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MANILA - The key to expanding insurance coverage in the Philippines is for the industry to jack up the number of agents from the current 30,000 to 300,000 in eight years, Manulife Financial Corp. said on Friday.
Indren Naidoo, Manulife Philippines president and chief executive, said Indonesia only had 1.5 million people who could afford insurance five years ago. This has surged to 50 million now and in the next five years is projected to grow to 150 million. Indonesia's case may not be that far from the Philippines, with the proliferation of business process outsourcing firms employing young and mobile Filipinos who could afford an insurance policy.
"A lot of our population is under 25 years old. We have the advantage of many young men and women working in this industry. I have no doubt that this emerging middle class would come up," Naidoo told reporters during a briefing.
In Manulife's case, the company has grown its insurance premiums by 20 to 25 percent in the last two years.
Naidoo said Indonesia was able to expand its insurance coverage by having half a million agents while the Philippines only has 30,000. Of the total, 3,500 of these are Manulife agents.
"We don't have the foot soldiers that is out there teaching people, educating people of the benefits, transforming the mindset that this is not an expense but rather an investment for your future," he said.
Part of the problem is young people, especially university graduates, are not keen on being insurance advisers, as the industry was likened to the beleagured pre-need business.
The Philippine Life Insurance Association, Naidoo said, is now trying to entice young professionals, as well as housewives and retirees, to take up a career in the insurance industry as financial advisors.
"We have around seven percent unemployment at the moment and you can knock it off to five percent with 300,000 people," he said.
The 300,000 agents would translate to P1 trillion in premiums, from the current P100 billion.
To achieve this, Manulife has done the branding and advertising to attract potential agents into its fold. The company also has career orientation programs every week held in key provincial cities like Baguio, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao.
On Friday, Manulife rang the opening bell at the Philippine Stock Exchange to celebrate the company's 125th anniversary. This will be followed by a weeklong series of market opening ceremonies worldwide.
Manulife is the biggest PSE-listed company by market capitalization, and trades as MFC on the Toronto Stock Exchange, New York Stock Exchange, the PSE and under '945' on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.
The company has been operating in the Philippines since 1907 and it now has Manulife Chinabank Life Assurance Corp., a bancassurance joint venture company of Henry Sy-led China Banking Corp. and The Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. Phils. Inc.
It also has the Manulife Business Processing Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Manulife Financial, which provides back office, accounting, finance and information technology services to other Manulife subsidiaries worldwide. Its Quezon City office houses 2,000 BPO workers who service North American and Asian operations.
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