Speeches
Published Date: 26 March 2019

Opening Address by Minister Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education and MAS' Board Member, at Manulife Tower Opening Ceremony on 26 March 2019

Mr Roy Gori, President and CEO of Manulife Financial Corporation,

Members of the Manulife Singapore Board,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

     I am happy to join you today to celebrate the official opening of Manulife Tower in Singapore. This is Manulife’s first office building in Singapore, and one of the largest property in Manulife’s real estate portfolio.  A sizeable long-term investment of this nature affirms the company’s commitment to Singapore and the region, so today’s opening marks a key milestone for Manulife in Singapore.

Manulife in Singapore

2    In 1980 Manulife established its first life insurance office in Singapore.  What followed was an impressive growth trajectory that made Manulife one of our five largest life insurers. Manulife is also an important provider of bancassurance solutions. It has an important 15-year partnership with the Development Bank of Singapore.

3    Over the years, Manulife steadily diversified its suite of financial solutions in Singapore.  It established its Asset Management operations in 2008, and added on the General Accounts Investments entity in 2017.  Manulife Asset Management Singapore now serves as the regional hub for South Asia.

4    In 2015, Manulife launched “Manulife Financial Advisors” to provide holistic financial planning services.  In 2016, Manulife listed the Manulife US REIT on SGX, the first REIT in Singapore to focus on income-producing office assets in the US.  In the same year, Manulife launched the Lab of Forward Thinking (LOFT), a testimony to Singapore’s position as a centre for innovation and experimentation. 

5    Today, Manulife is a significant employer in the financial services sector, with more than 500 employees and close to 1,500 financial representatives in Singapore.  It is playing a key role in MAS’ vision for Singapore to be a leading global financial centre, which connects markets around the world, and supports Asia’s and Singapore’s development. Under our Industry Transformation Map for financial services, insurance and asset management are two important areas of growth, and Manulife is a leading player in both sectors.

Strong growth prospects in Asia

6    Ours is a partnership between a global company, and a growing city.  Singapore is growing and developing partly because we plugged into the ascendency of Asia.  Today, Asia is already a significant market for the life insurance market.  There is good potential for further growth, driven by a few key fundamentals:

7    First, Growing Asia. The number of middle class households in ASEAN is projected to double from 2010, to reach 120 million by 2025.  There is a new mass affluent generation, comprising young and savvy customers. This presents exciting new opportunities for the life insurance industry, requiring new products and services including financial and estate planning, wealth accumulation and protection, asset management and inheritance planning.

8    Second, Silver Asia. As life expectancy increases, the region’s population is on the whole ageing.  By 2050, more than a quarter of people in the region are expected to be above 60 years of age.  In addition, there is a widening gap in health protection, which stands at USD 1.8 trillion today, In Singapore, there remains a protection gap for critical illnesses and more can be done to educate consumers to insure themselves adequately.

9    Finally, Digital Asia. Asia possesses the right conditions for rapid digital transformation. That has contributed to the vibrancy of the FinTech sector.  MAS began its FinTech journey in 2015, and today, Singapore has established itself as a leading FinTech hub, with a thriving and supportive ecosystem. One of the key factors driving FinTech in Singapore is the opportunity for start-ups and established players to collaborate.  In this regard, Insurance-InsurTech collaborations have taken off in Singapore, and MAS will continue to encourage and foster such partnerships. Today, we have the highest concentration of over ten corporate insurance labs in Singapore and over 40 InsurTech start-ups.

10   In the area of digital transformation, Manulife is an industry leader.  You have made important investments in InsurTech and innovation through Manulife’s LOFT Lab in Singapore.  For example, LOFT is exploring the use of Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing to improve analysis of unstructured data in the financial markets. The Lab is also experimenting with blockchain technology to create parametric insurance products. I look forward to the successful applications of these exciting initiatives in Singapore and in the region.

Conclusion

11   Singapore is rapidly transforming itself into a thriving living lab.  Infrastructure, enterprise financing, rules and regulations, our regional and global networks, workforce skillsets, a culture of innovation and experimentation, are evolving and coming together to fulfill our Smart Nation and Smart Financial Centre visions.

12   Four decades ago, when Manulife first established itself in Singapore, we were actively attracting manufacturing investments, striving for more ‘made-in-Singapore’ products that can be exported to the world.  Today, we are working just as hard, to create more ‘made-in-Singapore’ solutions, that can be adapted and replicated around the region and the world. 

13   We look forward to working with Manulife to co-create even more innovative solutions to serve your customers, and tap into the growth potential of Asia.  Congratulations for the official opening of Manulife Tower, and may this beautiful building symbolise our longstanding partnership, and our shared commitment to provide reliable and forward-looking solutions to the people of Asia. Thank you.