In Focus
FINANCIAL SERVICES | Sandra Sendingan, Hong Kong

How Manulife is breaking growth ceilings in rapidly ageing and costly Hong Kong

Customer satisfaction is quantified at Manulife which puts the customer at the centre of everything it does.

The view from the top is looking good for Manulife. After 120 years in Hong Kong and growing its customer base to over two million, the insurer has garnered more than enough firepower to zoom past its global rivals and hold a market-leading position in the city’s retirement scheme, Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF), with a market share of 23.1%.

Despite its success in cracking the Hong Kong market, Guy Mills, CEO of Manulife Hong Kong, is refusing to let up as he leads the firm to unlock new pockets of growth, a feat made especially more difficult against an already mature insurance landscape that saw total gross premiums grow by 8.3% to HK$489.17m in 2018. Where others see challenges, Mills only sees opportunities especially against a backdrop of an ageing population and rising medical costs. In an exclusive interview with Insurance Asia, Mills shares the secret to their success and strategies to move forward.

What initiatives of Manulife Hong Kong do you plan to introduce and enhance as CEO?

The voice of the customer now permeates everything we do. When developing a digital product or service, we now deploy what we call the “Agile” approach where we keep creating different prototypes in short development cycles and ask customers for feedback to improve on the next prototypes. In this way, end users’ feedback can be fully and constantly plugged back into the development cycle, enabling us to deliver an end product that closely aligns with customer requirements by the time it’s launched. The eClaims solution launched in 2018, for example, was built using this approach.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) that we have set up is an important initiative that measures how happy a customer is with our interaction and service. Through this system, we have seen there are 50% more happy customers with eClaims than with paper claims. NPS is now an integral part of the matrix through which we measure our success. There are various customer listening sessions where we can hear real customer conversations and discuss how we can address their pain points and concerns.

The Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) was launched in April to take strain off the public healthcare system. How do you plan to promote adoption?

Hong Kong’s public healthcare system is outstanding, but it is under strain. Medical costs are rising, and in-patient bed occupancy rates at public hospitals hit 88.8% in 2017, and long waits for specialist care have unfortunately become the norm. VHIS will be a game changer in this complex environment. The scheme’s transparency and tax benefits make it all the more attractive to many. In a recent Manulife survey of working-age Hong Kongers, over half of respondents expressed interest in purchasing VHIS. About 60% of respondents with dependents also said they are considering buying VHIS products for family members, since premium expenses are tax-deductible.

Manulife is ideally placed to help customers sign onto VHIS. As Hong Kong’s No.1 insurance brand and a top three medical insurer in terms of new business, we have a large pool of customers and deep expertise in medical insurance. Our Manulife Shelter VHIS Standard Plan and Manulife First VHIS Flexi Plan are designed to meet different customer needs. Our 8,700-strong agency force and distribution partners are proactively reaching out to customers to help them choose the right VHIS solution.

The insurance sector in Hong Kong has not been exempt from the digital wave that has seen the city issue the first digital-only insurance license in December. What initiatives are you embarking on to ensure that you remain competitive against heightening fintech threats?

Our Hong Kong customers have told us that speed, simplicity and human touch are all important. Our eClaims solution – – was developed with this in mind, and we are very pleased with the fast pick up of usage. Within a year, about 50% of eligible claims are being submitted through this platform. The success of eClaims in Hong Kong has led us to export this fintech solution to our operations in Japan and Vietnam.

In tandem with the launch of our tax-deductible solutions, we rolled out our first online sales platform – On this new site, Hong Kong people will be able to buy our VHIS Standard Plan, with quotes calculated in less than a minute, and open an MPF TVC account directly. They can also access our purpose-built Tax Savings Calculator to estimate their applicable tax breaks under VHIS, TVC and QDAP.

Whilst digital channels like are increasingly vital for us to serve our customers, we never lose sight of the importance of human touch throughout the customer journey – from needs analysis to buying insurance and making more complicated claims.

With a developed life insurance market whose life and health insurance premium to GDP ratio trails only behind Taiwan, what kind of improvements is Manulife Hong Kong introducing -- both tech-wise and operations-wise -- to grow its client base?

In terms of technology, we are making great progress in digitising the customer experience on all fronts to make our services simpler, better and more convenient. Further to our eClaims solution, the new sales site is another case in point. Business-wise, one in every four people in Hong Kong is a Manulife customer and we have many opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell our offerings to fulfil their evolving insurance and investment needs.

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