Digital shift expected to be the 'new normal', says Manulife Investment Management

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the need for digital integration across all industries, and this is especially true for the wealth and asset management sector. In a volatile economic environment, investors more than ever need sound advice and guidance on their investment approach, and given the lockdowns, these information - and transactions - need to be conducted virtually.

Many investment managers have been struggling to maintain "business as usual" while at the same time they effectively relay their investment viewpoints and advice to clients. Add to the fact that many investors still prefer direct interactions with their financial advisers, the challenge becomes even greater. Many had to scramble to find the right readily available digital solutions to serve basic client needs. But for those who have been investing in their digital capabilities over the years, the pandemic only proved they were right from the start. 

Manulife Investment Management is one of the few investment firms that have been investing heavily to serve clients in the digital - and unexpected disruptions - age. Their digitalisation journey in the Asia region began in early 2019, drawing on the learnings from their highly integrated sales and advisory network that provides a seamless end-to-end customer journey, and applying them to create a pleasant and convenient digital experience for clients. 

Delivering relevant investment information to clients in the way they want it

The lockdowns due to the pandemic have allowed investors to spend more time on their investments. This provided the opportunity for Manulife Investment Management to further customise its digital engagements with clients, whether it's through its own social media channels or organising dedicated webinars. Given the market volatility in the first half of 2020, delivering the most relevant investment information to clients in a timely manner was crucial. 

Across the Asia region, Manulife Investment Management published more than 180 social media posts between January and June 2020 to keep its bank partners, advisors and end-clients informed of its investment viewpoints, which garnered over 5.2 million views. And from April to June 2020, the firm organised nearly 30 investment outlook webinars for its bank partners and advisors, which in turn allowed them to provide timely updates to end-clients and help them adjust their investment portfolios as needed. These webinars attracted close to 18,000 attendees and online views. Content were subsequently edited for social media so that end-clients could hear straight from Manulife Investment Management's experts. 

With a low interest rate environment, coupled with increasing global economic uncertainty, Manulife Investment Management believes income has become even more prevalent for investors - whether it's to fulfil their long-term financial goals or extra income for the unexpected.

In Malaysia, Manulife Investment Management has launched the "What's Your Number" campaign that encourages investors to identify the key numbers they need to better manage their investments, savings, and spending. The aim is to help them better understand their financial needs, and take advantage of the new financial assessment tools to help them achieve their short- and long-term income goals.

A dedicated Manulife Income Solutions website was created to host the Investment Goal Calculator and the Monthly Income Explorer, which allow users to know what their expected monthly investment income could be based on their investment goal, expected initial investment capital and monthly contributions, time horizon, and the anticipated rate of investment return and inflation. The website also guides users on how to frame their investment mindset based on goals, and provides overviews of the range of income solutions that could help them achieve those goals.

Uptick in online engagements during the pandemic

As a digital leader in the investment management industry, Manulife Investment Management is committed to bringing innovative fund investment services for investors. In Malaysia, the firm has been engaging clients and advisers digitally, and these online engagements increased substantially when the country implemented its Movement Control Order (MCO). All new account openings were done in paperless form, and all Monthly Outlook Talks for end-clients and advisers as well as training for advisers were done virtually. In fact, these webinars and video meetings combined attracted close to 7,000 attendees during the MCO period.

But the firm’s digitalisation effort does not end there. For instance, Manulife InvestChoice, an online platform offering mutual fund products from Manulife Investment Management and some of the most recognized fund managers in Asia, was launched in Hong Kong in mid-2019. The platform allows users to conduct their own fund subscriptions, redemptions, fund research, performance assessments, and reporting. In 2020 Q1 alone, the amount of assets generated from InvestChoice had doubled, showing strong investor demand for online funds transactions. 

"Hong Kong was our pilot base and with the positive response garnered thus far, our digital fund transaction platform has since made its way to the Philippines, and it will be rolled out in Malaysia under the name ‘iFunds’ later this year,” said Chze How Ng, Head of Retail Wealth Distribution, Malaysia, Manulife Investment Management.  

Investing after 2020 - Gear up to the 'new normal'

The wealth and asset management industry is often perceived as a lagger in digital adoption. As we enter the 'new normal' where digitalisation is key to business growth across many industries, Manulife Investment Management believes the 'human touch' is still necessary for its industry given investors are making major decisions that could impact their long-term financial goals.

"Non-face-to-face interaction may be the norm these days, but retail investors still prefer human-based service, albeit via phone or online means," added Ng. "Investors still want an advisor to talk to when making investment decisions or switching funds. They demand an enhanced level of information, both in terms of the way it's shared and presented, and the quality and depth of the content." That is why several years ago we’ve introduced Manulife Home Office Investor (MHO Investor), a suite of online knowledge-based application tools customised for our investors to easily and conveniently track the up-to-date performance of their unit trust portfolios. We will soon be enhancing this platform’s functionality with the launch of ‘iFunds’, which promises to offer a new level of customer experience.”

As such, activation of digitally-enabled advisors is a key premise in the business of fund distribution. Equipping advisors, both Manulife agents and their bank partners' relationship managers, with the right digital tools will create a next-level customer experience.

The above information has not been reviewed by the SC and is subject to the relevant warning, disclaimer, qualification or terms and conditions stated herein. Manulife Investment Management (M) Berhad (Formerly known as Manulife Asset Management Services Berhad) Registration No: 200801033087 (834424-U) (hereinafter referred to as "Manulife IM (Malaysia)") is a wholly owned subsidiary of Manulife Holdings Berhad and holds a Capital Markets Services License for fund management, dealing in securities restricted to unit trusts, dealing in private retirement schemes and financial planning under the Capital Markets and Services Act 2007. Manulife IM (Malaysia) operates under the brand name of Manulife Investment Management which is the global wealth and asset management segment of Manulife Financial Corporation. Information posted herein is intended for the exclusive use by the recipients who are allowed to receive it under the applicable laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdictions. Certain information in this post may contain projections or other forward-looking statements regarding future events, targets, management discipline, estimates or other development trends of financial markets. There is no assurance that such events will occur, and actual results may be significantly different from what is contained herein.

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