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Prudential (PAMB)

Prudential faces unhappy agents as it pushes digital transformation agenda

Prudential is not seeing eye to eye with its agents as they expressed concerns over the surge of digital transformations in the company, according to an article on The Straits Times

Citing media sources, the article stated that approximately 350 out of 600 agency executives have sent a petition a month ago to Prudential’s headquarters in Hong Kong and London. This was in a bid to express the “unhappiness” towards the selling of popular products and savings plans online, which might go against their own earnings as agents of the company, the article on The Straits Times added.

When contacted by Marketing, Prudential did not comment on the matter.

In an article by Marketing, it was shown in a study that despite the preparedness Singaporean employees are with increasing digitalisation in the workplace, one in two employees in Singapore see digitalisation as a threat to their jobs. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, more than two in five (43%) of Malaysian employees feel their jobs are at risk due to an increasingly digital economy.

Getting ready for disruption

In a conversation with Marketing, Lawrence Chong, chief executive officer of Consulus said that the situation is “extremely difficult” right now for companies, as the industry is in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution where every sector is affected. The only way to ensure survival, he added, is for companies to start early in their digital transformation. Companies need to also arm themselves with knowledge of what could potentially happen when a crisis hits, and take into consideration the livelihood of their staff.

“Companies need to start the process of redesigning their staff’s roles,” he said. Unfortunately, as of now, “most have begun too late so it will be hard to take time to redesign business model and save jobs”.

“The financial sector, in this case insurance, will be among the hardest hit because there is so much capital being poured in to disrupt the sector,” he added.

Chong added that companies such as Prudential, when hit with such issues, should ideally set up an internal talent transformation unit to offer tangible alternative revenues, or outline a transition approach when these products transit to an online and self-serve approach.

“Companies need to engage the concerns of agents way before the announcement. But few companies are choosing to do this as they prefer to take the hit and announce the inevitable,” he added. As such, more “public spats” can be expected as companies reduce reliance on manpower, he explained. This, he added, is the start of a long vicious cycle and many companies too will not survive in this new age – especially if they do not handle the transition with care.

“It is a missed opportunity because while you have efficiency, you lose creativity which will be the most treasured skill in this new age of disruption. Once you give the notion that staff are dispensable, the remaining staff will no longer do more,” he added.

Technology is easy to acquire but not a people of purpose.

Kelvin Koo, managing director, Falcon Agency said such issues are inevitable and resisting such changes will not stop shifts in the way consumers want to consume and buy such products.

“One example is the rise of online travel agents versus traditional travel agencies. I believe that the only reason more insurers have not gone digital yet is because they are still figuring out how to make things work without alienating their agents (who they are still heavily reliant on). It will be a matter of time before more follow what Prudential is doing,” he added.

Much like Chong, he added communication is key. Companies need to involve the agents, stakeholders and board members in discussions to work a solution to come up with an idea as a whole.

“The core focus is working with the agents to benefit the customers while protecting their livelihood, as consumer behavior will change regardless and companies cannot resist change. Insurers still need agents so it is a matter on how to work together to create a win-win situation,” he added.

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