One of the world’s largest life insurance companies says Cambodia’s GDP per capita growth rate has been one of the fastest in the world over the last decade, with an estimated middle class of between one and two million people.
Manulife’s CEO and general manager for Cambodia, Robert Elliott says the Cambodian market is somewhat similar to Vietnam when they opened an office there 13 years ago.
“We understand that Cambodia is a very new market for life insurance. A lot of customers will be rightly cautious about committing their money to an entirely new class of products. We have designed our products to meet the financial protection needs of the middle class,” Elliott said.
“There is a large and growing middle class in Cambodia. We estimate it makes a potential target market of one to two million, a number that will grow as the middle class grows in the country.”
Manulife is no stranger to Asia, having operated continuously in the region for well over 100 years. Today it employs over 8,000 people in Asia, from China and Japan to Malaysia and Indonesia. Cambodia is the Company’s latest market entry, its seventh in ASEAN and 22nd globally.
Elliott says Manulife regards Asia as the global life insurance company’s growth engine. Since 2007, Manulife Asia’s share of the global Company’s insurance sales has grown from less than 20 per cent to over half. Over the same period, it has doubled its number of professional advisors, from 25,000 sales people in 2006 to over 50,000 today – with over half of these located in ASEAN.
“Our medium term goal is to be a premier pan-ASEAN life insurer. Expanding our footprint into Cambodia fits well into our pan-ASEAN growth plan. We are confident that we can repeat our success in Cambodia just as we have in other ASEAN countries in the region.”
Since opening earlier this year, the Manulife Cambodia office, headquartered on Russian Boulevard opposite the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, has grown to more than 60 people.
Elliott says based on Manulife’s experience in Asia, as incomes rise, Cambodians will want to access the same kinds of financial services others do across the region.
“We see major market potential in Cambodia in the near term from people who want to save for retirement, protect their income against illness, start a business or fund their children’s education,”
“Given that life insurance is still relatively new concept in Cambodia, we’ll focus our initial stage of development in educating the public on life insurance concepts and we will focus on the key major city of Phnom Penh first,” Elliott said.
“We will develop and introduce different types of life insurance products from pure term insurance to more of an endowment savings type product and at the same time, we will build up our distribution capability in Cambodia.”
Elliott said each market required an awareness of the differences. Of what?
“Each market has its own set of conditions, regulations, cultures and consumer habits. That said, we are one of the few life insurance companies to have a pan-ASEAN presence, which is a great advantage. This means we can leverage our experience to benefit all our markets. At the early stage of our operation, there are not many major differences between our ASEAN operations. Growth is usually slow and steady rather than dramatic for the first years of operation,” he said.
After one to three years in business, following an investment in public education so local people become aware of how they can benefit from life insurance, the Cambodian market will develop, Elliott says.
“Given our international presence, we can leverage our expertise from various operations in the ASEAN region, such as Vietnam and Singapore to help accelerate our operations in Cambodia. Over the longer term, though, we will train and develop local Cambodian talent in these various disciplines as quickly as possible to power our business here.”
Elliott said during this first year in Cambodia, Manulife would take what it had learned in Vietnam and build the brand of Manulife as a strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking company.
“We can leverage on all the strength of assets, reputation and experience built up since our founding in Canada 125 years ago.”
The first insurance products introduced were simple term plans.
“Now what we’re doing is marketing a savings and protection plan. We’ve launched a savings protection policy, and if the policyholder unfortunately passes away, that amount of money will be paid to his family immediately, so their financial security and plans can continue. This kind of policy introduces discipline in savings because it’s something you are going to do for 10 to 15 years, to invest for your and your loved ones’ future,” Elliott said.
The policy is payable with an annual premium, from just over $200 per year, to $50,000 per year depending on the face amount purchased of minimum $3,000 to maximum $500,000 with double payout, if the cause of death is because of an accident..
Manulife recently experienced its first claim in Cambodia.
“We sent our condolences to the family and fully honoured the customer’s policy, and also made the payment as speedily as possible. We’re very sad for the family, but at the same time, we are glad to be able to support the family in this time of need. This is our business.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]