INSURER Sun Life of Canada, Inc. said it will upgrade its digital capacity in the Philippines, which it considers its top Asian market, in a bet on the region’s potential to bounce back from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The Philippines is now the crown jewel in Asia. It is our strongest market in Asia and I only see that increasing as we rebound and recover from the crisis,” Sun Life Asia President Leo Grepin said in a webinar Friday.
Sun Life Philippines was the country’s top insurer for a ninth year last year with total premiums of P39.5 billion, the Insurance Commission reported.
The life insurer also posted the industry’s top net profit of P8.2 billion in 2019, with total assets of P254.5 billion.
The company said the purpose of the digital investment is to reach more clients which it cannot service face-to-face because of social dstancing rules.
“Our investments in digital technology have never been higher. We have rolled out capabilities for clients to self-service themselves, and we have developed capabilities for our advisors to engage remotely with their clients which is incredibly important,” Mr. Grepin said.
Sun Life said the digital tools will not replace its financial advisors, but extend the human touch to help clients address their various needs.
“In periods of instability, dialogue and proactive contact is incredibly important, so we are investing a lot in digital technologies,” Mr. Grepin said.
Sun Life Philippines Chief Market Development Michael G. Manuel expects more Filipinos to benefit from the digital expansion, especially in exploring investment-linked insurance to grow their funds in a resilient stock market.
Mr. Manuel said the company’s earnings are expected to decline 25% this year due to the business downturn, with some analysts projecting a 27% rebound next year as coronavirus restrictions ease.
Mr. Manuel said he expects the government’s infrastructure program to boost the economy.
“In 2021, we’ll probably see positive signs of economic growth as the government tries to (accelerate) Build, Build, Build,” he said at the webinar.
In a message to Congress last month, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said the Transportation Department is allotting P106.3 billion to build more railways, including the country’s first subway in Metro Manila, to improve commuting and increase productivity in the cities.
The government’s 2021 budget proposal includes P1.107-trillion for infrastructure.
Mr. Manuel is also optimistic the stock market will sustain growth despite a recent trend of net foreign selling.
He said while net foreign selling has amounted to $1.8 billion since November, the main index between March and April bounced back by nearly 30%.
He said this recovery means Philippine investors retain a positive outlook for the Philippine economy.
“If more locals are holding the market, then possibly there’s more stability moving forward because foreigners tend to sway the markets up and down,” Mr. Manuel said.
Mr. Manuel expects the economy growing at least 5% next year. — Kathryn Kristina T. Jose