Cred­i­bil­ity and trust keys to un­lock­ing di­verse Asian mar­kets

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By WU YIYAO in Shang­hai wuyiyao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A fan of early morn­ing ex­er­cise and triathlons, Roy Gori be­lieves that fit­ness is one of the keys to a happy life. Gori, pres­i­dent and CEO of Man­ulife Asia, is bring­ing that same phi­los­o­phy, com­bined with a strong fo­cus on in­no­va­tion, to the in­surance sec­tor. Man­ulife Asia forms part of Man­ulife Fi­nan­cial Cor­po­ra­tion, a lead­ing in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial ser­vices group with 20 mil­lion cus­tomers around the world.

In early Septem­ber, Gori and Man­ulife-Sinochem, a joint ven­ture be­tween Man­ulife and Chi­nese con­glom­er­ate Sinochem, launched MOVE, a pioneer­ing dig­i­tal fit­ness and in­surance prod­uct for Chi­nese cus­tomers. MOVE com­bines the lat­est wear­able tech­nol­ogy and in­di­vid­ual fit­ness data to of­fer in­cen­tives to cus­tomers, in­clud­ing free in­surance cov­er­age. Users are able to use the MOVE app to trace their daily move­ment and in­cen­tivize them­selves to lead more ac­tive lives.

Gori said that MOVE could trans­form the way in­surance com­pa­nies deal with their cus­tomers.

“MOVE is all about en­gage­ment and in­ter­ac­tion. The cus­tomer in­ter­acts more fre­quently with their in­surer, and they think more about their own fit­ness and health by us­ing the app reg­u­larly,” Gori said.

“We be­lieve that MOVE is a real dif­fer­en­tia­tor for Man­ulife-Sinochem. Cus­tomers are en­gag­ing with their in­surer on a daily ba­sis, which is a huge leap for­ward from the tra­di­tional in­surance model — where in­ter­ac­tions tend to be years apart, not hours.”

The MOVE pro­gram, al­ready launched in the Hong Kong and Ma­cao spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gions and the Philip­pines, has been tremen­dously suc­cess­ful, and Gori said he be­lieves that it will have a sim­i­lar im­pact on the Chi­nese main­land.

“China is one of the most tech-savvy so­ci­eties in the world. This is a mar­ket where real tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion is re­warded by smart con­sumers and users, and we are ex­cited to be part of that suc­cess story. MOVE is just the be­gin­ning of that process,” Gori said.

Man­ulife- Sinochem is in­vest­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in dig­i­tal prod­ucts for Chi­nese con­sumers. This year, the com­pany launched a WeChat claims ser­vice, al­low­ing its cus­tomers to sub­mit claims through the in­stant mes­sag­ing plat­form. More than 50,000 cus­tomers signed up in the first two weeks of op­er­a­tion and more than 60 per­cent of WeChat claims are re­solved within one work­ing day.

The com­pany’s push to dig­i­tize is not lim­ited to di­rect cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tion. A tool de­vel­oped for in­surance agents, ePOS, which al­lows trans­ac­tions to be con­ducted on tablets and re­fines the cus­tomer’s buy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, has sig­nif­i­cantly ex­panded sales — with 92 per­cent of in­di­vid­ual poli­cies sold through agents com­ing through the ePOS sys­tem in the last quar­ter.

Those ex­panded sales add to an al­ready sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in China and around the re­gion. Op­er­at­ing in 12 mar­kets across Asia with 14,000 staff within those mar­kets, Man­ulife now sees 80 per­cent of the group’s new busi­ness value, 70 per­cent of the to­tal group’s in­surance sales and one-third of group’s prof­itabil­ity come from Asia.

On the Chi­nese main­land, Man­ulife-Sinochem’s new busi­ness grew by more than 50 per­cent in the first half of 2016 and has be­come the in­surer’s fourth-largest busi­ness in Asia in terms of con­tri­bu­tion to the group’s in­surance sales. In the broader Asian mar­ket, the first half of 2016 saw new sales grow by 41 per­cent year-onyear, and new busi­ness value in­creased by 57 per­cent with core earn­ings in­creas­ing by 16 per­cent.

Part of the growth Man­ulife has en­joyed through­out Asia is built on forg­ing new part­ner­ships with re­gional banks — a source of some 30 to 50 per­cent of in­surance sales in Asian mar­kets. Ear­lier this year, Man­ulife en­tered into a 15-year ban­cas­sur­ance part­ner­ship with Sin­ga­pore’s lead­ing con­sumer bank DBS across the Chi­nese main­land, Hong Kong, Sin­ga­pore and In­done­sia.

This (China) is a mar­ket where real tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion is re­warded by smart con­sumers and users.”

In China, the ban­cas­sur­ance busi­ness has nearly dou­bled since the part­ner­ship be­gan.

Gori says Man­ulife is uniquely po­si­tioned to grow in Asia due to its long his­tory in the mar­ket — hav­ing first ar­rived in Shang­hai in 1897 — and its strong con­nec­tions to lo­cal mar­kets.

“Many com­pa­nies think they can sim­ply just go to Asia, put up their brand, and do busi­ness. Suc­cess in Asia re­quires real con­nec­tiv­ity with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and un­der­stand­ing the di­verse Asia mar­ket­place. Cred­i­bil­ity and trust mean a great deal here,” Gori said.

De­spite eco­nomic head­winds and a per­sis­tent global low-in­ter­est en­vi­ron­ment, Gori said the long-term Asian eco­nomic out­look — and the po­ten­tial growth within the re­gional in­surance sec­tor — re­mains very pos­i­tive.

“There are pow­er­ful forces in Asia, and par­tic­u­larly China, which make this a cru­cial mar­ket for Man­ulife. Asia’s mid­dle class is on its way to be­ing the most in­flu­en­tial con­sumer group on the planet, and in­surance own­er­ship within that group is still very low. Man­ulife is ex­tremely well-po­si­tioned to an­swer that grow­ing de­mand,” Gori said.

He at­tributes Man­ulife’s cur­rent high growth in the re­gion to the com­pany’s re­newed fo­cus on un­der­stand­ing its con­sumers, pro­vid­ing in­te­grated so­lu­tions to meet their holis­tic needs, and build­ing a com­pelling mul­ti­chan­nel strat­egy to serve the cus­tomer on their own terms. On the Chi­nese main­land, where life in­surance pen­e­tra­tion rates are rel­a­tively low, Gori be­lieves Man­ulife can achieve con­tin­ued growth in the long term.

“Peo­ple for­get that when an econ­omy has grown as much as China’s has, slow­ing growth now is still con­sid­er­ably bet­ter growth than from pre­vi­ous years. Even at 6 or 6.5 per­cent, China com­pares very fa­vor­ably to any Western econ­omy. While there is un­de­ni­ably some slow­down, we will suc­ceed by build­ing a busi­ness that puts the cus­tomer first in a way that most in­sur­ers haven’t done be­fore,” Gori said.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Man­ulife-Sinochem launches MOVE, an in­no­va­tive in­surance pro­gram, in Shang­hai on Sept 2.

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