Money Moves

Preparing for a stable future

by Nicolette Wong

Manulife International Limited - Long-term insurance planning
George Chew, vice president, individual financial products
Manulife (International) Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan

Long-term insurance planning provides peace of mind and steady returns

As the insurance industry evolves, its focus has shifted beyond just protection solutions to a wide range of lifestyle-enhancing products. One veteran that has been part of ground-breaking advances over 25 years in the industry is George Chew, vice president, individual financial products, Manulife (International) Limited.

Mr Chew's business sense was honed at a young age, when he interacted with people from different backgrounds while working for his family's Singapore-based manufacturing business. Soon after obtaining a business degree, he moved to a finance company. "I was particularly interested in loans for factories and small businesses, because it would eventually mean more jobs for more people," he recalls.

His interest in improving public wellbeing, combined with a burning drive to succeed, made him the perfect candidate for the insurance industry, and he joined a multinational organisation two years later. His career journey with a number of large companies took him from general to life insurance, and expanded his perspectives and skills.

A significant change came four years ago, when Mr Chew was approached by Manulife about a move to Hong Kong. "It was a completely new area for me," Mr Chew remembers. "It was an exciting move and I'm glad I took it, as it gave me the chance to help effect change in the Hong Kong insurance industry."

Protecting consumers

Mr Chew oversees all aspects of individual financial products, spanning the supervision of pricing, business analysis, claims, underwriting, product development and general operations. Over the past four years, his team has expanded consumer protection with the launch of new and innovative products, including the critical-illness product Vita, which features wellness and disease-management programmes that were firsts for Hong Kong's critical-illness insurance market.

"We identify our clients' potential needs in order to design products that will help them in the long run. Serving the interests of humanity is the most rewarding part of the job. It drives us to do the best that we can."

Mr Chew's advice to young graduates is that excellent academic qualifications are important to move into specialist roles, such as that of pricing officer and certain finance jobs. For other positions, a good degree and a positive attitude are a good start. It is vital that candidates have initiative and are inquisitive and passionate about their jobs. The ability to think out of the box is essential for those hoping to become future industry leaders.

"Insurance involves much more than a set of well-engineered financial products. We need to challenge existing market paradigms in order to better protect our customers," he stresses.

The right qualities

There has been a strong emphasis on professionalism in the field in recent years, says Mr Chew. Major insurers seek to hire candidates with outstanding academic backgrounds that are dedicated to honing their expertise on an ongoing basis. He adds that there is a growing demand for insurance products, with most clients now expecting a "full shelf of solutions"—from life and general insurance, medical protection and savings to investments and MPF products.

Foresight and innovation are key to tapping into the thriving market. "For example, most governments around the world are concerned about healthcare reform. At an individual level, prevention before cure is the way forward for medical protection, something many consumers neglect. Our job is therefore to introduce more comprehensive products, such as including a chronic-disease prevention programme."

Considering the volatile global markets, financial planning can be a tricky concept for young people lacking investment experience or resources. Insurance products in renminbi allow clients to tap investment opportunities in mainland China and reap the potential benefits of the appreciation of that currency, as well as capital growth, Mr Chew points out.

Given market volatility, investment-linked insurance products may be a good option as clients can invest regularly based on their personal financial situation through a dollar-cost averaging strategy, which promotes disciplined investment that can help them reach financial goals. Products that offer principal protection are a sensible choice, as they safeguard investors' capital while the markets remain unpredictable, Mr Chew advises. The safest bet for young people is long-term planning for steady returns, he notes.

"They should make sure they're well covered for emergency expenses, such as medical costs, and that their savings will appreciate or at least be protected through prudent investments. This will see them through the rocky times until the markets become more stable," he concludes.

Long-term cover

  • Manulife has expanded consumer protection through new and innovative products
  • Prospective insurance professionals should display initiative and have passion for the job
  • Most clients these days want extensive life, general, medical, savings and MPF solutions
  • Renminbi insurance-savings products offer the opportunity to potentially gain from renminbi appreciation
  • Some investment-linked insurance products allow clients to invest regularly to save for the future

Taken from Career Times 25 November 2011, A2

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