According to a small regional study, not bad—if they adopt digitalization quickly and with strong support from their firms.

If a Q3 survey (Aug/Sep 2020) of around 1,600 insurance agents and advisors in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam is accurate, the majority of insurance advisors in Asia are optimistic about the economy, the outlook for the life insurance industry and sales growth, despite being in the midst of a pandemic.

Conducted by Sun Life, the survey showed that the global health crisis was having a polarizing effect in the industry as digital became a critical tool for sales performance.

Here are some of the findings:

  • 56% of advisors polled were optimistic about the outlook for their local economy
  • 70% were optimistic about the financial outlook for the life insurance industry and their abilities to grow insurance sales in 2021
  • With health concerns now top of mind, 79% of advisors polled were expecting growth in sales for medical products. Some 77% were expecting growth in critical illness insurance sales
  • Advisors are being driven to embrace digitalization, as more than half strongly believed they will need to use both digital and non-digital tools to communicate with clients in the future, will prospect for clients in new ways, and will leverage social media more often to promote themselves

Embracing DX for survival

Despite advisors’ relative optimism, the pandemic was still a great challenge at the time of the survey, which found that the global health crisis was polarizing the industry: an equal proportion of advisors reported positive and negative impacts on insurance sales.

Advisors indicated that, pre-pandemic, they communicated with clients through in-person meetings 43% of the time. In the pandemic environment, digital sales activity was associated with stronger performance. For advisors who typically acquired clients through leads from social media, they tended to indicate that the pandemic had a positive impact on their sales.

Advisors recognized the need to adapt their sales practices to capture opportunities in the pandemic. Some 57% strongly believed that the demand for insurance and protection products will increase, and 59% strongly believed that they needed to use both digital and non-digital tools to communicate with their clients. Over half of advisors also had strong expectations they will need to leverage social media more often to promote themselves (53%) and prospect for clients in new and different ways (52%).

What about support from insurers?

Across all markets, the majority of agents expected to be operating in a pandemic-style environment for at least another year, meaning they would be requiring additional support from insurers to help augment traditional sales and communications tactics.

In view of this, Sun Life has announced the adoption of Google Workspace to offer an integrated productivity solution to its advisors across Asia. Said Shiney Prasad, the firm’s President (Digital Enterprise), Asia: “We are excited to partner with Google to bring our support to advisors to the next level. Having the right digital tools to clearly define, target, and communicate with key client segments will be essential in helping them to grow their business in a pandemic, and post-pandemic environment. Google Workspace is a first step and we will continue to build on this as we develop our Digital and Advisor (DnA) platform this year.”

With the platform’s roll out, Sun Life advisors will be able to use the cloud-based collaborative workspace to communicate with clients, automate tasks and work from anywhere so that they spend less time managing work and more time listening and caring for their customers.

Sun Life is also enhancing its Brighter Academy recruitment and development program to support its agents throughout their career—from rookie stage through to professional levels and then leading agency managers. “It’s all part of a plan to make sure our advisors have the best training and experience, so they can deliver the best advice and experience to our clients,” said Shiney.

The firm’s President, Léo Grépin, said the survey results are encouraging: “For insurers, providing additional support to help advisors adapt their practices to be more digital-first is definitely a priority. This is at the heart of our Digital Enterprise strategy: positioning our advisors for long-term success with the best digital tools, data and insights to deliver leading client experience, manage and grow their business, and pursue continuing training to grow their careers.”