The Human Touch: Rico Bautista

27 AUGUST 2021

Although the pandemic has given the insurance industry quite a shake-up, Etiqa Philippines has managed to emerge from the turbulent period in a positive position, thanks to its focus on what the company calls "Humanizing Insurance", President and CEO Rico Bautista reveals. There were difficulties faced by the whole insurance industry.

"There was a negative trend, but we are very grateful that our company experienced positive sales," he reflects. Both sales and profits grew as intensifying health concerns worked to Etiqa’s advantage.

"People looked at our products as something that they really needed, particularly in case they contracted the virus." Rico joined the business in January 2019 with a wealth of experience in high-level insurance roles.

Soon after he came on board, the company, then known as AsianLife, underwent a rebrand to become Etiqa Philippines to bring it in line with its parent company Etiqa International Holdings (EIHSB) Malaysia, an investment holding company of Maybank.

Etiqa’s headquarters is in Malaysia, with a regional presence in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Cambodia. As one of a mere handful of insurance companies that hold a composite licence – so it can sell both life and non-life insurance products – Etiqa Philippines is well-placed to grow in the post-pandemic world.

"We are committed to providing fast and easy service to our customers," Rico insists. "We would like to be known as an all-in source of insurance products that offer fast and easy service."

Recent statistics show that insurance penetration in the Philippines is just 1.58%. This represents a great opportunity for Etiqa, which ranks 14th in the country in terms of premium income and 11th in net income, according to the Insurance Commission.

It also placed 529th in BusinessWorld’s Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines 2019 list, up from 671 in 2018, and is part of the Top 50 Upward Movers list. "There is really so much more room for us to be able to expand the business," Rico says. "Our target is to be part of the top 10 life insurance businesses by 2025."

The company’s smiling logo highlights its overarching mission. "Our ambition is to bring smiles here in the Philippines," Rico says. It is active in the corporate social responsibility space, having sponsored the Craniofacial Foundation of the Philippines to perform corrective surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates, which resulted in Etiqa being awarded CSR Initiative of the Year – Philippines 2020 at the Insurance Asia Awards.

More recently, it has been supporting healthcare workers by distributing personal protective equipment, earning it Insurance Asia Awards’ COVID Management Initiative Award – Philippines 2021.

We are committed to providing fast and easy service to our customers.

Although around 70% of Etiqa’s business is providing employee benefits to companies, it aims to make insurance accessible to everyone, including those earning lower incomes. These "low-level" policies, sold via its website, include coverage for pneumonia, dengue and COVID-19. It also offers an online travel insurance policy, which is showing signs of picking up.

"It is early days, and we are still building a lot of things so that we can gain more traction," Rico says. The pandemic’s effect was felt in other areas too. With the Philippines experiencing one of the longest lockdowns in the world, ensuring employees could work from home was a key concern.

"There were some who could not work from home because of their home environment or due to their inability to access our systems," he recalls. "That was challenging, but we were able to navigate through it. Even if they were not working, we still paid them. We took care of our employees, even during these pandemic times."

The ability to service customers through its 24/7 call centre was also at risk. "We invested in technology to ensure a safe, efficient environment for employees," Rico explains.

"Currently, 80% of our employees are working from home. We were tested during this time, and I think we managed to prove ourselves."

Going forward, Rico remains focused on four key areas to propel business growth: customer experience, digitalisation, people and culture, and sustainability. The company launched its Smile PH app in November last year to help customers view their schedule of benefits, manage profiles, find nearby accredited hospitals and doctors, and file claims.

"We continuously innovate to delight our customers," Rico says. Etiqa’s evolution continues as the company seeks to make its mark while making a difference.

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