Digitalisation tipping point reached in Vietnam

The pandemic has accelerated demand for digital services and pushed life insurers to adopt a new digitally-enabled way of working. 

Sang Lee, CEO of Manulife Vietnam, believes that the digital tipping point has been reached in Vietnam and the life insurance industry is ready to accelerate the change.

Sang Lee, CEO of Manulife Vietnam

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in digital usage. Will that be COVID’s legacy for business and financial services?

One positive impact to come from COVID is the increased use of digital tools in both work and lifestyle. While this legacy will have some elasticity and pull-back in time, the changes we’ve seen are largely here to stay.

After almost two years of the pandemic, few would deny that it has accelerated the digitalisation process. Acceptance and adoption of digital technology became a necessity during the period. Now it’s the norm. We were going to get to this point anyway, but COVID brought it forward a few years. A tipping point has been reached.

Manulife Vietnam started its digitalisation strategy in 2017 and in the period between then and the outbreak of the pandemic, we launched a number of flagship digital solutions.

During the past 18-20 months, we’ve advanced our Customer Experience Transformation program, which includes our recently revamped ManuConnect customer portal, and upgraded our online claims submission service with the launch of eClaims 3.0.

Reflecting the growing interest in health and wellness, we launched our Home Paramedical Service and added new functionality to ManulifeMOVE.

Financial services have experienced advances in digital technology for decades. What makes this latest advance different?

Digitalisation isn’t new. In the financial services sector, it can be quite easily traced back to the credit cards of the 1950s and 1960s.

The previous cycles of change have generally centred on improving existing processes. What we’ve seen over the past few years or so is the birth of completely new ways of doing things – a spawning new industries, entirely new processes and new ways of thinking.

By the time of the COVID outbreak in early 2020, digitalisation was already a clear driver of growth. This was evident across FinTech, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, TegTech, InsurTech and HealthTech… the list goes on. These technologies have helped tackle COVID. Many have also been used by health services in their vaccination rollouts.

How has the pandemic impacted digitalisation in Viet Nam’s insurance sector and what has been your experience?

The pandemic has undoubtedly raised awareness among the public about personal health, lifestyle and financial management, including insurance protection.

We’ve seen a real pickup in the usage of wearables to track health and fitness, with customers nudged and incentivised to lead healthier more active lives. There’s also a growing trend towards buying insurance digitally.

During the pandemic, Manulife Vietnam was able to encourage the adoption of digital solutions such as eClaims. An impressive 95 per cent of claims are now submitted through the online portal and around 95 per cent of claims are also paid electronically to customers.

Our advisers were also able to continue selling via virtual face-to-face and ePOS making it easier to sign new policies and onboard customers.

One of our exclusive partnerships with Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) was also given an extra digital push with the launch of ePOS. By digitalising the insurance policy consultation process we can also optimise administrative tasks and improve customer experiences.

How has digitalisation enabled Manulife to make customers’ lives better?

Manulife Vietnam has a suite of digital solutions that make the lives of our tech-savvy customers better every day. We extended the functionality of ManulifeMOVE by partnering with WellCare, creating an all-in-one health ecosystem that is easily accessible for all users. In addition, we plan to offer customers access to end-to-end healthcare services such as online doctor, telemedicine, and telepharmacy.

Another popular feature is the new direct-to-customer Manulife Shop eCommerce website, which offers consumers the chance to easily purchase affordable protection solutions with a few clicks of a button.

Manulife Vietnam’s advancement of the sector and customer impact was recognised by the Insurance Association of Vietnam with an ‘Outstanding Digital Achievements in 2020’ accolade. We were also named Life Insurer of the Year at the InsuranceAsia News ‘Awards for Excellence 2021’.

What does the future of the industry look like to you?

We continue to be very optimistic about the growth of the life insurance market in Viet Nam. Insurance penetration here is among the lowest in the region, but the long-term potential of the market remains robust, with a burgeoning middle class, rapid GDP growth and favourable demographics.

Manulife Vietnam sees tremendous opportunities to help address the rising health, protection, savings and investment needs of the people of Viet Nam. There are signs that the global pandemic is making people here appreciate the value of insurance, as well the importance of saving for retirement.

I believe the future of the life insurance industry will pivot towards personalised customer experiences, with a greater focus on health and wellness. The digital tipping point has been reached, and now we are ready to accelerate the change.