The Vietnam opportunity is undeniable

October 19, 2022 | 12:00
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In a 10-day visit to Vietnam following his appointment, Damien Green, Manulife Asia’s president and CEO, shared his thoughts on a post-COVID recovery and why Manulife Vietnam is a key player in the company’s growth in Asia.
The Vietnam opportunity is undeniable

How is Manulife positioned in Asia to capture growth after the pandemic?

The pandemic has shown how businesses and industries have adapted and remained nimble over the past two years. For the life insurance sector, we are seeing people taking more control of their financial planning and recognising the value of insurance and protection.

We have strategically positioned ourselves at Manulife to capture growth after the pandemic by investing heavily in our people and customers and focusing on the opportunities before us, such as Asia’s rapidly growing middle class, its low insurance penetration rate, and the region’s large mortality protection gap.

Manulife is well-placed to capitalise on these opportunities, as we work towards meaningfully meeting the life, health, and retirement needs of our customers across Asia.

More specifically, our strong digital foundation complements our customer and employee focus, and our diversified distribution model is one of the most robust in the market. This is underpinned by our leading agency platform focused on quality recruiting at scale, training, and activation. With our advisors and colleagues, coupled with a comprehensive suite of insurance solutions, we’re rapidly capturing the post-pandemic growth opportunity and making the lives of millions more customers better every day.

As the leader of a company operating in 13 markets across Asia, why choose Vietnam as one of your first destinations to visit?

Asia is a primary growth engine for Manulife, with Vietnam considered one of our key markets in the region. For me, our opportunity to grow in Asia is undeniable – similarly, the opportunity presented in Vietnam is also undeniable.

The reason for choosing Vietnam as one of my first markets to visit is simple – this is an exciting place to be. With a thriving, digitally enabled, and young population, Vietnam is one of the region’s greatest economic success stories. We’re proud to enter Vietnam in 1999 as the first foreign-owned insurer to be granted a license. We now have around 1,000 permanent staff and a leading agency force, serving more than 1.5 million customers.

Manulife is committed to Vietnam’s long-term development. For us, that means investing in talent, innovation, services, products, and community initiatives that address key economic and societal issues.

Over the past few years, we have also seen strong growth from Manulife Vietnam, with the franchise maintaining its leading position in terms of First Year Premiums, including for the first half of 2022.

The Vietnam opportunity is undeniable
Damien Green spoke at an event for agents during his trip in Vietnam

In your opinion, what advantages does Vietnam have in terms of its evolving life insurance sector compared to other Asia markets?

Vietnam’s dynamic economy offers unparalleled opportunities, especially for life insurers. The long-term potential of the market is robust, with low insurance penetration, fueled by a burgeoning middle class, rapid GDP growth, and favourable demographics.

Significantly, Vietnam is one of a few countries to experience GDP growth during the pandemic, additionally posting growth of 5.03 per cent in the first quarter of 2022.

Vietnam’s dynamic economy offers unparalleled opportunities, especially for life insurers.

From a digital perspective, Manulife Vietnam is leading the charge. We are digitally enabling our agents to serve customers better, namely by focusing on digitising the touchpoints where agents and customers interact, including rolling out electronic point of sales with automated underwriting. The Vietnamese government is also proactively supporting the country’s ongoing digital acceleration, seen as a big positive for the insurance industry – an already highly innovative and charged sector.

For me, technology presents countless opportunities to make insurance more accessible. At the same time, technology must also be complemented with human interaction to enable connectedness.

Equally important, it’s about having a presence in the channels that our customers use every day. Manulife Vietnam is further progressing this through its focus on improving customer journeys and ensuring that our professional distribution teams deliver high-quality advice and experiences.

What do you think a successful life and health insurer should do in Vietnam to win the hearts and minds of consumers?

I am a firm believer of culture, and I see driving a strong and robust culture in Manulife as the single most important thing we can do to succeed. That’s because culture enables high-performing teams, who will then deliver results and exceed customer expectations.

To do this, we are supercharging our engagement with our colleagues and agents in Vietnam and across Asia. This includes deploying tools for employees such as our Pursuit online learning platform to developing our agents with ManuAcademy—a mobile-first learning management system— that supports their careers at all stages.

Getting this right will enable us to deliver the best experiences, products, and advice to our customers, which will be key to winning their hearts and minds.

In Vietnam, we have organised our operations around our obsession with our customers. This change has helped us ensure that our systems and processes fit perfectly into our customers’ journeys with us, contributing to our high NPS score and strong market share.

For us, being customer-centric means that we are keenly focused on our agency force. Growing, developing, and digitizing our agents and advisors remain a key priority for Manulife, as they ultimately help serve our customers better.

As the top ranked MDRT company in Vietnam and number 12 globally, Manulife Vietnam’s agency force punches well above its weight. We want to grow our agency force by double-digit percentages in Vietnam, and I believe we are on track.

Any parting words?

We have a right to win in Asia because of our powerful franchise and, importantly, because of our people. I am truly honoured and humbled to lead the company to the next stage of growth in Asia.

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