This US multinational insurance firm focuses on product innovation, digitisation and compliance to offer services of international quality to Nepali customers.
In recent years, the insurance sector in Nepal has seen a noticeable growth in terms of access to insurance and the number of insurers. However, foreign companies in the sector are few and far between. Among the few companies operating here is MetLife Nepal which has been providing a range of insurance services of international quality to its customers for the past 20 years.
Established in 2001, MetLife Nepal is the only global life insurance company in Nepal. Starting out as American Life Insurance Company Limited (ALICO) - Nepal, the company in 2010 became MetLife Nepal following the acquisition of ALICO, which was then a part of American International Group (AIG), by MetLife.
Founded in 1868 in New York, MetLife holds vast global experience in insurance services operating in more than 40 countries. “With the long and diverse experiences of many markets, MetLife has brought the best practices to Nepal,” says Nirmal Kajee Shrestha, vice president and general manager of MetLife Nepal. “All new products, innovations, professionalism, etc. come from those experiences,” he adds. According to Shrestha, MetLife is a company which seeks to become the best rather than becoming the biggest focusing more on protection instead of investment.
MetLife Nepal has introduced a lot of new trends, benchmarks and best practices to become a trendsetter in the country’s insurance industry. “MetLife established the practices of the career agency channel. Today, anybody entering the agency channel will be certain to grow their career further,” mentions Shrestha.
The adherence of MetLife Nepal has always been towards maintaining high-levels of professionalism and full compliance. The company is also credited for its contributions towards increasing professionalism in the Nepali life insurance sector. As a multinational company, innovation has played a key role in the growth of the company. Products related to accident and health coverage, employee benefits, foreign employment and micro insurance are among the innovations of MetLife Nepal that has helped to create new insurance market opportunities in the country.
Till date, the company has more than one million insured customers including policy holders of individual life policies, employee benefits, micro insurance, and health and accident coverage. According to MetLife Nepal, it currently holds assets of more than Rs 21 Billion.
For MetLife Nepal, talent development has been one of the key focuses. The company is regarded for introducing many talented individuals to the industry in its two decades of operation. The company has a training department and career development plan to groom its workforce. Besides, MetLife Nepal is also associated with the Life Office Management Association (LOMA), one of the largest trade associations in the US insurance industry, which provides specialised courses to the employees on life insurance. Their field forces such as agents, unit managers and agent managers also regularly receive various trainings to advance their careers on a long-term basis.
Currently, MetLife Nepal has 33 agency offices across the country. Nevertheless, the company’s reach is extended to all 77 districts through micro financing. In the meantime, the company is also focusing on digitisation and expansion of services to increase its outreach.
Products and Services
MetLife Nepal has been catering to the insurance needs of its clients offering a range of products in three categories, namely Health, Family & Future and Group. Under the Health category, the company has Health Insurance, Accident Insurance and Life Card plans. In the Family category, it has Education, Savings & Investment and Retirement schemes. Similarly, under the Group category, the company has Employee Benefits and Micro Insurance.
Shrestha says that all the products of the company are extensively research based and have been developed by keeping customers at the centre. “Basically, we are not selling products but solutions to the customers,” he opines. According to him, the company has introduced insurance plans to cater to the specific needs of its customers. “For instance, our health insurance product LifeCare is a women-centric product which is very popular in Nepal,” he informs, adding, “Another example is the group insurance product Employee Benefit which is beneficial for corporate institutions.”
Likewise, the Deposit Project Scheme (DPS) under the Savings and Investment category is a simplified product. “It has been developed in such a way that there are no hassles in calculating premium and understanding. Our every product segment has their unique specialties and importance,” says Shrestha, adding, “I think we have covered all the segments of our customers, starting from the micro level to high income groups. MetLife’s micro insurance enables even people from low-income group to buy our insurance policies.”
