Building up a life insurance market around people’s needs

09:23 | 10/08/2015
Midway through 2015, Manulife Vietnam posted very optimistic results, reflecting the company’s savvy business strategies.

VIR spoke to Paul George Nguyen, vice president and CEO of Manulife Vietnam to gain a better understanding of the company’s development strategies and how it plans to seize the vast potential within Vietnam’s life insurance market.

With over 25 years working in the insurance industry, can you share your views on the Vietnamese life insurance market?

Vietnam is one of the world’s most dynamic and rapidly-expanding insurance markets, with huge growth potential for life insurers. From 2009 to 2013, Vietnam’s compound annual growth rate was around 6 per cent, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the Southeast Asian region.

In the financial sector, Vietnam’s life insurance industry has observed substantial growth recently. The participation of various international financial giants has positively improved the life insurance industry on the basis of fair competition.

In the insurance industry, Vietnam is one of the most important markets given its high population and low insurance penetration rate at around 5-6 per cent of the population. Meanwhile, public awareness of life insurance is being enhanced with new clients seeking insurance products as financial solutions for themselves and their families. Moreover, there is a rise in the volume of middle class individuals. These factors demonstrate a great opportunity for Vietnam’s life insurance industry.

You’ve mentioned the huge potential in Vietnam’s life insurance market. What were Manulife Vietnam’s most significant achievements over recent years? And what are its development strategies for the coming years?

Manulife Vietnam has had a very good track record of growth over the past 5 years. At the review period for 2009-2014, our revenue increased by over 160 per cent. At the end of 2014, Manulife Vietnam’s total assets amounted to over USD 500 million. At present, Manulife Vietnam has 35 agency offices, and a presence in 24 major cities & provinces country-wide, servicing more than 500 thousands policies.

Since last year – for Manulife Vietnam in particular, and Manulife in general – you can observe many changes in our business strategies that place a greater emphasis on customers, a strategy called “customer–centricity”. This means our strategies and actions must address customers’ needs and interests. To achieve this goal, we must differentiate our products and services. Along with this target, in 2015 and for the following years, we will be pursuing a drastic development within Manulife in every facet: developing a radical product portfolio that will give customers superior options and flexibility, and diversifying our distribution channels to make our products and services more accessible to customers.

Specifically, we will expand and improve our bancassurance partnerships, develop our recently- established channels – direct marketing and telemarketing (DMTM). Moreover, we will continue to invest in training and human resource development to leverage the skills and experience of our professional agents that help to further improve our customer services.

Manulife Vietnam held the kick-off meeting with the participation of more than 2,000 agents in Hanoi

Manulife is one of the top three life insurers in Vietnam. How will you retain this status and shorten the gap to become the market leader?

Over the past 16 years, Manulife has achieved impressive growth results and has secured a solid position in the market. However, along with the maturity of this industry as well as fiercer competition between life insurers, we need to look back, seek positive change, and self-improve to move forward and achieve greater success in the future. Thus, our goal for the future is to constantly improve. We are aiming to achieve sustainable growth. We do not allow ourselves to be content with our existing position, and are aware of the fact that we must always research, develop, and innovate to go further.

As I already mentioned, our strategy is to become a company that puts the customer at the centre of everything we do, culturally and operationally.

We aim to be a market leader, not only in terms of market share, but more importantly in the minds of our customers when they need help with the many financial decisions to be made throughout their lives to protect themselves and their families.

It is easier said than done, but in order to win customers’ trust, we have to constantly try to improve our service quality, innovate products that are based on the needs of customers, as well as build a team of professional and passionate agents.

Since early 2015, the life insurance market has seen a race among insurers through the launch of various insurance products. The recent introduction of four new comprehensive financial solutions is the second product launch by Manulife since January. Can you explain the ideas behind these new products?

After being introduced in January this year, “Manulife – My Beloved Family” has received positive feedback from our customers. This product has been welcomed by customers for its innovative features that provide the triple benefits of comprehensive protection, product flexibility, and attractive long-term savings. We bring these three strengths together in a single product to provide clients and their families with peace of mind and financial security at different life stages.

Our recent launch of four new comprehensive financial solutions, which have numerous enhanced options, are designed to meet the various and changing needs of customers and their families throughout their various life stages. They are the needs of savings, education, protection, and retirement with financial solutions, i.e. “Manulife – The Dream Life”, “Manulife – The Best Childhood”, “Manulife – Peaceful Life”, and “Manulife – Golden Age”.

The introduction of these new innovative financial solutions demonstrate our efforts to expand and diversify our product portfolio based on understanding the actual needs of our customers.

Agents play a vital role in connecting the insurance company and its customers. In Vietnam, there are precious few people who are pursuing a career as an insurance agent. What are Manulife doing to change this scenario?

In Manulife, agency is still the main and successful distribution channel in the life insurance industry; the other channels being bancassurance, direct marketing, tele-marketing and micro-insurance. Manulife has a strong and professional force of over 17,000 agents. Meanwhile, Manulife Vietnam continues to have one of the biggest MDRT (Million Dollar Round Table) members in the life insurance industry (MDRT is an international standard of excellence in life insurance and financial services for agents).

This is part of what motivates us to continuously invest, improve, and implement training programmes for our agency’s development. Earlier this year, we launched the Centre for Professional Development (CPD), a “Centre of Expertise” in Manulife Vietnam’s Agency Training. The CPD sets a new benchmark for providing our Agents and Managers with professional training focused on practical, proven methods and systems, and relationship-building techniques to improve our effectiveness with prospects and customers.

Our commitment to continuous lifelong learning enables our agency force to provide best-in-class service and advice to our customers, as well as building a successful, long-term career with Manulife Vietnam.

Can you explain how Manulife attracts and retains talents?

I would like to say that I am very lucky to have an elite and dedicated team working towards our company’s development. From my perspective, people are the most valued asset for sustainable development. The success of a company reflects the efforts and contributions of each individual. Therefore, I appreciate the contribution of each company member. Our employees’ work is always recognised and rewarded by our company.

This year we implemented a number of employee benefit programmes, which include: The Voluntary Pension Plan – Manulife is one of the first companies launching such a programme for all its employees; and The Emergency Loan Programme to cater for our employees’ emergency financial needs.

I believe that our recent employee benefits offer our employees the motivation and confidence to continue a rewarding career with Manulife Vietnam.

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