Expanded fitness-tracking program widens business opportunities for advisors

Manulife's head of Individual Insurance sheds light on benefits of behaviour-based rewards program

Expanded fitness-tracking program widens business opportunities for advisors

For more than five years, Manulife has been helping to improve Canadians’ quality of life through a behaviour-based rewards program offered alongside its term insurance products. But last month, the insurance giant decided to expand its impact.

“Since we launched Vitality in 2016, we've welcomed 35,000 members to the program,” said Paul Savage, head of Individual Insurance at Manulife. “We got great feedback from customers and advisors in terms of the impact that it's making to their lives, the ability to change and improve their health outcomes, and the ability for advisors to engage further with their customers.”

Under the Vitality program, customers that engage in simple healthy behaviours – many of which people already do daily, like taking a certain number of steps or going to the gym – earn points that can be converted into rewards. Even medical appointments like a regular doctor checkup, going to the dentist, or getting a flu shot can earn someone points.

Read more: Manulife partners with Garmin for Vitality program

“Customers also have the option of going through a physical where biometrics like their blood pressure or their BMI would be would be tracked,” Savage said, adding that all elements of the program are completely optional, meaning clients can decide which activities they want to join and what information they’ll share.

Until recently, Vitality was only available to clients who bought a term insurance product from Manulife. But with the insurer’s latest announcement, advisors whose clients buy different types of products – namely, permanent plans – will now be able to participate.

“We’ve had some great experience with customers in their 30s and 40s buying term products, who have really bought into the program,” Savage says. “One of the misconceptions that we get is actually that the program is only for young people or only for healthy people. But in fact, the biggest impact that these healthy behaviours have are to people across all ages that may not be in the best health, or don’t have the best habits to begin with.”

According to Savage, two out of three advisors in a survey conducted by Manulife said Vitality helps them differentiate their practice from the competition. Three out of four agreed that Manulife Vitality provides them with new opportunities to interact with their clients and over half believed that the Vitality program is helping them improve their customer retention.

Advisors under the Vitality program won’t get to see their clients’ personal health information, biometrics, or test results. But they will be able to see when their clients hit certain achievements or get a higher status, which gives them an opportunity to reach out and engage in different ways – for example, congratulating them for achieving gold status, earning particular rewards, or asking about new hobbies they may be adopting.

Read more: Fitness rewards program raised activity levels, study suggests

“The primary interaction customers have had with their insurance companies in the past has been paying their bill, or submitting a claim,” Savage says. “Vitality program members have more than 20 interactions with us in a month, which could be logging into their app, checking their steps, or claiming rewards. … It adds many more positive interactions in the overall mix.”

The program also naturally lends itself to more client referrals for advisors, he adds. While people may not often talk about their claims experience or new insurance policy in social situations, they are more likely to talk about how they earned a certain reward or hit a certain goal. That opens up more conversations about Manulife Vitality, and recommendations to approach certain advisors who can help interested prospects apply for it.

Savage says the program is always changing to meet the continually evolving needs of consumers. As an example, the insurer expanded Vitality to add points-earning opportunities who got vaccinated and boosted against COVID – something that nobody could have even imagined back in 2016.

“We have the ability to engage with our customers on an ongoing basis, so we're able to push that out and help our customers get healthier,” he says. “We’re able to get some of the latest information, and help bring the latest and greatest health innovations and science to our customers as things evolve.”