Prudential Singapore’s digital transformation and distribution efforts have resulted in dissatisfaction among its agency force, according to a report.
Last month, 350 of around 600 agency leaders sent a petition to Prudential’s Asian headquarters in Hong Kong, as well as its head office in London, protesting against the selling of the company’s products and savings plans online, reported the Straits Times, citing industry sources.
The direct sales digital platform, launched in early 2017, currently carries five protection products, according to Prudential Singapore CEO Wilf Blackburn. That number is set to increase in the next two to three years, with the insurer’s plan to offer more products online.
“For us, the digital platform doesn’t compete with the agents,” Blackburn told ST.
“It’s only existing customers who have access to buy on the digital platform. We encourage the customers to talk to the financial consultants rather than make a decision on their own so the financial consultants are not being cut out at all. If their customers buy without involving the agent, the financial consultants still get all the benefits anyway so they don’t lose financially from it.”
Blackburn added that, in many cases, customers that intend to buy products online refer to their agents for advice. Thus, the insurer’s digital channels are complementary to the agent’s role.
The agents’ fears of direct insurance sales eating into their business may seem premature, the report said, as data from the Life Insurance Association of Singapore showed that insurance sold directly to consumers made up only 5% of weighted new business premiums for the first quarter of 2018. Meanwhile, Prudential Singapore had 4,750 agents – the largest agency force in the country – as of the same time period.
The agency leaders’ petition also called for the removal of Blackburn and chief agency officer Roy Lim. It criticised the insurer’s management for “removing of staff in key positions with no able replacements” following staff reorganisations, as well as what the agents perceived as a slow response to a premium deduction error in May.
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