Olympic sponsor is first foreign insurer to enter Zhejiang province
NINGBO, China, April 9, 2005 – Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Canadian-based Manulife Financial, the world’s fifth largest life insurance company, today opened its doors to business in the city of Ningbo, Zhejiang province – site of the Company’s third Branch office in China.
“We are very excited that we can now offer our extensive portfolio of premium financial products and services to the citizens of Ningbo,” said Victor Apps, Senior Executive Vice President and General Manager of Manulife Financial, Asia, at the opening ceremony press conference held at Nanyuan Hotel. “Permitted recently to expand our China operating license to include Group Life and Health and Pension business, soon we will truly be in a position to fully service companies, families and individuals with a wide range of financial and medical products for all stages of life.”
In September 2004, Manulife-Sinochem received the first license granted in Zhejiang province to a foreign-invested joint venture life insurance company by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC).
“Establishing operations in Ningbo marks another milestone in our journey to becoming a nationwide insurer in the People’s Republic of China,” said Marc Sterling, Executive Vice President, Asia Regional Operations, Manulife Financial, in his address at the public opening ceremony held at Tianyi Square. “Well positioned in the competitive markets of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing, Manulife-Sinochem is at the forefront of foreign expansion and over the last nine years has built a solid foundation upon which to rapidly grow.”
Market offers massive growth potential
“With Ningbo’s very low insurance penetration rate and an average resident income that is ranked fourth highest in China, this market presents enormous potential for Manulife-Sinochem,” said James Lin, General Manager, Manulife-Sinochem. “We are excited to begin our operations in the booming financial heart of Zhejiang province and in the near future look forward to expanding within these wealthy provincial borders.”
“With an aggressive growth strategy in place, we will be building on our local team of skilled professionals we have already hired, offering rewarding career opportunities across all areas of our business to many more qualified applicants,” added Mr. Lin. “Recently recognized, for the second year in a row, as Shanghai’s “Most Trustworthy Company” in the insurance sector, this is a testament to the company’s well-earned success and a tribute to the professionalism of our people.”
Experiencing rapid geographical and product expansion
Under the recently lifted geographical restrictions for foreign insurers by the Government, as part of its commitment to the to the World Trade Organization, Manulife-Sinochem has received a number of new licenses that will permit the rapid expansion of its business.
In January 2005, CIRC granted Manulife-Sinochem license to significantly enhance its current product portfolio to include Group Life and Health and non-tax benefit Pension business, bringing its business scope in line with that of domestic insurers.
“We plan to offer Group Life and Health insurance beginning mid-year to all our customers and once a number of pension regulations are in place, we will also use this opportunity to increase our presence in the China marketplace,” said Mr. Sterling.
At the same time, Manulife-Sinochem’s Guangzhou Branch license was converted into a province-wide license for Guangdong, excluding Shenzhen, giving it immediate access to a market almost 80 million strong. Subsequently, at the end of March, Manulife-Sinochem received its first license to open a satellite sales office in Foshan, in central Guangdong province where it plans to be operational by in May.
Olympic sponsorship set to enhance brand in competitive marketplace
“As a result of our global merger with Boston-based John Hancock Financial Services, Inc. in 2004, Manulife-Sinochem has proudly become the Official Life Insurance Partner of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games,” said Mr. Lin. “This is a very exciting time for Beijing, for China, and for our company – we are thrilled to be a part of this special event and the Olympic spirit that will drive the development of Beijing, ultimately showcasing it as the magnificent city it is, to the rest of the world.”
“Our corporate sponsorship dollars go toward supporting the dedicated individuals of China, who train long and hard to achieve the excellence that qualifies them for the world’s largest and most recognized sports competition. Similarly, we, too, strive to be the “best” in our industry,” said Alex Cheung, General Manager, Manulife-Sinochem, Ningbo Branch.
The Beijing Olympic Games is considered the single greatest marketing opportunity this decade for companies wishing to establish leadership positions in Asia, and in particular the Greater China region. As such, Manulife-Sinochem plans to leverage the sponsorship to create a powerful and comprehensive marketing strategy that will span all facets of its life insurance business in all of its China locations, including Ningbo, over the next three years.
“Manulife-Sinochem shares the Olympic attributes of top performance and striving to be the best,” added Mr. Cheung. “As the exclusive Life Insurance Partner of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, we hope to communicate to our new stakeholders in Ningbo that we, too, stand for the excellence that has long been associated with the Olympic ideals. We look forward to the tremendous branding benefits that we stand to gain from our investment in the Olympic Movement.”
Steadfast commitment to core competencies
The first foreign-invested joint venture life insurance company to enter China, Manulife-Sinochem opened its headquarters in Shanghai in 1996. In November 2002, Manulife-Sinochem received the first branch license granted to a foreign-invested joint venture insurance company and opened a Branch in Guangzhou. In April 2004, the Company opened its second branch operation in China’s capital city, Beijing.
Fast becoming a major player in China’s insurance market, Manulife-Sinochem attributes its success to remaining steadfast to the company’s core competencies that include customer service effectiveness, distribution excellence and product innovation.
Today, Manulife-Sinochem’s 4,000-strong staff and agency force serve almost 220,000 customers across all cities where it operates.
Manulife-Sinochem is a joint venture company between Manulife (International) Limited (51 per cent) and China Foreign Economic and Trade Trust & Investment Company, a member of the Sinochem group (49 per cent).
China Foreign Economic and Trade Trust & Investment Company (FOTIC) is a core enterprise of Sinochem. Sinochem, founded in 1950, is one of the biggest foreign trading companies in China. Sinochem has been listed among the Fortune Global 500 companies for 15 consecutive years, ranking 270th in 2004. It was ranked fifth among China’s 500 largest companies in 2003. Sinochem can be found on the Internet at www.sinochem.com.
About Manulife Financial
Manulife Financial is a leading Canadian-based financial services group serving millions of customers in 19 countries and territories worldwide. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily through John Hancock in the United States, the Company offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were Cdn$348 billion (US$289 billion) as at December 31, 2004.
Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under ‘0945’ on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at www.manulife.com.