With a new Critical Illness Benefit featuring competitive financial and diagnoses coverage, Manulife Cambodia is helping the country’s population overcome trying times and get back to the life and family they love
The shattering diagnosis of cancer brings at once the weight of mortality and financial security as patients balance medical treatment and the cost of being absent from work while they recover. As medical professionals continue to chase the cure to cancer, rates of incidence are only expected to increase in coming years.
Worldwide, the tragic diagnosis met the ears of 14 million people worldwide in 2012 and is expected to increase to 25 million people in the next two decades, according to the 2014 World Cancer Report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation. The brunt of this—roughly 60%— was felt by patients in low- and middle-income countries. In Southeast Asia alone, cancer rates are expected to skyrocket by 2030 to levels 40% higher than those in 2012.
Despite this harrowing news, there is hope for recovery.
“There’s more and more research coming out that if you get diagnosed early and you get the treatment that you need, the survival rate is really high,” says Kann Nara, chief client officer for Manulife Cambodia. According to the American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2016, the survival rate from such illnesses can be higher than 90% if the diagnoses and treatment are received early.
With this in mind, Manulife launched its new Critical Illness Benefit last month, which provides up to $100,000 in financial support upon diagnosis of one of 14 covered critical illnesses, from cancer to lung or liver disease.
“We understand that people here worry about critical illnesses. Everyone has this fear of getting cancer or having a heart attack. In the old days when you had this kind of disease, the mentality was, ‘That’s it, that’s the end of you.’ It’s not like that anymore,” Nara says. “Cambodians are doing their part by taking care of their health and getting regular checkups. But what happens if they do get the early critical illness diagnosis? Will they have the financial protection that they need?”
In response, Manulife’s Critical Illness Benefit goes beyond paying for medical care, allowing patients to cushion their salary so they can take leave from work to get treatment and recover without making them financially unstable. The new benefit can be folded into Manulife’s education or savings plan to provide extra protection to families or adults age 18 to 55. A 25-year-old man, for example, could add a $10,000 Critical Illness Benefit to his savings plan for less than $15 a year, Nara explains.
“We are hoping that the early stage benefit would help you get the treatment that you need to survive and stay longer with your family, with your loved ones, which has a higher value than anything else,” she says.
The company is committed to building a better and healthier future for Cambodian families, Nara explains. “We are working hard to make sure we are providing the most needed solutions for our customers and to show that we are there for them.”
This dedication to bettering the lives of the Cambodian people has been underscored by a series of Asia Pacific Customer Service Consortium awards that Manulife Cambodia has won in 2018 to recognise their work. For the second consecutive year, Manulife was recognised with Customer Engagement of the Year and CSR Program of the Year awards, as well as first time recognition as Best Brand of the Year and CEO of the Year for the insurance category (to the company’s CEO Robert Elliott).
“These awards give the staff here a stronger commitment, make us feel proud and make us want to continue to do more for our local community,” says Nara.
What have been the greatest challenges you’ve faced during your term? Despite these achievements, the government has been well aware that several challenges still remain, such as slow speed of economic diversification, raising wages, high logistics costs, higher electricity costs compared to neighbouring countries and a shortage of skilled labour. In this sense, the government has been proactive to address these challenges.
To diversify our economy, the government has revised the Law on Investment and Incentive Schemes to attract capital-intensive industries and to promote the expansion of existing investment. We have also decided to reduce the electricity tariff gradually from 2019 for industrial and commercial users with the aim of reaching a level comparable to neighbouring countries.
To bring the cost of doing business down, the government has invested heavily in main infrastructure such as building a new expressway, expanding [Preah Sihanouk] seaport and enlarging all national roads connected to main economic hubs and neighbouring countries. At the same time, the government has been promoting trade facilitation by implementing the National Single Window [customs portal], simplifying and automatising customs procedures both on valuation and clearance, and revising agencies’ stationing at international border checkpoints and ports.