A Focus on Digitisation
At a time when technology is rapidly changing business activities and the everyday lives of people, MetLife Nepal is also emphasising on digitising its services. From onboarding of customers to issuance of insurance policies and other services, all the processes of the company have been fully digitised. Customers can download MetLife Nepal’s app on their devices and avail whatever service they require. “We are also working on digitisation of insurance claims,” informs Shrestha. He believes that the growing use of smartphones across the country will help the company to even reach prospective customers living in rural areas.
“Previously, we had to manage big chunks of files to provide services to customers. It was time consuming and customers do not want to wait for too long,” says Shrestha, adding, “Now with the process of digitisation, everything is done electronically enabling us to provide services in fast and convenient ways.”
According to Shrestha, the importance of digitisation has grown more than ever due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As soon as the lockdown began in March last year, MetLife Nepal started a full-fledged digital customer service. By going online, they catered to the needs of their clients.
The company recently started the ‘My Confidence, My MetLife’ campaign, an integrated market approach which is a new type insurance campaign in Nepal. Through this campaign, MetLife Nepal aims to reach the customers through social media including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, and other digital mediums. The campaign attempts to address three major Life concerns --health protection, saving for children's education and assurance for retirement. “The key focus of this campaign is to provide a holistic insurance solution to our customers. With this campaign, we are trying to raise the confidence level of people to face any kind of challenge in their lives,” says Shrestha.
According to Shrestha, the Nepali life insurance industry is growing approximately at a rate of 30 to 35 percent every year and the relatively low-level of insurance penetration (currently 27 percent including insurance of workers in foreign employment) presents big opportunities for the insurers. He sees the growth in the average income of ordinary Nepalis as an opportunity for expansion of insurance services in the country. “Meanwhile, awareness among the people about life insurance has also grown significantly in recent years. With the expansion of micro insurance, people are becoming more aware about the benefits of life insurance. Besides, regulators are also working to raise awareness joining hands with the insurance companies,” he observes.
He sees the commencement of programmes like ‘Ghumti Beema Sewa’ in 2019 by the Insurance Board as a positive step to increase the access of insurance and awareness among the general populace. The establishment of the Insurance Institute Nepal (IIN) in 2019 is another stepping stone in this regard, according to Shrestha. Besides, several insurance related topics have been included in the courses at school and college levels which are also helping people to get a higher level of understanding in insurance from a young age. “Also, the government is very supportive. The health insurance policy implemented by the government is very simple, but it has contributed to the growth of the industry,” opines Shrestha.
MetLife Nepal also organises insurance seminars in various parts of the country. According to Shrestha, these events have two main purposes: to raise awareness among people about the importance of insurance and encourage people to make a career in the insurance industry.
“We have a robust risk management system. There is a separate enterprise risk management team which coordinates with the risk management committee arranged by the Insurance Board. So, any insurance-related risk that the company is going to take or foresee will be analysed in a very professional manner and will be catagorised accordingly,” informs Shrestha.
Besides, there are separate teams for management process and compliance adhering to the international standard of MetLife in terms of providing services to the customers.
Through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm MetLife Foundation, MetLife Nepal has been supporting communities across the country. Partnering with Plan International, MetLife Foundation recently supported more than 40,000 people of Banke district whose income was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“MetLife always wants to be one of the best corporate citizens. We have partnered with various organisations and worked for the society. After the devastating earthquake hit the country in 2015, we joined hands with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild houses of the disaster affected people,” says Shrestha. Since 2017, MetLife Foundation has also supported Room to Read for its Girls’ Education Programme which aims to ensure that girls complete their secondary level education and gain skills to negotiate key life decisions.
Likewise, partnering with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the foundation has provided a grant of USD 250,000 for the Mobile Money for Poor (MM4P) to help in the financial inclusivity of the economically disadvantaged people.
Highlights of MetLife Nepal
• Have insured 1 million people in Nepal.
• 33 branch and agency offices, employing 151 regular employees and about 8,000 agents.
• Total premium collection of Rs 2.51 billion till mid-January 2021.
• Safe investment strategy and investing only in long-term government bonds and commercial banks fixed deposits which totals to over Rs 21.33 billion as of mid-January 2021.
• Over 5,979 claims settled amounting to over Rs 450 million.