Manila - Story after story attends Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. (Phils.), Inc.’s history, which is closely intertwined with that of the Philippines’. Among the oldest insurance firms in the country, Manulife Philippines traces its roots to men and women of acclaim who have made significant contributions to the country’s life insurance industry, its vocational education system, and to its economy.
Now on its centennial year, Manulife received its license to operate in Manila in 1907, 20 years after the company was first established in Toronto, Canada in 1887 by Sir John A. Macdonald, who concurrently held the post of Prime Minister of Canada. British trading firm Warner, Barnes & Co., Ltd. was appointed to take charge of the Manila Agency.
The year 1907 also marked the nation’s first exercise in self-rule with elections and the inauguration of the First Philippine Assembly under the United States’ aegis.
In 1923, prominent American businessman Edwin E. Elser was assigned to manage Manulife’s Manila Agency. Sales of life insurance policies were brisk, prompting Elser to proudly mount Manulife’s signage atop the Kneedler Building in the heart of the business district in the early 1930s.
Elser appointed Edward Leverich Hall to manage the Manila Agency in 1933. Dr. Hall received many an accolade for leading the Manila Agency in topping Manulife international sales records. Off-hours, he became president of the Manila Rotary Club, establishing a template for vocational education for Filipino youth. His contribution was of such great impact that it continues to be in use today.
The 1940s witnessed the bravery and loyalty of Manulife employees who risked life and limb to take care of the needs of Manulife expatriates interned at Santo Tomas in World War II, and to protect company records. Thanks to Office Manager Paquita Gonzalez’s valor, Manulife Philippines was the first life insurance company to open for business after the war. When it re-opened in 1946, it became a full-service branch headed by Dr. Hall as branch manager, in the company division known as Fields Abroad.
Dr. Hall retired in 1948 and was replaced by A.P. Goldman, and in 1962, by H.H. Chapman. Former Army officer Robert J. Morris took the reins of the company in 1965, modernizing the Philippine branch and professionalizing its Agency operations. Many a Manulifer regarded Morris as a strict mentor who was nevertheless well-loved and respected by employees and agents alike.
The Business Management System, also known as the ‘Bob Morris System,’ which he introduced, was later adopted by the Asian Institute of Management. Also during his watch, the insurance firm branched out to Cebu, Bacolod and Davao.
By the time Garry Dick took over the Philippine branch in 1982, Manulife’s agents were each producing 100 cases a year. Among the few expatriates who went out to the streets to participate in People Power, Garry Dick’s Philippine posting was marked by a series of unfortunate events: the 1983 assassination of Ninoy Aquino; the ensuing economic crisis; and the chaotic national elections held in February 1986. Despite these, new business production quadrupled during his tenure. Moreover, he worked on developing the company toward Filipino management.
In 1986, Estelito Madrid was appointed general manager, making the Philippines the first territory in the region to boast of local management.
Insurance old-timer Renato Vergel de Dios was appointed president and chief executive officer of Manulife in 1995. He was given the task of growing the agency force and engineering mergers and acquisitions. Over a 10-year period, he grew the Philippine operation by leaps and bounds. It was also under his watch that the company became a wholly-owned subsidiary in 1999.
In the demutualization of Manulife in that same year, it became the first foreign company to list in the Philippine Stock Exchange. Its 50,000 Philippine policyholders received close to eight billion pesos in the form of shares of stock or cash — among the largest fund transfers (from Toronto to Manila) ever to take place in the country.
Under Vergel de Dios’s stewardship, the company acquired four foreign-owned life insurance firms including MetLife Philippines, CMG Philippines, Zurich Life Philippines, and Boston giant John Hancock, resulting in a far stronger agency force.
In 2000, Manulife received approval to operate its Pension & Education affiliate, Manulife Financial Plans, Inc.
Seeking alternative sources of income for the business, Vergel de Dios initiated the formation of Manulife Business Processing Services, with Guy Mills as its general manager. MBPS was established to provide administrative and accounting support services to Manulife Financial and its affiliates worldwide.
Carl Steven Gustini assumed the role of president and CEO in 2006, after Ato Vergel de Dios retired early last year. Gustini brought with him 20 years’ experience in the financial services sector. “2006 was a watershed year for Manulife Philippines, posting the highest growth in Production Credit in its 100-year history in the country. This is a clear signal that more policy and plan holders entrust their hard-earned funds with Manulife in providing for their long-term financial security,” Gustini said.
The 2006 triple-A rating awarded to its parent firm Manulife Financial by Standard & Poor’s, and locally, the purchase and integration of Pramerica Life Insurance Company, Inc., he says, “are both good ways to end our first century and embark on the next.”
Another milestone, Gustini points out, is its strategic bancassurance alliance with China Banking Corporation which was forged in January 2007. “China Bank’s extensive customer base represents a significant distribution opportunity for us. With two such power houses, we are confident of taking bancassurance in the Philippines to a new standard of excellence,” he said.
A very important component of the business for many decades now, Manulife’s Corporate Giving Program focuses on sick and underprivileged children. Migi’s Corners – fanciful playrooms in children’s hospitals that are set up in tandem with Cathy Babao-Guballa who lost her four-year-old son to a congenital heart disease – delight youngsters with terminal illnesses.
A century after it formally opened its doors for business, Manulife has proven itself to be a significant partner in nation-building, successfully weathering two world wars, numerous political upheavals, as well as intermittent economic crises. It continues to uphold a tradition of strength, stability and commitment to the Filipino.
“The success of Manulife Philippines is a testament to the strong focus on the future held by every management team along the way that has led us to this historic occasion,” said Dominic D’Alessandro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Manulife Financial.
For his part, Gustini said, “We wish to thank our valued customers who have supported us from the very beginning, and our agents and employees for their commitment to building a company that is an industry leader in the financial services sector.”
The second Philippine century promises to be even more remarkable, offering outstanding professional services in tandem with its large and ever-growing portfolio of excellent products.
Established in 1907, Manulife Philippines has grown to become one of the leading life insurance companies in the country. Manulife Philippines is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Manulife Financial Corporation, the world’s sixth largest and North America’s second largest life insurance company by market capitalization.
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$381 billion (US$341 billion) as at September 30, 2006.
Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSX, NYSEand PSE, and under ‘0945’ on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at www.manulife.com.
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Contact: Orendain & Associates
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|Manulife’s Manila Agency manager Edwin E. Elser proudly mounted its signage atop the Kneedler Building in the heart of Manila’s business district in the early 1930s.|
|Dr. Edward E. Hall (left) was assigned to manage the Manila Agency in 1933, leading the agency in topping Manulife international sales records. Off-hours, he became president of the Manila Rotary Club and established a template for vocational education for Filipino youth, still in use today. Paquita Gonzalez (right) is the company’s heroine who risked life and limb to take care of the needs of Manulife expatriates Dr. Hall included, who were interned at Santo Tomas in World War II. She protected company records, enabling Manulife to be the first life insurance firm to open after the war.|
|Marking its Philippine century, Manulife holds office at the LKG Tower along Ayala Avenue.|