Presiding over the 19th of the top 100 insurance companies in the world
Perky, petite Riza MantarinG, President and CEO of Sun Life OF CANADA (Philippines)
By Mila Astorga-Garcia
Rizalina G. Mantaring, President and CEO of Sun Life of Canada (Philippines), Inc. met with media, and Filipino-Canadian Sun Life managers, for a lunch conversation hosted by corporate executives at Sun Life of Canada headquarters in downtown Toronto, Tuesday, June 10.
Here to represent her company in the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) week-long (June 7-12) annual conference, where more than 8,700 financial professionals representing 57 countries were estimated to attend, Mantaring took time off from her busy schedule for a conversational exchange with media about the company, the industry, its developments in recent years, success and challenges.
Mantaring herself was an interesting subject to easily focus into – a perky, petite, articulate woman, wife and mother of three grown-up children, who graduated from the University of the Philippines in Electrical Engineering, and ending up in the top position as president and CEO of the oldest, “most productive” insurance company in the Philippines, despite not having the largest in sales force.
She has been in Sun Life of Canada – Philippines Inc. for 22 years now, first joining the company in 1992 as its IT head, and later branching out into operations, where she got involved in several aspects of the company’s work. Then she rose up to become its president and CEO and during this time the company has grown to 42 branches and 5,500 advisors throughout the country.
She prides that Sun Life may not be the largest in sales force, but is “the most productive” in sales.
Many factors are responsible for this growth, foremost of which she attributes to what she sees as the country’s improved economy. “Insurance takes off as soon as the level of …economic growth” reaches a certain point, she says, a phenomenon that has been officially observed in the country in recent years.
A second factor is its financial literacy campaign which Sun Life Philippines started in 2009 and conducted throughout the country, benefiting not only Sun Life, but the entire financial industry, the Philippine insurance executive maintains.
A third factor is “the Sun Life brand itself,” Mantaring says, in terms of “character, image, and values.”
Elaborating on the economic growth factor, Mantaring cites that as a result of the two factors, the life insurance share in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has increased from .8 per cent in 2009 to 1.48 per cent in 2013. “Still this is very low, but the industry has a very huge potential for growth,” she declares.
Meanwhile, she notes that Sun Life’s growth in new sales has increased from 1.28 billion pesos in 2009 to 6 billion pesos in 2014. Right now, Sun Life enjoys a number one position in total sales in the insurance industry in the Philippines, comprising a remarkable 25 per cent market share, Mantaring confides.
“Part of this growth is the economy,” Mantaring reiterates, “and part of it is the Sun Life brand.”
Founded in Montreal in 1865, Sun Life made its way into the Philippines in 1895 when the country was still a colony of Spain. Since then the company has been there so that its existence has been “woven into the fabric of the nation’s history,” Mantaring quotes this popular company saying. Thus you find families insured with the company for seven generations, she says with pride. After all, longevity in any business implies customer trust in its service, she adds. “We emphasize quality, not numbers,” adding that the company goes an extra mile of service in extraordinary circumstances.
She then tells an incredible story of how during World War II, there was a necessity to bury all insurance records under floor boards. When the war was over, Sun Life made a decision to pay all claims even without records, and that the company would just reconcile those claims after the records were retrieved.
“After that, we found out, there weren’t any fraudulent claims.” Mantaring says.
She adds that after the devastating Typhoon Yolanda, Sun Life itself looked for clients in the affected area to help deal with the claims. “They didn’t come to us, we looked for them to pay their claims,” she says.
Mantaring prides in the company’s advisors whom she says are well trained toward providing excellent service to customers. When asked by one of the Filipino-Canadian managers of Sun Life Canada what to her were the best qualities of a good advisor, Mantaring quickly responds with: “ethos, logos, pathos.”
For ethos, one must have moral righteousness, personal credibility and trustworthiness, she explains. For logos, one must have brains, intelligence, and an understanding of what you’re doing or competence. For pathos, one must have empathy with people, and leadership, defining a good leader as one who “captures the hearts of the people.”
“When people believe that and they know you have their best interest at heart,” then you have pathos,” she explains to the Filipino-Canadian managers present, who look upon her as a role model.
However, Mantaring does not hesitate to admit that the company benefits from having popular entertainment personalities, like Philippine movie actor Piolo Pascual, as endorsers of Sun Life of Canada, Philippines. Pascual’s sister, in fact, is a known Sun Life Advisor. It also helps that many well-known show business personalities are openly known to be Sun Life clients, she says.
As for Sun Life’s financial literacy advocacy, Mantaring says it has always focused on teaching people smarter ways toward financial security for themselves and their families, especially that Filipinos generally believe that the best investment place is in savings, which needs to be corrected, because of very low interests.
Asked what were some of the company and industry challenges in the Philippines, she reiterates that financial literacy is still low and people who have money still prefer to put them in banks as savings. Another factor she identified is the need to modernize regulations governing the insurance sector, which is the responsibility of the Insurance Commission. Even with the changing of the Insurance Code last year, there are still restrictions to assets. “Whenever we want the Commission to approve them, it takes time….by the time they approve it, the opportunity has passed.”
Asked if the company had a program for overseas foreign workers such as caregivers in Canada, Mantaring said that they have tried to work with the Canadian Embassy for workable ideas. However, she says, it is a difficult situation for caregivers as they do not have money before they leave, having already spent a lot of money just to be able to leave the country for the prospect of better jobs elsewhere.
A Filipino-Canadian advisor added that in Canada, Sun Life has newcomer seminars, but they understandably realize that “before they (potential clients) sign up for a policy, they first need a job: to be able to get an insurance.”
Apparently, Mantaring’s role in the company’s growth has brought recognition to Sun Life of Canada Philippines, to the pride of its mother company, Sun Life Canada.
Its latest achievement is that Sun Life Canada- Philippines Inc. while under Mantaring’s watch, has been listed as 19th among the top 100 insurance companies worldwide in terms of the Million Dollar Round Table (rating system).
Explaining the significance of the MDRT rating, she says:
“There are actually many more than 100 companies. MDRT just listed the top 100.
These are companies all over the world, and each Sun Life entity is a different company – Canada, US, Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, etc. In Asia we operate in 7 countries.
MDRT is an international organization. It recognizes sales excellence among financial advisors or agents. There is a qualifying standard to be a member. The standard is not the same per country, recognizing the differences in standard of living; ie, it would be far easier to earn a million dollars in commissions in the US than in the Philippines, for example. The standard is set to roughly the same level across all countries, adjusting for economic factors.
Three hundred forty four (344) of the advisors from the Philippines qualified to be MDRTs, making the Philippine operation of Sun Life 19th among all life insurance companies worldwide in terms of number of MDRTs.
This is a testament to the quality of our advisors. They are highly professional, and as a result are also very productive. We have the highest number in the Philippines despite the fact that we don’t have the most advisors –some other companies have almost double the number of advisors.”