Executives at Sun Life Financial Inc. see the COVID-19 pandemic as a major force for modernization.
Dean Connor, Sun Life’s chief executive officer, talked about the effects of the pandemic on the company’s operations last week, during a conference call the Toronto-based company held to go over its first-quarter earnings with securities analysts.
“When a crisis of great proportion occurs, there is often a rush to judgment about how the world will be permanently changed,” Connor said. “There’s one thing we believe to be absolutely true: The acceleration of everything digital, from how we advise clients, to how we sell to clients, to how we pay claims and provide service, will be a permanent benefit coming out of the crisis.”
- A recording of Sun Life Financial’s analyst call is available here.
- An article about Sun Life Financial’s latest earnings is available here.
Most retail clients will still want to work with advisors, but advisors will boost their productivity and effectiveness with use of new sources of data and new analytical tools, Connor said.
Kevin Strain, Sun Life’s chief financial officer, said use of digital tools and processes helped the company push individual sales in April to 80% of the April 2019 levels, in spite of the shelter-in-place rules.
The digital tools helped Sun Life push sales of individual wealth products to about 90% of the year-earlier levels, Strain said.
Insurtech in Asia
Sun Life has operations all over Asia.
Leo Grepin, president of the company’s Sun Life Asia, said the status of return-to-the-office rules differs from market to market.
“Advisors are out meeting with clients and client demand is actually quite strong,” Grepin said. “The demand for our products have never been stronger.”
In China and other markets that had tough, effective pandemic-control lockdowns, “we saw a very sharp rebound in sales,” Grepin said. “And so, in markets in North America where that may be the case, I think there’s some potential for optimism.”
Grepin said he’s also seen the pandemic lead to increased use of digital systems.
“Clients are using our applications our portals a lot more than before,” Grepin said. “Our advisors are also leveraging our capabilities a lot more, and I’d expect that that behavior will continue after the crisis.”
Grepin said one factor affecting sales during work-at-home periods is how a jurisdiction regulates use of electronic signature systems. Another is whether a jurisdiction requires face-to-face meeting for the sale of certain products.