Customer centricity is at the heart of Metlife's operations, which has helped the company stay on top of people's mind, said Elena Butarova, senior vice-president at Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal and Vietnam, MetLife Asia Ltd.
The US company, which is leading the Bangladesh life insurance market by far, means making customers' life easy through its fastest and cordial services that begin from product queries, continue through regular transactions and stay until claim settlements.
"We are fully committed to ensure that our customers get their claims confidently, and this commitment is such that our team is still in search of the decades-old clients or their nominees in the cases of a very few pending settlements which is because the customers have been completely unreachable," said Butarova who took over the charge of the sub regional operations of MetLife Asia in 2020.
In the Bangladesh market where around one-third claims remain unsettled and many people have to wait even for years, Metlife's on time claims settlement really makes a big difference.
The one-and-half century old global company has been present in Bangladesh since 1952 as American Life Insurance Company until it was globally taken over by Metlife a decade ago. Ensuring 99% claim settlements, it rules the Bangladesh market with more than one-fourth share, despite the fact it has 34 other competitors here.
Elena Butarova in an exclusive interview with The Business Standard during her first Dhaka visit recently has expressed her positive outlook on the Bangladesh economy and insurance sector.
"Bangladesh's insurance sector is poised to sustain a steady growth," she said, adding that people's increasing awareness about the financial protection against life and health risks amid the very low insurance penetration, strengthening of digital channels and the upcoming Bancassurance – using banks in providing retail insurance services – would fuel the insurance growth.
For Metlife, "Bangladesh is the market of maximum focus among the four" she is taking care of.
"Bangladeshi employers are also considering expanding insurance benefits to their employees."
With the dominance in the group insurance market of the top-quality employers, Metlife is serving 800 corporate clients to cover their 1 lakh employees, while the company provides the insurance protections to more than a million people in the country.
As a global company, Metlife ensures continuous mutual learning among its teams in dozens of countries with different cultures and economic profiles, which gives the company edges in offerings and processes through adoption of best practices.
The pandemic increased customers' awareness about the need for financial protection tools and a faster adoption of digital tools for services and transactions.
"A common theme that we see is that, post-pandemic, there is increased focus on managing health and at the same time ensuring ways to manage healthcare expenses."
As a part of its goal to help people live a fulfilling life, Metlife already launched its "Critical Illness Insurance Protection Plan" that offers customers' financial protection for 52 common critical illnesses, including the leading causes of death in Bangladesh: heart attack, stroke, respiratory diseases, cancer, and kidney diseases.
This is the only health insurance plan in the country that provides financial protection till the age of 80 years, much higher than the locals' life expectancy of around 73 years, and against the highest number of critical illnesses, she said.
"Another solution that we have recently launched healthcare mobile app 360Health, a first-of-its-kind, aimed at helping people in Bangladesh prevent and manage serious illness."
With this app, MetLife customers can unlock exclusive features, such as free virtual doctor consultations, special discounts on diagnostic tests, and preferential access to specialist doctors.
Right now, 40% of Metlife transactions (premium payment) in Bangladesh are digital ones, while its state-of-the-art technology platform enables customers to do everything – from queries to making claims – online in a hassle-free way.
"We have digitalised the entire claim submission process so that customers can scan the required documents and upload digitally on our Artificial Intelligence enabled system, which can process claim settlement applications in just three days. Customers are also updated throughout the progress by SMS. Overall turnaround time is faster than the current industry average," she said.
"For us building awareness and confidence is a key priority as it is very important to increase Bangladesh's insurance penetration."
Claims settlement is the key to the needed confidence, and Metlife in 2021 alone settled Tk1792 crore in claims.
Making justice to its big name globally, Metlife is also contributing to the development and sustainability of its industry here alongside continuing its philanthropic activities.
Having four actuaries within the team, Metlife is providing scholarships to 10 aspiring students to become actuaries, the essential discipline for the insurance industry where Bangladesh has long been struggling.
Since 2013, Metlife Foundation has contributed Tk120 crore to nonprofit initiatives that improved more than 13 lakh low-income people's financial condition.
"Metlife is a company that cares a lot about sustainability and gender equality is a key area," Elena Butarova said.
Woman makes one-fourth of its army of 19,000 well trained insurance agents across the country and they are performing well, according to Butarova, who has been in Metlife for two decades and began her career as a sales executive to ascend to the regional roles.
"We have seen that there is a misconception that insurance is a difficult area for women as it involves selling. However, if you look at examples of MetLife Bangladesh's successful female agents, you will see an amazing story of success and resilience," she said.
"Insurance sector will play a big role in the development of Bangladesh and for that, insurers must be responsible and trustable to the people," her final words.