15 Apr 2020
Message from Mike Wells: How Prudential is innovating and investing to meet the challenge of Covid-19 and beyond
Covid-19 is placing new and unfamiliar stresses on individuals and organisations across the world. In particular, healthcare and financial needs are acute, and meeting those needs is challenging in the context of social distancing regimes.
I am pleased to report that my colleagues in Prudential’s businesses are rising to these demands tirelessly and creatively as we strive to support our customers and communities.
We are innovating across four dimensions: information and advice; products and sales; service; and community investment.
With face-to-face contact restricted across all our major markets, people have turned to virtual channels for support. This has led to a sharp escalation of interest in Pulse, our new digital health service for Asia, which offers symptom checking, wellness advice and telemedicine. Pulse was launched last August in Malaysia and we are now live in eight markets. At our full-year results on 11 March, I reported that downloads had reached 1.3 million. A little over a month later that figure has more than doubled to 3 million. Malaysia and Indonesia each have more than 1 million downloads. In Hong Kong, Pulse was the top-rated free app on the IOS App Store on launch day. In the Philippines, in the month since we launched, the app has been downloaded more than 250,000 times. Further public roll-outs are taking place next week in Singapore and Vietnam.
As well as the need for reliable health information, Pulse’s popularity has been underpinned by product innovation, providing new and existing customers with protection against the costs of medical treatment for Covid-19. A total of 400,000 new registered users of Pulse in Hong Kong and the Philippines have benefited from temporary free cover against the virus under initiatives launched in the past few weeks. And a further 300,000 customers in Malaysia and Thailand have signed up online through other digital partnerships.
At the same time, we have been working closely with regulators to allow more products to be sold virtually. Our Mainland China business has long been a heavy user of digital platforms, such as WeChat, but in other markets many of our products have traditionally required face-to-face meetings as part of the sales process. That is now changing. In Hong Kong, 25 per cent of our products can now be sold virtually. And in Indonesia and Malaysia most products can be sold without the need for the customer and agent to be in the same room.
Despite the social distancing restrictions in place, we are continuing to develop our agency force. Recruitment, selection, training and, where possible, licensing have all moved online.
Meeting claims fast and without fuss is more important than ever. Across our Asia markets we have simplified claims processes, set up dedicated hotlines and developed new online tools to ensure that our customers get the support they need.
Our US business, Jackson, where 95 per cent of associates are now working from home, is also adapting well. We are maintaining industry-leading service levels and our wholesalers are helping advisers develop new digital solutions so they can interact with their clients without meeting face-to-face. In fact, a new report released this week from Practical Perspectives included Jackson on a list of the 25 most frequently mentioned providers relied on for support related to coronavirus and market volatility. Jackson was the top-ranked annuity provider on the list and was included alongside top broker-dealers, asset managers and media outlets.
Our community investment arms have been contributing through a wide range of regional and local initiatives. Our long-established Safe Steps programme works with governments, NGOs and media partners to raise awareness on important public health issues, and last week, under this umbrella, we launched a new Covid-19 programme. You can watch the video here https://safesteps.com/main/covid-19/
In China, our joint venture has so far pledged RMB15 million (US$2.1million) support to the efforts to fight Covid-19. In Malaysia and Singapore, our programmes have included the donation of Covid-19 care kits, and in Indonesia staff and agents have been fundraising to support local hospitals. We will be announcing further initiatives in the next few weeks.
Prudential has always been a long-term investor, both in our relationships with customers and in the wider economy. We will do whatever we can to support people in these difficult times and, when the pandemic eventually passes, we will continue to be a committed partner in the efforts to rebuild our communities.