Insurance needs a digital revamp, says Manulife CEO

Chief exec sees Netflix and Apple as new rivals in next evolution of life insurance industry

Insurance needs a digital revamp, says Manulife CEO

The life insurance space is changing, with the traditional product-based model giving way to a more customer-centric approach. Establishing multiple consumer touchpoints and improved client experience are among the key factors that industry participants are focusing on — and that includes Manulife’s president and CEO of Canadian operations.

“We no longer really think of ourselves as competing against other life insurance companies around the world,” Doughty said at the Canada 360 Economic Summit last week. “We're really competing against other companies that are delivering the kind of customer experience that all customers want.”

Among those companies is Toronto-based customizable benefits brand League, which is gaining attention and raising significant amounts of money. Also on his radar are Netflix and Apple, whose platform services have changed consumers’ expectations across different spheres of business.

“These new services that are so slick and seamless and intuitive and they're really designed with the customer experience in mind,” said Doughty, who asserted that the industry can learn from the tech giants as “massive” numbers of Canadians forgo life insurance in favour of Netflix subscriptions and iPhones, among other consumer goods and services.

One of those lessons might very well be the value of engaging with customers more actively. As underscored in CapGemini’s recent 2020 life insurance trends report, insurers are starting to offer incentives that keep policyholders engaged. That includes offering fitness-based incentives and health-tracking programs, which is a trend that includes the Manulife Vitality program.

“In the past, you would buy life insurance... and then you would sort of like put it in a safe deposit box and hope that you never needed it and pay a premium every month,” Doughty said.

“Manulife Vitality turned all that on its head and said why don't we engage with you so you actually live and a long and happy life because if we can encourage you to be active, have a nutritious diet, not smoke, see your doctor regularly, it is probably going to improve your longevity and that is good for us.”

With smart watch and fitness tracker integration, the Manulife Vitality platform gives users the chance to receive prizes and discounts for achieving fitness and health goals, such as going for a walk or getting a flu shot. It has reportedly boosted consumer interaction with the company to 23 times a month on average, a massive increase from two times a year — when policy holders receive their statement and when they get a premium bill — that used to be par for course for the brand.

Doughty touted Vitality as a success story, showing how a business can “reinvent a traditional product to eliminate some of the barriers that have stopped it from being as popular as it should be.”

“You have to make sure you are reinventing every interaction, every process, from the consumer's point of view,” he said.

With files from the Canadian Press