Levels of financial literacy in the Philippines still have much room for growth, which means millions of families would face severe hardship should the main breadwinner fall ill or die unexpectedly early.
Many people, especially in regional and rural areas, have little awareness of insurance and how it can help them.
That’s why, even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, Jonash Go and his team at Alexandrite 2 Summit Life Insurance Agency persisted in educating their fellow countrymen about the concept of insurance and the many benefits it can bring.
“If people see a physical office, they know it’s real rather than something that pops up on social media.”
“When the lockdowns started, people were trapped at home and very anxious about what was going to happen,” Go recalls. “We reached out to as many as possible to help them identify their financial needs and offer them the most suitable products. Many were open to meeting with us because they became more aware of life’s uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, especially when they became more confident that their jobs would still exist at the end of the year.”
It’s a journey that began 20 years ago when Go embarked on an ambitious growth strategy that has delivered an extraordinary degree of success. His starting point was a realization that a key factor was holding the entire industry back.
“The ratio between population and number of agents was very low,” he says. “We have 110 million Filipinos and fewer than 100,000 agents. I could see that the focus for our organization should be on taking on more agents and financial consultants, especially in those places where we have little presence. Our team wanted to grow geographically, expand our workforce and open more offices.”
It was a bold move, especially during the pandemic, as travel restrictions meant nearly all client conversations were happening virtually.
“Opening offices was very important for our awareness,” Go explains. “If people see a physical office, they have a better customer experience. They can go there and ask questions about their policies.
“As we transition out of the pandemic, the buyer’s behavior is very different from how it was before. People are more used to digital shopping so we have to look at how we can also leverage the technology to create an opportunity while still encouraging in-person interactions.
“At first, it was a real challenge to get back into holding face-to-face meetings because all were used to working from home. But after several months of slowly transitioning, we are now all back to our pre-pandemic level of activities and engagement.”
Many companies are now offering free insurance benefits to their employees, leading them to believe that they have adequate cover. “This is actually a great foot in the door for us to help people understand the basics of being covered and why it matters,” Go acknowledges. “It’s a good temporary benefit, but they need something permanent in the future, even if they have already left their jobs.
“Our team wanted to grow geographically, expand our workforce and open more offices.”
“So these company benefits are useful to us as they broaden the horizons of the workers and mean that, when we talk to them, they understand what we’re offering. Education is very important. Our clients need to grasp that insurance is something they need for every life stage, such as when their kids go to university, or when they retire and grow old.”
Furthermore, in the past 12 months, high inflation has become another factor.
“When we do policy reviews, we find that what they bought five years ago is no longer worth the same, so we have to see if they’re comfortable with the amount of coverage or want to upgrade. It’s also an opportunity to touch base and discuss if there have been changes in their lives. Maybe they have a new child, or they’ve gotten married.”
Go enjoys his work and has proved that strategic forward thinking and trusting your instincts is always going to be a safe bet.
One significant change in the past few years has been a much wider range of insurance products for customers to choose from, and the capability to buy them on more platforms.
“The advent of social media has made people more aware of the different types of insurance,” Go says. “Digitalization means things move faster and more people are connected so the industry has been growing. More people have taken out policies and are more secure than they were before.”