SUMMARY FOR THE FIRST QUARTER
VONB of US$841 million was 27 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2019, driven mainly by significantly lower sales volumes from our businesses in Hong Kong and Mainland China. COVID-19 containment measures have varied across our individual markets in both their scope and timing with the earliest and greatest impact in the first quarter on our new business sales in Hong Kong and Mainland China. While year-on-year new business momentum in March was impacted in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, we delivered strong VONB growth outside Hong Kong and Mainland China in the first two months of 2020.
Across the region, our businesses responded rapidly to the impacts of the pandemic to support our customers, agents, distribution partners and local communities. We have rapidly developed and integrated new digital initiatives across our sales and service processes, including the ability to complete sales on a secure remote basis and leveraging online capabilities in recruitment and training.
AIA Hong Kong reported a substantial decline in VONB, driven primarily by the reduction in VONB from our Mainland Chinese visitor customer segment, which continued to broadly track the decrease in monthly visitor arrivals from Mainland China in the first quarter. The general reluctance to meet face-to-face and a limited range of products with relatively small average premium accessible in the market via online remote signature contributed to a double-digit decline in VONB from our domestic customer segment.
AIA’s wholly-owned operation in Mainland China was the largest contributor to the Group’s VONB in the first quarter 2020, despite the business reporting a low double-digit decline in VONB. Our differentiated Premier Agency strategy and rapid adoption of online digital initiatives for agent recruitment, training and management have helped drive a very strong increase in new recruits, while our existing agent retention has remained strong. Although sales volumes in March 2020 remained below March 2019, our enhanced digital sales processes, including secure remote signature, and the progressive relaxation of COVID-19 containment measures have supported an improving trend compared to February 2020. Around half of our sales in March were completed with a virtual face-to-face meeting and remote client signature.
AIA Thailand delivered a double-digit increase in VONB, driven by strong sales growth from both our agency and bancassurance channels. Our business in Singapore reported growth in VONB compared to the first quarter of 2019, including a strong performance from the agency channel. AIA Malaysia saw a double-digit decline in VONB as strong growth in January and February was more than offset by markedly lower VONB in March when strict COVID-19 containment measures significantly restricted sales activity.
Double-digit VONB growth from our Other Markets was led by our businesses in Australia, Vietnam and Taiwan (China). Our new long-term bancassurance partnership with Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) generated a non-recurring, significant contribution to VONB as CBA purchased protection cover from AIA Australia on behalf of its existing home loan customers.
Overall, ANP decreased by 18 per cent compared with the first quarter of 2019 to US$1,483 million, reflecting the decline in sales for our businesses in Hong Kong and Mainland China. VONB margin declined to 56.6 per cent, down 6.9 pps, mainly driven by a shift in product and geographical mix as well as the impact of acquisition expense overruns which reflect the reduction in business volumes. Margin reported on a present value of new business premium (PVNBP) basis correspondingly reduced to 10 per cent from 11 per cent. Long-term economic assumptions remain unchanged from those shown in our Annual Report 2019, following the approach we have applied consistently for quarterly new business highlights. TWPI increased by 8 per cent to US$8,796 million, compared with the first quarter of 2019. Underpinned by the quality of the business written, embedded value operating experience variances remained positive overall in the first quarter of 2020.
The Group remained financially very strong at 31 March 2020 and all of our businesses continued to exceed prescribed regulatory capital requirements. We have not made any fundamental changes to our liability-led investment philosophy and there has been no deterioration in the overall credit rating of our diversified portfolio of fixed income investments during the first quarter of 2020.