Concern about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among insurance customers runs deeper in the Philippines than in most of Asia. This has prompted many Filipinos to adopt new habits around a healthier lifestyle and greater use of digital technology, according to a new Manulife survey.
Nearly all of the Philippines-based respondents of the Manulife Asia Care Survey, who are all insurance policyholders, have adopted new lifestyle habits under the COVID-19 pandemic (98 percent). Majority of these new habits are geared towards healthier living and increased reliance on e-commerce, online, and digital services.
Along with the increased interest in digital was a move towards more regular management of personal finance. And an extension of this is that Filipinos have a growing appetite for insurance.
“We support Filipinos in their heightened desire to make better lifestyle choices every day, whether on their health or finances. Through this study, we are able to identify their concerns, priorities, and goals so we can provide the necessary solutions to help address our customers’ financial and health needs and help them live every day better,” said Melissa Henson, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Manulife Philippines, in a press statement.
The Manulife Asia Care Survey, conducted in late May, targeted 300 insurance owners in the Philippines. Most respondents expressed concern about the pandemic’s long-term impact on the local economy and their day-to-day living.
From offline to online
The pessimism of Filipinos about the likelihood of COVID-19 slowing down in the next six months was second to that of Indonesians, among those across the eight markets surveyed. More than half (58 percent) of the Filipino respondents said they thought COVID-19 would get more serious during the second half of 2020, above the regional average of 41 percent.
The survey showed greater willingness to switch to using online services, such as online chats and online payment (79 percent) and using online tools for news and socialization (both 63 percent) since the start of the pandemic. Switching shopping from offline to online is quite substantial (46 percent of the respondents have done so) since COVID-19 started.
COVID-19 has accelerated trends already in place, notably digitization in lifestyle. The acceptance and adoption of these trends provide another reason to believe that the changing habits will, in part at least, be permanent. In the Philippines, digitization and use of smartphones is enabling greater numbers of Filipinos to get access to financial services and other online tools. COVID-19 has helped to reinforce the value of digital tools and services.
Personal finance and insurance
Along with their desire to get fitter, 46 percent of respondents in the Philippines said the pandemic had caused them to review and manage personal finance more often than before COVID-19.
The Philippines is one of the region’s most under-insured countries. One measure of insurance penetration is gross written premiums as a percentage of per-capita GDP. In the Philippines, along with a few other markets in the region, penetration rate is less than one percent, far below the rates in markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
As such, it is interesting that 77 percent of those surveyed in the Philippines intend to buy new additional insurance in the next 18 months, which is the most robust level among all the markets surveyed and well above the regional average of 62 percent. Life (33 percent), health (29 percent) and hospitalization (31 percent), accident (28 percent), and critical illness (27 percent) are the main new insurance products being considered by insurance owners in the Philippines.
“In the Philippines, we see people increasingly recognize the risks around critical illness. As well, there’s a consciousness about the likelihood of unforeseen accidents. Besides being health issues, these are extremely stressful for the patient and his or her family, not least because the rising cost of healthcare and hospitalization can be a tremendous financial burden,” Henson said.
“More and more, with the use of digital tools now available, we see people seeking out the best protection option for their needs.”