Good execution of its Asian strategies gives Manulife a competitive edge

Strong, reliable, trustworthy, and forward thinking: these are the words thrown around when discussing Manulife Financial, a leading Canadian-based financial services group operating in 21 countries and territories worldwide. For more than 120 years, clients worldwide have looked to Manulife for strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for their most significant financial decisions.

Manulife Thailand CEO Alan Ng speaking at the TCCC;s Business Excellence Awards.

Its international network of employees, agents and distribution partners offers financial protection and wealth management products and services to millions of clients around the world. It provides asset management services to institutional customers worldwide as well as reinsurance solutions, specializing in life and property and casualty retrocession.

Manulife focuses on personal life insurance, whereby people insure themselves against death, disease illnesses and accidents. But it’s branching out. In May 2007, Manulife Insurance Thailand announced the launch of Manulife Asset Management Thailand (MAMT). The new asset management company, which is wholly owned by Manulife Insurance Thailand, offers a range of Thai-registered, Thai-baht denominated funds to both retail and institutional investors. The following year, MAMT launched the Manulife Strength – Global Resources FIF, a feeder fund that mainly invests in Manulife Global Fund – Global Resources Fund (Share Class AA), the master fund. The fund offers investors access to three commodity sectors – oil and alternative energy, gold and precious metals and raw materials.

The company’s history is interesting. While no stranger to Canadians, Manulife is nonetheless new to the Thai life insurance industry. Its presence here came as a result of a large-scale global merger between Canadian-based Manulife Financial Corporation and U.S.-based John Hancock Financial Services, Inc. The merger, which completed in April 2004, saw the emergence of Manulife Financial Corporation as the major shareholder of the company. In June of 2005, the company started operating in Thailand as Manulife Insurance (Thailand) Public Company Limited (the former company known as Interlife John Hancock Assurance Company was established 59 years ago).

The company offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. It operates in Canada and Asia as Manulife Financial, and in the United States primarily as John Hancock. In terms of market capitalization, the company is one of the largest life insurance companies in the world. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were US$498 billion as of 30 June 2011.

The company has continuously embraced innovation as the means of maintaining its leading-edge role in financial protection. Its global portfolio of financial products includes life insurance, pensions, mutual funds, annuities, group benefits and long-term care. Putting these products to work for its customers through its dedicated global sales channels has allowed Manulife to gain a strong market share in every region in which it operates.

The company has 13 branches throughout Thailand. These range from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Chaiyapoom, Pitsanaloke, Nakhon Rachasima, Pichit, Kampaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Chainat, Had Yai, and Bangkok (its head office). With its quality products, good distribution network, and capable staff, Manulife delivers critically important financial services to thousands of people across Thailand. Manulife Thailand has recently invested an addition of approximately THB 200 million to improve its local operations, upgrading IT systems and renovating the Bangkok headquarters and branch offices.

Operating in Asia for more than 110 years, Manulife has one of the most extensive Asian operations of any life insurance company in the world. Today, as a major player in the Asian insurance market, Manulife Financial’s Asian operations provide a wide range of individual and group life and health insurance, pension products and mutual funds to customers in ten countries and territories: Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Macau, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. All of these companies are overseen from the Regional Head Office in Hong Kong, demonstrating Manulife’s commitment to Asia.

With a full-time staff of approximately 6,980 and a powerful professional sales force of more than 44,500 contracted agents as at end of Q2 2011, Manulife is strongly committed to Asian growth and development (In Thailand, there are 100 full-time employees and 360 representatives).

Manulife Thailand employees celebrating at the company’s annual party.

Here in Thailand, Alan Ng was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Manulife in December 2010. Born, bred and educated in Hong Kong, he earned a B.Sc. in Physics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and then an MBA from the University of Hong Kong. Before entering the insurance business he worked in Hong Kong for Ogilvy Mather as their Director of Client Service for seven years.

Fittingly, he joined Manulife in Hong Kong back in 1998 and stayed there in three key positions until he took his posting in Bangkok. When he joined the firm, he headed up the Sales and Marketing branch of the Mandatory Profit and Funds (MPF) division, securing second place in the Hong Kong market share.

In 2002, he moved to Individual Financial Products as Head of Product Development focusing on insurance products that would fit the needs of Hong Kong consumers. He launched Manulife’s unit-linked product, whereby customers were able to manage their own investment funds. He also launched the Critical Illness Protection plan, which covers 48 critical illnesses.

From 2006-2010, he became Head of Agency Training & Development. He showed Manulife’s insurance agents how to better understand the products they were selling, and then how to sell these products so that they best matched consumer needs.

Alan’s priority here is Agency Development. With the skills he learned in Hong Kong, he aims to build and develop a more professional sales force for Manulife Thailand. He wants to continue to promote needs-based selling instead of relationship-based selling. He aims at further enhancing agents’ comprehensive knowledge of the, so that they can really offer packages that are best suited for customers and their families.

For three straight years, Manulife Thailand has won a Prime Minister’s Insurance Award for Outstanding Management Development in the Insurance business in Thailand. Award criteria is based on state of solvency and healthy financial ratios, market share, legal compliance, managerial efficiency, assets management efficiency, marketing management efficiency, and public service and public charity.

In June 2010, Manulife Thailand also earned the 2009 “Best Professional Service” award from the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, as part of the chamber’s annual business excellence awards. The awards recognize, promote and reward business excellence based on key business principles that are crucial for business success including excellence in general business achievements, entrepreneurial spirit, trade, technology, environment, community and social advancements, and Thai-Canadian linkages.

Ed note: Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under ‘0945’ on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at www.manulife.com.

Giving Back to the Community

Alan Ng, centre, with former Canadian Ambassador to Thailand, Ron Hoffman, right.

Manulife has a long history of giving back to the communities where it does business through its Corporate Social Responsibility Program. In Thailand, it’s a no different as the company is involved in many projects, including the Cancer Care Run where last year Manulife was responsible for 1,000 participants in the run (a mix of employees, customers and friends). It also partnered with the Chumchonthai Foundation, a Thai non-profit organization that helps build awareness of environment protection, to donate hundreds of trees as part of a Plant Conservation Project in Samut Sakorn Province and waste-water treatment systems to improve the environment.

The company has donated time and money to help improve the lives of children, including orphans infected with HIV in partnership with the Children’s Life Foundation in Lopburi province. It joined the Wishing Well Foundation; a Thai non-profit organization that helps to improve the quality of life of children undergoing treatment for cancer, and treated 20 children to a day at Siam Ocean World in September 2009, under a program entitled: “Enjoy Your Life with Amazing Underwater World”. It also donated 29 used computers to the “Computers for Children Project” from the charity the Mirror Foundation.

Manulife Thailand has also donated 5,000 protective medical face masks to the Bureau of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Department of Disease Control in the Ministry of Public Health, to help prevent and control of the spread of influenza A (H1N1), commonly known as Swine Flu in June 2009.

It organized CSR event for more than 80 people including management, staffs and agents to bring clean sea water back with 1,000 Effective Microorganism Balls (EM Balls) to help recovery and healing water as part of the conservation of marine resources in the area of Larn Island, Pattaya, Chonburi Province in October 2010.

Manulife Thailand also organized a flood donation event to donate rice, milk, drinking water, cooked food, money and etc. to Nakhon Ratchisima flood victims in October, 2010. It even organized a “Lovely Valentine’s Day, Happy Retirement” program at Bann Bangkae, a retirement home for the elderly in Bangkok in February 2009, including a special lunch and concert.