Japan's Financial Services Agency has given the thumbs up for French financial services group Credit Agricole to establish a life insurance business in the country.

Credit Agricole Life Insurance Company Japan will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the French bank. Based in Tokyo, the life insurer will be capitalized initially at JPY2 billion.

From autumn 2007, it will target the country’s rapidly-growing bancassurance market, with special emphasis on unit-linked retirement savings (variable annuities). It will distribute its products through the networks of Japanese partner banks.

The new unit represents an important step in Credit Agricole’s international expansion. Credit Agricole is recognized as a specialist in developing bancassurance products and organizing distribution through banks, and it is these skills that the new unit will draw upon, along with the group’s existing strengths in Japan.

Leveraging on these advantages, the new company is expected to create further growth in the group’s international insurance business and to market attractive new products to customers of Japanese banks.

Credit Agricole Life Japan is the first life insurer to be granted an operating license by the Japanese Financial Services Agency since 2002.