Customers are likely to continue to prefer face-to-face advice on insurance but offering a seamless process digitally will be a strong complement to that, said Great Eastern Holdings group chief executive Khor Hock Seng yesterday .
"The agency and bancassurance channels will still be the main driver of the business for the near future. What will change is you'll see both channels will have to embrace more technology to assist them," he said.
"The digital space is something they cannot avoid, and customers will want more convenience, a 24/7 type of service, but still face-to-face advice. It'll be how well agencies, for instance, embrace technology to assist them so they are seen to be providing a seamless service."
Mr Khor was speaking at the company's second-quarter results briefing.
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Net profit soared 173 per cent to $279.5 million in the three months ended June 30 from a year earlier, mainly owing to higher non-operating profit.
That came on the back of favourable financial market conditions and higher profits from investments in the shareholders' fund, said the firm, which is the market leader as of March this year.
Quarterly new-business embedded value - a measure of long-term profitability - rose 17 per cent to $121.1 million, driven by higher sales in core markets and higher margins in Malaysia.
Total weighted new sales grew 6 per cent to $255.7 million for the quarter, as sales across all channels grew, owing to "the agency channels in our core markets and bancassurance channel in Singapore".
AT A GLANCE
$279.5 million (+173%)
$2.46 billion (+ 8%)
INTERIM DIVIDEND PER SHARE
10 cents (unchanged)
Operating profit from the insurance business rose 20 per cent to $157.4 million.
Quarterly gross premiums grew 8 per cent to $2.46 billion.
Profit from investments in the shareholders' fund for the quarter soared 229 per cent to $61.9 million.
This was on the back of higher realised gains from the sale of investments and lower foreign exchange losses from United States dollar-denominated investments.
Quarterly earnings per share was 59 cents, compared with 22 cents a year earlier, while net asset value per share was $14.80 as at June 30, compared with $13.92 as at Dec 31.
Mr Khor said the firm is looking at new bank tie-ups in Indonesia, one of the strategies to grow the business there, and possibly using a direct sales force or direct-to-channel methods.
On going digital, he added: "We have Live Great, our key engagement programme. We are working on a lot of initiatives to digitalise it, so our engagement with customers is more seamless and exciting.
"The other area is the whole straight-through processing for customers, from the time of solicitation of the business to issuing the (insurance contract)."
The results were announced before markets opened. Great Eastern shares closed 12 cents lower at $24.78 yesterday.