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Insurers see changing attitudes towards health and wealth amidst economic crisis: Manulife

70% of people in Asia express confidence in achieving their personal finance goals, with saving for retirement as the top priority.

Amidst a global economic crisis, insurance companies are noticing a change in people’s approach to health, wealth, and retirement, according to a recent survey by insurance company, Manulife.

In a recent interview with Insurance Asia, Manulife Asia Chief Marketing and Experience Design Officer Harshal Shah told Insurance Asia what the current personal finance outlook in Asia is like and how there is increasing concern among customers about healthy aging as they enter retirement.

Citing Manulife’s 2023 Asia Care Survey, Shah said 70% of people in Asia are confident they will achieve their personal finance goals, with 55% stating their current financial situation is positive.

“Nearly half of our respondents say that saving for retirement is their top personal finance goal, followed by saving for emergencies at 42%, and saving for healthcare and other medical needs at 32%,” he added.

The Manulife poll also found that inflation is the biggest economic concern for nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed, with economic recession and healthcare costs also being top worries.

Despite this, more than two-thirds have a positive impression of insurance, and four out of five plan to buy additional insurance, the survey showed.

“People are making long-term plans but many are not able to take advantage of the best financial tools available,” said Shah. “So, there’s a huge opportunity to educate people in Asia on the holistic health and wealth benefits of insurance and retirement planning.”

The Manulife executive explained that consumers in Asia anticipate living a healthy life for only three years after retirement but expect to live for 21 years after stopping work. “Increasingly, we are seeing that consumers are anxious to find ways to extend that healthspan so that they can enjoy more of their retirement free from chronic illnesses,” he said.

Incidental to that, physical and mental health are increasingly being connected with financial health. The poll showed that almost all respondents are being anxious about managing their health and finding the right financial means to do so.

“The majority of respondents (about 92%) are willing to spend more to prolong their health. Nine in 10 people are taking five to six actions to stay healthy, such as exercising, eating a healthy diet, and engaging with various health monitoring DIY devices,” said Shah.

As a result, insurance agents are being viewed as health and wellness enablers across the region, with 93% of people in Asia requiring advisors to support them in staying physically and mentally healthy.

Consumers are increasingly looking to insurance companies to offer them holistic solutions. “I say this is encouraging only because in the past, we haven’t seen so much active response to health concerns, which means we can do something about it,” said Shah.

To meet this growing demand, Manulife has launched initiatives like the ManulifeMOVE fitness app. Launched in 2022, it uses innovative technology to encourage customers to lead healthier lifestyles. The program even rewards customers for making healthy choices by offering discounts on Manulife’s insurance premiums.

Also, Manulife has forged partnerships with telehealth app Hallo Doc in Indonesia to improve customer access to licensed doctors, labs, and pharmacies.

This year, it is also working on a partnership with a Singapore-based digital wealth management firm to offer its customers access to investment opportunities across a range of asset classes.

“It’s important for us insurers to build strong healthy ecosystems to provide the comprehensive solutions customers are looking for,” stressed Shah.

When it comes to preserving funds, 59% of the population surveyed believe that personal insurance is the second most crucial way to mitigate personal finance risk after cash savings or bank deposits.

Shah emphasised the importance of starting retirement planning earlier and setting clear goals. “The first step in any financial plan is to know what your goals are. Getting a good financial adviser who would sit down and actually tease out the details of those goals and how to make them happen is the right first step,” he concluded.

Manulife has been operating in the Asia Pacific region for over 125 years and is one of the oldest insurance companies in the region. It was recognized as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by the Ethisphere Institute for six consecutive years until 2022 for its responsible and sustainable business practices.

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