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Canadian insurer Sun Life sees expansion in Hong Kong after strong growth in the second quarter

Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial plans to expand its agent base in Hong Kong and use the city as a starting point to expand into other Asian markets to capitalize on growing opportunities in the region, its head of Asia said.

“We are based in Hong Kong, our regional headquarters,” Ingrid Johnson, president of Sun Life Asia, said in an interview. “It has served us extremely well as Hong Kong is a fantastic location from which we can easily travel around the region.”

The insurer has wholly owned operations in the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore, as well as joint ventures in Malaysia, India and mainland China. The company has been operating in Asia for 131 years, serving 25 million clients across the region with its army of 30,000 employees and 97,000 financial advisors.

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Sun Life’s planned expansion aligns with the vision of Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, who wants more international insurers to base themselves in the city to oversee their operations in Asia.

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Ingrid Johnson, president of Sun Life Asia, says the company will focus on hiring quality agents. Photo: May Tse alt=Ingrid Johnson, president of Sun Life Asia, says the company will focus on hiring quality agents. Photo: May Tse>

“We would certainly like to see more cross-selling of products among our customers,” Johnson said. “We have over 1 million customers in Hong Kong, but less than 20 percent have life, health and wealth with us. So that’s an opportunity.”

In April, Sun Life opened a 23,000 square foot customer center at The Gateway in the tourist hub of Tsim Sha Tsui, joining peers such as HSBC Life, Manulife, Prudential and Standard Chartered who have established such dedicated customer centers over the past two years. to tap into high net worth clients.

“While we are a late entrant in creating this customer space, we have raised the bar in customer experience,” said Johnson. “The new center has boosted sales.”

Sun Life said new policy sales in Hong Kong quadrupled year on year in the second quarter, with Chinese visitors to Hong Kong representing more than 20 percent of the total, up from 10 percent before the pandemic.

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Strong growth in Hong Kong, along with a doubling of sales in mainland China and a 39 percent increase in India during the second quarter, contributed to a 25 percent increase in earnings to C$150 million (US$111. 9 million) for the quarter ended June in the region, while insurance sales rose 51 percent to C$450 million.

The insurer’s underlying profit in Asia rose 36 percent in five years from C$461 million in 2017 to C$627 million last year.

Johnson said Sun Life will continue to invest in agents, but will focus on quality rather than quantity.

“We invest very carefully to find quality agents to make sure we don’t end up with people who just care about the money,” she said. “As such, we don’t just want to increase the number of agents, we want to invest in facilities and technology to improve their productivity and service to customers.”

The expansion plan in Hong Kong comes as Sun Life sees growth in the Greater Bay Area, Johnson said. Sun Life has an insurance joint venture in mainland China with the Everbright Group, enabling its banking partner China to sell Everbright Bank in the region encompassing Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province.

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Johnson was named president of Asia in late 2021, moved to Hong Kong from London last January and underwent mandatory quarantine as the city was gripped by the fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Johnson has moved on from the trauma of settling in the city and rates Hong Kong highly for ease of doing business, good food and hiking trails.

“Hong Kong is a beautiful city,” she said. “It’s not until you get here that you see the ease with which we can live, and the government has put in place all the necessary structures to support society to live very comfortably.”

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, explore the SCMP app or visit SCMP’s Facebook page Twitter Pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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