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Manulife shows the way to Corporate Malaysia with its Top In Tech Innovation Award win
Published:  Oct 25, 2022 7:39 PM
Updated: 11:39 AM

Alex Tan, Chief Agency Officer of Life Insurance provider, Manulife Insurance Bhd was quick to answer the question about the key mistake brick & mortar companies can avoid when embarking on their digital transformation journeys.

“Digital Transformation has to be driven by business needs and not by technology, which is simply a tool to accelerate your business vision.”

It was such a focus on the business and on user adoption that led the judges of the Top in Tech Innovation Award 2021, led by Lead Judge Raja Teh Maimunah, managing director of AmBank Retail, to declare Manulife as the inaugural winner of the Most Impactful Brick & Mortar Adoption category.

You cannot be fixated with the shiny new technology in the market, fight for the budget and then sit around figuring out how to use it in your digital journey. “That is the failure of many digital transformation efforts,” warns Alex.

With businesses “operating at the speed of thought and with technology being crucial to achieve both scale and speed, and with our competitors in the market already digitalising,” says Alex, Manulife had to move fast and make sure it got execution right when it started the planning for its own digital adoption strategy in 2018.

When driving change and efficiency through digital adoption, companies must also be fixated on delivering a smooth user experience to their staff in order to ensure strong adoption of any digital process/service rolled out. This was even more important for Manulife which has over 3,000 agents in the field who all come from different industry backgrounds, education levels and have different levels of comfort in using technology.

Running a pilot was critical in this situation. “We wanted to hear and better understand from this initial group about the obstacles they faced and their understanding level of the tools we had created for them,” said Alex, adding that Manulife did not just create a digital version of their existing forms and processes but rather, took the opportunity to improve and shorten processes and eliminate redundancies.

Interestingly, while Manulife could have picked a pilot group consisting of agents from most of the large cities in the country, it decided to run the pilot in the central region as that is where their tech team is based. “This allowed us to make fixes much quicker,” Alex explained.

The national rollout when it came involved hundreds of classes conducted for its thousands of agents all of whom were required to work with tablets/laptops. It was July 2019.

Adoption today is almost 100% by agents and staff. Alex does not expect 100% as he understands that some agents in rural areas may encounter customers who do not want to deal with digital forms or could face hardware/connectivity issues as well.

The first three digital services rolled out were ePOS, eClaim and eRecruitment. All picked because they were the most important to the agents, the company and to customers.

The high adoption of social media among Malaysians, with the ease of use of those global platforms resetting user expectations of how digital services and apps should work also meant that Manulife had to benchmark usability and overall experience of its digital tools to those standards, said Alex.

“When as agent makes a sale and uses ePOS, it has to be instant, straight through processing and online. Not coming back to the office to submit the sale, or sending forms by mail to HQ.”

Failure to meet world class user experience for your own staff will mean that a company, “will become irrelevant in its market,” Alex believes.

It looks like Manulife has hit all the right notes with its digital transformation roadmap serving as a role model for how Manulife in the Philippines and Vietnam embarked on their respective journeys, while across the Straits of Malacca, Manulife Indonesia adopted its eRecruitment app.

The most important metric, revenue growth has also seen year on year growth with 9% growth in 2021 for Manulife Holdings Bhd where the insurance business, Manulife Insurance recorded an Annual Premium Equivalent of RM167.4 million, a 6% YoY growth while agency channel recorded new business sales of RM128 million, a 10% growth over 2020.

Winning the Top in Tech Innovation Award 2021 for the Brick & Mortar category was just the icing on the cake for Manulife with “the recognition inspiring us to develop more digital modules that will help our team and customers,” said Alex.

The 2022 edition of Top in Tech Innovation Award, co-created by Digital News Asia and Malaysiakini is now accepting nominations for the eight categories under the Award, including Most Impactful Brick & Mortar Adoption.

Submissions are now OPEN! Submit your entry by 15th November 2022.