COLOMBIA’S RISING MIDDLE CLASS

Colombia 2018 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Juliana Tobón Peña, CEO of MetLife, on growth strategies, insurance penetration, and its goal to serve 50% of Colombia's population.

Juliana Tobón Peña
BIOGRAPHY
Juliana Tobón Peña holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in strategic marketing. She has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance sector. Since 2015, Peña has been MetLife Colombia’s CEO and has improved company results by strengthening distribution channels. Prior to MetLife, she was commercial VP at QBE. She also held various positions at Mercer, including employee benefits leader for the Andean Region and Central America and Country Manager for Colombia and Central America. She was also commercial VP at Generali, regional manager at Mapfre, and affinity manager at Marsh.

How has the company evolved since you set up operations in the country?

We started in Colombia in 2010, when MetLife purchased Alico, a company specialized in life insurance. MetLife is celebrating 150 years of business in 2018, and since we set up operations in Colombia, we have experienced a significant YoY average growth of 20%, which has allowed us to gain market share and have an important footprint in the sector.

What has been your growth strategy in Colombia?

The most important way to grow in a country such as Colombia is to develop and strengthen different distribution channels to reach specific target markets and needs. One of the channels we have is face-to-face, where we develop consultancy services and analyze each customer to learn which products or services they require. In order to do so, we developed a specific and differential salesforce. At the same time, we explored other avenues such as mass and digital channels in order to impact a larger group of the population with lower premium and attractive insurance products. We currently have approximately 1.3 million policies. In our B2B channel, we distribute employee benefits programs for more than 350 companies, and we have more than 150,000 active customers. Our B2B channel works through our partner brokers, who are in charge of reaching out to multinational and top companies. While insurance companies and brokers in Colombia put a great deal of effort into improving insurance penetration through different channels, we still see a lot of potential to cover the market.

How important is the business segment for you?

Approximately, 70% of our business is made up of individual life insurances, in addition to corporate businesses and distribution agreements to reach low and medium income customers, multinationals, and SMEs. We are the only company in the market that has its own salesforce. We have approximately 900 employees, 500 of whom are face-to-face insurance agents.

How has your portfolio changed over the years?

We have grown faster than our direct competitors and have had greater market participation. In the individual insurance segment, we are the third-largest company. We have been able to increase our participation and earn a larger market share across all years.

How important is educating customers to boosting your product, and how committed are you to creating a larger insurance market?

It is a huge challenge for a company such as MetLife to contribute to insurance penetration in this country. The premiums from life insurance are a great indicator of a country's economy. Many of the economic indicators that are conducted by developed economies are penetration analysis of different types of insurance over GDP. Developed economies have the possibility of having insurance to cover the cost of catastrophic events and ensure that people can continue their lives unaffected. The insurance penetration in the most developed economies accounts for around 6% of GDP, while in Latin America it is closer to 3% and in Colombia just 2.8%.

What are the challenges and goals for MetLife in 2018?

The biggest challenges for us are to continue strengthening our competitive differential in terms of distribution, radically increase our salesforce volume, and innovate in terms of digital sales tools. Another challenge is to be agile enough to design and update products to be in line with changing demands. Our products are designed to satisfy the needs of 20% of the Colombian population; hence, one of our largest challenges is to design and offer distribution and product solutions for medium-income people, which amount to 34% of Colombia's population. With that covered, we would be able to serve more than 50% of the total population.