Shifting mindsets, Big Data, and mass personalization in the financial services industry

Krista Garcia

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Shifting mindsets, Big Data, and mass personalization in the financial services industry
How do financial institutions stay afloat – and sail on – in the face of rapid modernization? By listening closely to their clients, says Sun Life Financial’s Mylene Lopa

MANILA, Philippines – In case you haven’t noticed, companies have gotten better at customizing services for each individual client or user.

Transport services pick us up right at our doorsteps. Streaming services know what song or movie we’ll like, based on our previous choices. Advertisements on our favorite websites and apps change regularly depending on what we’re reading, what we’re reacting to, or what we’re looking for.

In this age of “mass personalization,” all brands are expected to understand their market’s needs – and to cater to these ASAP.

The insurance industry – which has been around since ancient times – isn’t spared from this challenge.

“Majority of the Filipino population are millennials already, and this is the generation that wants instant service,” says Mylene Lopa, Chief Marketing Officer of Sun Life Financial (SLF). “They’re mobile and they want things to be very quick.”

How do financial institutions stay afloat – and sail on – in the face of rapid modernization?

Here’s the formula.

Changing the mindset

For Sun Life, the most urgent challenge wasn’t launching new products – it’s changing the enduring mentality about investing. According to Lopa, many 

Filipinos don’t consider investing as a priority, so many continue to depend on their families for financial support. Conversely, those who do support their families see it as a duty they must fulfill.

“This behavior is rooted on generations of tradition,” Lopa says. “Filipinos still tend to be a bit shortsighted when it comes to finances, whereas our services our really meant for long-term planning. There’s tension between the two.” 

Thus, alongside marketing their investment instruments, SLF has been running an advocacy campaign on financial literacy since 2009.

“Digital is a very important tool in spreading that advocacy. The reach of digital is far greater than any other medium these days,” Lopa says. Through their own platforms and collaboration with publishing partners, SLF is promoting the value of investing in simple, understandable language.

Empowering the market

SLF’s strategy continues beyond informing the market – they’ve updated their products to adapt to Filipinos’ behavior and capacity to invest.

“When it comes to changing perspectives, to be fair, the burden is also on the companies who want bring about that positive change. So we’ve shifted our own mindset and really taken on the challenge of making ourselves more relevant,” Lopa says.

In late 2016, Sun Life launched a mobile app where clients can check their accounts at a glance. They also introduce an online matchmaking service for financial advisors.

They also repackaged investment plans, and made it more familiar. The “Prosperity Card,” for example, is a tangible, reloadable component of every client’s policy. SLF has also lowered the minimum outlay required to open an SLF account. They also recently launched an online selling platform for their mutual fund products.

By adapting to their target market’s habits, Sun Life enjoyed healthy business growth last year, according to Lopa.

What’s in store for 2018

As SLF enters its 123rd year in the Philippines, the company is fully embracing modernization, and is cognizant of the global trends disrupting the financial services industry.

This year, SLF will continue to grow internal teams focused on fintech research, big data, and cybersecurity. “There’s a growing trend for personalization, and data is important for that.” Lopa says. “We’ve seen globally for financial services companies have integrated with other services like telcos, banking, even retail. That’s coming soon. It makes sense for us to do the same, to expand our reach. On top of that, we regularly monitor the risks, to ensure our data and our clients’ data are protected.” 

Beyond providing financial services, SLF hopes to continue inspiring Filipinos to maintain a positive outlook in life.

“Amid so much negativity and noise, we want to continue making Filipinos believe that a brighter life is possible, for them and their families.” Lopa says. “Beyond just inspiring them, we want to empower them, if they allow us to help them.

“If we can convince them of the need to act now on the things they can improve on, then we’ve done our job.” –

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