Insuring Success: How to Capture the Philippine Market, According to This Insurance Company

“Our entire strategy is built around what we call a lifetime partnership,” shares the new President and CEO of Generali Philippines Dr. Hak Hong Soo.

Insurance is a foreign concept for many, which is why insurance penetration in the Philippines is at an all-time low of 1.75%. But even so, Insurance Commissioner Reynaldo Regalado believes that digitalization and financial literacy can help in its improvement. What’s more, the uncertainties and risks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have changed the perspective of Filipinos when it comes to insurance.

All this, coupled with newer insurance coverages and policies—taking into consideration those with pre-existing needs or those with medical conditions—have resulted in the growing share of the GDP contribution of the insurance industry in 2021. With that, insurance companies in the Philippines have doubled their efforts in reaching the local market, including the local division of The Generali Group: Generali Life Assurance Philippines, Inc. (Generali Philippines).

With origins dating back to 1831, the European insurance company has set base in the Philippines since 1999 and has consistently provided life insurance solutions to international and local clients, with a solid track record in group insurance and credit life businesses.

Insuring Success Through Leadership

Currently at the helm of Generali Philippines is the newly-appointed President and CEO, Dr. Hak Hong Soo. Backed by extensive technical and managerial expertise in product proposition and pricing, actuarial health portfolio and financial management, health business value chains, network, and customer relations, and partnerships across the Asia region, he is the perfect man for the job.

Prior to his appointment, he served as the Regional Head of Health and an Executive Member of the International-Asia Regional Office, where he led its business unit in strengthening the regional health business and accelerating the firm’s business transformation agenda. Moreover, he is an Associate Member of the Society of Actuaries and holds a Ph.D. in Insurance, Economics, and Econometrics.

He succeeds Reynaldo Centeno, who formally announced his retirement on December 31, 2022.

“I am truly excited about this appointment by Generali Group,” says Dr. Soo. “Generali has entrusted me to continue growing Generali Philippines and servicing our valued customers in the country. As their Lifetime Partner, I am confident that We at Generali Philippines will continue to provide sustainable propositions, value-added services, and a caring experience.”

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the Leaders of Generali Philippines

In the press conference held last August at Fairmont Makai, he, along with Rob Leonardi—the CEO of General International Asia and Chairman of the Board Philippines—shared learnings that aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners can learn from and implement in their respective businesses. These include:

1. Building Good Relations

When doing business in the Philippines, building connections is the key to success—whether that means fostering good relations with suppliers, agents, distributors, and the most important one yet: the customer.

“Our entire strategy is built around what we call lifetime partner,” says Dr. Soo. “We want to build a relationship with our customers, as well as the agents and distributors from whom they are buying their products—[in this case], their insurance products.”

2. Avoiding Jargon

Defined as “special words and phrases that are used by particular groups of people, especially in their work,” jargon can be hard to understand and thus, intimidating for lay people.

“We are meeting their needs during the course of their lives and for the customers that we service, part of that commandment is firstly to simplify the language, because insurance language is fundamentally quite complicated,” Leonardi explains.

And for Generali Philippines, this meant “significantly simplifying the language of our insurance.”

How so? “We’ve embarked on a program which is quite advanced in most of the countries around the world,” reveals the CEO of Generali International Asia. “The way we communicate to customers is no longer in the form of 50-page insurance policies—but rather, a much simpler communication which is much more visual, as well as videos.”

“You’re trying to make sure that customers genuinely understand models. So simplification and simpler language is a core part of what we’re trying to do to help customers understand,” he adds.

3. Being Transparent and Honest

Just like any other customer, Filipinos want to know what they’re getting in their purchase. This means that transparency is important for any business. “We’ve seen a number of situations in Asia recently [and] in the Philippines, where there’s been a great deal of complaints about misselling because people don’t believe that they aren’t getting what they were promised when they bought the product,” says Leonardi.

“And we have a commitment to transparency,” he declares. “We have massively invested in our NPS program [which gives us very accurate information about whether or not people believe that they are receiving the value that they bought] and a promoter score program to ensure that we are delivering good service to our customers.”

This program allows Generali Philippines to rank itself through discussions, calls, and surveys with customers. “We compare [this] to how they performed relative to our competitors in each market—to make sure that we’re improving our scores with our customers, and we measure every what we call moments of truth in the journey,” Leonardi points out.

4. Improving the Customer Experience

As a country that values human interaction and connections, it is important for businesses to refine the customer experience. “I think firstly, to really deliver our promise we have to think from the customer perspective to put ourselves into their shoes,” says Dr. Soo. “We have to think about the journey—not only at the moment of the claim, [but also] from the moment when we approach them to make the sale.”

Simply put, when customers buy a new claim, renew your product, or when a service is needed from Generali Philippines, the company uses its findings to ensure that over time, it builds a better experience for the customer. And this is what businesses need to do.

“We have that commitment to provide a product that is suitable [using] a language that is understandable,” Leonardi chimes in. “And what we can measure that we’re improving the quality of our service to the customers is what sets us apart.”

5. Making the Business Sustainable

Sustainability is a buzzword being used often, but beyond its environmental impact, it can also refer to the longevity of a business. For Generali Philippines, which aims to be a sustainable company, this means being a responsible investor and a responsible employer.

In the lens of a responsible investor, this means being selective about which companies Generali Philippines puts its money in. “Sustainable business for us is where we’re actively contributing to the protection of customers. Generally, portions of our portfolio cover the health business,” Leonardi explains.

While most of the company’s dealings revolve around the health business, Generali Philippines has invested in other forms of insurance, like crop insurance and agricultural insurance, which, according to the CEO of Generali International Asia, “all fit within the definition of our sustainable insurance solution,” as its goal is to “write more business which we consider sustainable because it provides protection solutions for customers.”

As for being a responsible employer, this means “creating career paths and solutions for employees that make Generali an attractive place to work.”

“We are the first to recognize that in a number of countries in Asia, we’re not a well-known employer,” he laments. “So we need to strengthen our employer brand for the market, so people will want to come and work for us, learn best practices or what it means to be part of a large multinational organization, and develop their careers. Broadly speaking, that’s the sustainability commitment that we’re looking at.”

6. Giving Back to the Community

Beyond making a profit, businesses need to also give back to the community—by supporting a cause, helping marginalized communities, and working with organizations that help the country on a long-term scale. And for Generali, this pertains to their foundation: the Human Safety Net.

“The Human Safety Net looks to work with groups of people who are vulnerable [as well as] vulnerable communities—generally young families who are from underprivileged communities, or migrants and refugees and migrants refugees is mainly in Europe,” Leonardi explains. “It’s mainly a big concern for European countries that are dealing with a lot of migrants and from particularly authentically.”

“In Asia, most of what we are working on is young families that we are supporting and services through particular partners in each country. And we have that relationship in the Philippines, too,” he adds.