News29 Aug 2017

Robo or face-to-face advice not binary - Manulife President

| 29 Aug 2017

"The mistake that people often make is that they think there is a binary decision between digital advice or face-to-face. And the reality is that consumers don't think about the world in that way," said Mr Roy Gori, President, Manulife Financial Corporation.

In many instances, consumers want to be connected to an adviser and to have a face-to-face discussion or relationship. But in other instances, they want to be remote and they want to use digital platforms for their execution.

“So our belief is that we need to really cover the spectrum,” he said. “There are some consumers that just will never ever have access to face-to-face. So we're going to cover that spectrum, and that's the big part of the agenda we're driving forward as we think about customer centricity in digital. It's true in the U.S. but it's also true in our other operations, Canada and Asia.”

Executives from Manulife and its American unit John Hancock had revealed that they were “bullish” on the idea of implementing robo-advisers to better serve the company’s American clients. John Hancock aims to introduce a new digital advice distribution channel so that it can reach more customers.

Mr Mike Doughty, Manulife Financial Corporation - EVP & Interim President & CEO, John Hancock, said: “We view the new power of digital advice as a way to actually help people improve their financial outcomes very efficiently. So we're looking at doing that within retirement plans, outside of retirement plans. And we think it can be a real game-changer in terms of being able to reach a lot more American households.”

Digital advice as an enabler to face-to-face

Digital advice is viewed as an enabler to its face-to-face channel. Mr Doughty said advisers are increasingly aware that there a growing segment of consumers that want that kind of omni-channel experience – where they have a face-to-face adviser, but they can also tap into digital tools when and where they want to.

He added: “I would say that our experience has been, and this is across not just the wealth but also insurance, has been that advisers and insurance producers recognise that there is a big chunk of the market that they can't currently serve. And so this is not actually cannibalising their business. It's really expanding the pie and reaching new households that they are, frankly, not reaching.”

Mr Gori and Mr Doughty were speaking with analysts in a call regarding the company’s Q2 results.

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