THE coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has disrupted the global normal across all industries and has brought drastic changes for the new normal.
One of the emerging trends the pandemic has made is the awakening of Filipinos' consciousness on the importance of insurances, especially on health.
In a virtual press conference and briefing on June 24, Sun Life Chief Marketing and Client Officer Mylene Lopa revealed that they have received a lot of inquiries on their social media platforms from individuals asking about health insurance since the pandemic happened.
"One of the few good things that the pandemic has made is actually the increasing awareness and interest of Filipinos on financial insurances. The product that they are most interested in is obviously health insurance product," she said.
For young professional Arnie A. Valera, he shared that even in his early 20s, he must strive to have financial freedom and stability -- one of the lessons he learned due to the pandemic.
"And I see that this can be achieved through having investments, insurances, and savings. So, I decided to give myself a gift for the future: health insurance," he said.
He added: "I may pay every month but I never regretted doing so. It was worth it because my money is earning for me and insuring me for what lies ahead."
Sun Life financial advisor Cris James Lopez, in a separate interview said, he was able to close 22 accounts since the pandemic started through remote selling.
He said this signifies that more people are now starting to realize that health and wellness shall also be part in their financial planning.
"Medical expenses are one of the leading causes why many people lose their income and hard-earned savings. One of the painful things we could ever imagine is depleting our hard-earned savings by emergency medical expenses," he said.
Sun Life has a range of health insurance products that cater to different needs of the market that ranges from 10 years coverage or until the client reaches 100 years old. These are Sun Fit and Well, Sun Senior Care, SUN Cancer Care, Sun LifeAssure, Sun Healthier Life, and Sun First Aid, among others.
In an online survey conducted by Sun Life among its clients from May 11 to 29, 2020, results show that 48 percent of the respondents said they are affected by the pandemic in terms of financial situation.
For the respondents' recovery plan, 49 percent said they are somewhat ready, 27 percent are neutral, 13 percent are very prepared and have a recovery plan in place, 10 percent are somewhat not ready, and the remaining 1 percent said they are not ready at all.
In a separate survey, 62 percent are putting in place recovery plans with 68 percent saying that they will start saving more and building their emergency fund, 57 percent looking for more financial advice, and 53 percent investing in family's health.
Looking at the respondents' answers, Lopa interpreted that it is an indicator of the level of preparedness of Filipinos for this crisis.
"The fact that their financial situation was negatively impacted could tell us that perhaps they're lacking in preparation and one reason I can think of is Filipinos don't always plan ahead for the future and they don't have emergency plans," she added.
Sun Life CEO and Country Head Benedict Sison emphasized that they are not getting lots of claims as a result of the pandemic as expected, it means many Filipinos still lack insurance coverage.
"The situation of financial literacy in the country is still evolving, a lot of people are still not aware of the benefits of being financially secured," he said.
Sison added that given the negative impacts brought by the pandemic, it served as a wake-up call for individuals to take insurance seriously.
"One of the opportunities that the pandemic has brought is it heightened the importance of financial services products. We see that when we overcome this pandemic, we will have a rebound in the insurance industry," he said.
Introducing financial journey on digital
Sun Life has also adapted to the new normal by enhancing its digital capabilities and services online.
"We recently launched a digitally-enabled sales process that will allow Filipinos to stay financially protected from the safety of their own home during the Covid-19 pandemic," Lopa shared.
Through this process, clients can get professional financial advice from Sun Life advisors via online platforms and learn about the insurance products that fit their needs.
Meanwhile, the company's website houses tools such as the Life Insurance Calculator, Investment Calculator, and e-Quote, which can help users check their progress in their financial journey. Sun Life has also expanded its suite of digital insurance products for registered Lazada members.
Lopa said this remote financial advice mechanism will become part of the company's permanent solution.
Lopez, for his part said, remote selling has allowed him to reach more individuals nationwide enabling him to close more accounts than before.
"As an advisor, you have a very wide reach of audience in remote selling. Remote selling allows you to secure lives nationwide. Before this pandemic, we are required to meet them personally. If your client lives in Manila, then you have to go to Manila to do the financial planning with them," he said.
But he noted that challenges of remote selling include internet connection interruption that may lead to miscommunication. This method of selling, he added, can also be a hard task for advisors and clients who are not well-versed with the internet.
As the country continues to deal with the pandemic, Sun Life launched "Rise Together to a Bright New World" campaign in time for the annual celebration of Financial Independence Month every June.
"We would like to help Filipinos channel their energies towards actions that would help them prepare for the future. While there is still much uncertainty as our country continues to deal with the pandemic, there are steps that they can take now to make sure they and their loved ones can look forward to brighter days," Lopa said.
It may be unfortunate that it took a pandemic before people realized the significance of health insurance and emergency fund, but financial advisors are hopeful that when everything starts to normalize and when the recovery journey begins, more individuals will now invest for the future and become financially stable and free, pandemic or not.