Manulife Financial Corp. says more than $600 million in digital investments over the last two years are paying off as the company grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roy Gori, the Toronto-based insurer’s chief executive, said Thursday that the company’s virtual offerings allowed Manulife to fulfil consumer demand as people continue to work from home.
“Overall, the acceleration and expansion of our digital tools have greatly enabled us to engage more effectively with our customers,” he said on a call with analysts.
His remarks came as Manulife’s third-quarter net income attributable to shareholders reached $2.07 billion or $1.04 per diluted share, up from $723 million or 35 cents per share the year before.
The company says its core earnings slumped by almost five per cent to hit $1.45 billion or 73 cents per share, compared with $1.53 billion or 76 cents per share a year ago.
Analysts expected Manulife to report 70 cents per share in core earnings and 51 cents per share in net income, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.
“This is a testament to the diversity and resilience of our business model as well as to the importance of the investments that we’ve made in our digital transformation over the last few years,” Gori said.
In Manulife’s third-quarter 84 per cent of Canadian insurance applications were received electronically, up from 67 per cent before the pandemic forced many people to work from home.
About 65 per cent of Canadian individual insurance policy contracts were delivered electronically in the quarter, up from 40 per cent before COVID-19, he said.
In Asia, he said Manulife introduced facial and video recognition into the sales process in China and sold its first policy in Myanmar, which the company described as “a digitally savvy market with one of the lowest insurance penetration rates in Asia.”
While digital offerings were a star, the company says equity markets, interest rates and variable annuity guarantee liabilities also helped it beat expectations.
But insurers haven’t had an easy quarter.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an emphasis on health care but pushed insurers to let their staff work at home and challenged them to find ways to make remote sales possible.
For some consumers, the switch to telehealth offerings have been seamless, but others are less tech-savvy, lack the devices needed or simply prefer in-person interactions.
Manulife and other insurers have had to grapple with both kinds of consumers, while dealing with a pandemic that is far from over and impossible to predict.
Despite the uncertainty, Gori promised Manulife shareholders Thursday that the company would stick to a “disciplined” approach moving forward.
“Our financial performance has been solid, and we’ve continued to execute against our strategy and we have the financial flexibility to navigate the downturn and to capitalize on opportunities as they emerge, both organic and inorganic.”