insurance penetration rates.

Over the past year, insurance groups from North America, Western Europe and elsewhere have led a major push into the region. The scope for growth is “huge”, in the words of Max Capital Group, a Bermuda-based outfit that recently set up shop in Brazil and Colombia. Even so, these new entrants face competition from emboldened local players, including a few foreign-owned firms that made forays into the region well before its latest growth spurt.

Spain’s Mapfre, for example, claims to be Latin America’s largest non-life insurer—and third-largest insurer overall. Aggressive expansion in the region was viewed warily when investors were seized by risk aversion at the outset of the credit crunch. Now, Mapfre’s Latin American footprint is raising the insurer’s global profile. Others are trying to catch up.

Read more at Financial Services Briefing: “Venturing south” (January 21st)