We have also been active in promoting small and medium enterprises [SMEs] by setting up SME banks and introducing incentive schemes for SMEs. To address the shortage of skilled labour, the government has increased the budget for education and vocational training by more than threefold. Where do you see the most promising opportunities for financial growth in the country? There continues to be strong public confidence in the banking sector, as reflected by healthy increases in credit as well as deposit activities and its substantial attraction of foreign direct investment inflows – particularly in microfinance institutions [MFI]. Remarkable financial
“Cambodia’s competitive edge comes from a combination of factors… [such as] relatively competitive labour costs, favourable demographic factors, with around 60% of the population under 30 years and a rapidly growing middle class, and its strategic location at the centre of Asean”
deepening together with rapid adoption of new technologies – notably in payments systems – have supported improved financial inclusion. While MFIs’ increasing presence and significance has greatly contributed to improving access to credit, the innovations in fintech have also opened up new possibilities in the provision of financial services, including low-cost access to credit and savings vehicles and trade facilitation. Financial inclusion in Cambodia has grown significantly in recent years, with the National Bank of Cambodia estimating in 2016 that 71% of the country’s population had access to financial services while 59% use formal banking services. How can the country continue to propel financial inclusion and ensure that citizens are getting the most out of financial access? Fintech may play a critical role in supporting financial inclusion through the development of the country’s financial infrastructure. These innovations have provided access to a wide variety of financial information, helped in the integration of financial and credit markets within the country and reduced financial transaction costs. But enhancing financial literacy needs to be expanded further, especially in rural areas where financial literacy is low – not only to increase financial inclusion, but also to improve overall allocation efficiency. In the non-bank sector, the country can work on developing well-functioning insurance markets and broader capital markets to expand the range of financial services as well as to harness domestic resources for investment. What should the government do to better incorporate banking into daily life in Cambodia? To better incorporate banking and modern financial services into Cambodian daily life, the government has sought to encourage citizens to use banking services through creating e-government payment systems where tax, non-tax and other public fees can be paid via online platform. Governmentsupported payment platforms will not only better incorporate banking and financial services into Cambodians’ daily lives, but they will also increase transparency in all government financial transactions. Encouraging private investment in e-payment systems is another initiative of ours. The government will develop a strategy [for the] digital economy to provide the private sector a reliable platform, and may provide tax incentives to e-payment businesses to promote investment and growth of this sector. Where does Cambodia have a competitive edge against its Asean neighbours economically, and what should be done to fully take advantage of this?
Overall, Cambodia’s competitive edge comes from a combination of factors: political and macroeconomic stability, the openness of the economy, robust and sustained economic growth, relatively competitive labour costs, favourable demographic factors, with around 60% of the population under 30 years and a rapidly growing middle class, and its strategic location at the centre of Asean. To fully take advantage of these strengths, the government needs to accelerate institutional structural reforms and set out further policy measures to create an enabling business environment, improve trade facilitation, reduce electricity price and logistics costs, boost productivity, and further support SMEs and startups. As Cambodia’s middle class continues to grow, what should be done to boost incomes countrywide and
how do you see this impacting the country’s future? Besides ensuring sustainable high economic growth, the government is implementing a number of fiscal and social protection policies to increase income countrywide. We are designing an equitable tax policy by ensuring that the tax burden on the poor is not raised, ensuring the tax system is not biased and strengthening efforts across agencies to combat tax avoidance and tax evasion. We’re also promoting financial inclusion by reducing financial transaction costs through financial literacy and regulation and promoting the use of digital payments by SMEs. Productivity in the agriculture sector is also being improved through irrigation systems, promoting safe fertiliser usage, providing access to high-yielding varieties of crops and supporting agro-processing industries.
Manulife Cambodia CEO Robert Elliott and the company’s senior management team at the launch of the Critical Illness Benefit last month
Manulife Cambodia’s chief client officer Kann Nara
The finance minister said Cambodia aims to increase incomes with fiscal and socialprotection policies