2017, Phnom Penh, Cambodia – To mark the fifth anniversary of the life insurance industry in Cambodia, Southeast Asia Globe talked with Robert Elliott, the Cambodia CEO of Manulife, the first international company to enter the sector.
Why did Manulife decide to come to Cambodia?
The economy in the country is performing very well with its stable GDP growth at around 7% which is one of the highest in Southeast Asian Countries. The emerging middle class is rising and more people start to become more financially independent making Cambodia an attractive place for the investors.
In a country with fast-growing economy like Cambodia, life insurance plays a very important role in protecting financial burden in the families once the breadwinners can no longer support the family.
Manulife has been helping millions of our customers to achieve their dreams and aspirations, and we want to bring this great experience to the people of Cambodia. Moreover, as we were the early mover in this industry, we had the opportunity to build the industry from the start. With this advantage, trying to get our brand established would be much easier than trying to enter a very cluttered market.
What have been the advantages of working with a government with little experience in the industry?
We have worked with the Ministry of Economy and Finance to understand the long-term nature of life insurance in Cambodia. Our team from Hong Kong and our team here have worked together closely to explain the different elements that make up a life insurance product.
Do you think the stability that Manulife saw here extends beyond the short term?
It does. Manulife has a history of commitment to the countries it goes into. For example, this year, we mark our 110th anniversary in the Philippines. Throughout this time, we have showed our commitment and service to the Filipino. In the 1940s, when the country was invaded by the Japanese, Manulife’s office manager safeguarded agency documents and valuables in her own home. She kept them intact even when the Japanese forced her and her family out their property. This act of bravery and dedication allowed Manulife to be the first life insurance company to open after World War II. It strengthened our reputation and most importantly, deepened our relationship with Filipinos. Today, Manulife Philippines is one of the country’s top employers of Filipinos with thousands of Filipino insurance agents who service even more Filipino families nationwide. Indeed, Manulife is committed to serve in a country it sets foot on for the long-term. Our vision is to grow alongside the country we partner with for many years to come.
How has the company changed in the past five years?
Our business has enjoyed strong year-on-year growth. After two years, we opened an office in Siem Reap and that has proven to be a great success. Later on, we opened in two other provinces – Battambang and Kampong Cham. We then took on 5 bank partners –ANZ, ABA, MayBank, FTB, CIMB – they all have branches throughout the main provinces, and we have collaborated with them to provide life insurance products and solutions to their customers – expanding our reach to be able to offer protection to more Cambodians This aligns very well with our vision to build a better financial future for Cambodian families.