How one insurance company is making sustainable changes in Taiwan

Navigating through the recovery from a pandemic, while also addressing the growth of digitalisation and an ageing population in Taiwan, requires the right kind of leadership, writes Benson Chen, President at Fubon Life


Taiwan is experiencing a period of change. While the birth rate has been declining for decades, 2020 was a significant milestone, with deaths outnumbering births for the first time. It seems inevitable that Taiwan will soon join nations such as Japan, Germany and Italy in becoming a ‘super-aged’ society, one in which more than one in five of the population is aged 65 or older.

Here at Fubon Life, we are ready to meet this challenge. In an era of change, the only way to succeed is to innovate and this year the company will focus on four strategies to achieve our goals for both people and planet. Led by our brand concept, ‘Be Positive and Enrich Lives,’ we will be strengthening our organisational development through sales training; promoting insurance and retirement planning products to suit a super-aged society; putting sustainability at the heart of our supply chain; and enhancing remote services and digital competitiveness.

While the pandemic has continued to affect the domestic and international markets in recent years, the economy is now steadily recovering. With our diversified channel operations, product strategies and sustainability initiatives, Fubon Life created outstanding operating results in 2021, with our net income after taxes (NIAT) exceeding NT$100bn ($3.4bn). Furthermore, our cumulative annual consolidated first-year premium income reached NT$165.6bn ($5.6bn) and our consolidated total premium income reached NT$507.2bn ($17.2bn), firmly establishing Fubon Life as the market leader in the Taiwanese life insurance sector. On top of that, Fubon Life has abundant resources from Fubon Financial Holdings to provide the public with multi-faceted financial and insurance services. We will continue to deepen the value chain of the insurance industry with our people-oriented approach.

Putting people first in a digital world
With mobile digital technology penetrating ever further into daily life, it should come as no surprise that the online insurance market continues to grow. In this new digital world, however, technological advances are only as helpful as the human teams working alongside them. Technology can improve efficiency, but it’s our staff’s professionalism and warmth that make our services what they are.

Responding both to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wider trend towards digitisation that preceded it, Fubon Life launched several key services to help our staff develop stable and deep customer relationships, serve customers remotely and promote business without interruption. These include the FBFLi smart business management system, the FBSIR online policy health check system and FBVIP video insurance application services, which provides insurance services to all Taiwanese people more quickly and without geographic restriction.

As part of our goal of achieving a zero contact and completely paperless service, in September we are hoping to roll out voice-to-text technology (STT) to enable telephone insurance services, and we have begun developing AI technology to speed up the underwriting review process so as to provide customers with the most rapid, convenient and intuitive insurance services possible. Fubon Life will also continue to cooperate with the relevant authorities to promote projects such as insurance passbooks, consortium blockchain and the insurer-hospital link 2.0 for claim application.

Customers are seeking more diverse cover that protects them from all eventualities – we responded by creating a five-in-one product that includes liability, medical, long-term care, retirement and inheritance insurance. To better meet the needs of our ageing society – in particular the retirement preparedness gap – we are developing competitive investment-oriented insurance products with payment systems that allow customers to accumulate assets in installments. The age range will be expanded to help people plan for their retirement and inheritance effectively and we will continue to offer retirement capital repayment products that encompass a diversity of needs.

Customers are seeking more diverse cover that protects them from all eventualities

The insurance value chain is centred on people, and Fubon Life has fully implemented the principle of fair treatment of customers no matter their circumstances. In 2022, with reference to the ‘Guidance for Firms on the Fair Treatment of Vulnerable Customers’ released by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, Fubon Life will focus on the elderly and vulnerable – continuing to provide products and services that meet their needs as well as developing new products for our senior customers. These will include a dedicated customer hotline, online text chat, microinsurance and a whole range of other friendly financial and insurance services. Such an approach will be key as Taiwan joins the ranks of the super-aged societies.

This commitment to personal wellbeing extends to our staff too, many of whom are young people with exactly the same concerns for the future as our valued customers. A couple of statistics to give a sense of our workforce: the overall recruitment target for this year is expected to exceed 6,000 employees, while in 2021 nearly 50 percent of employees promoted to the position of sales managers were under 30 years of age.

The company has also been recognised as the most desirable life insurance employer for young people 11 years in a row by RMi Magazine. This is thanks, in part, to our generous employee pension scheme (the leader among financial holding companies for 13 consecutive years), as well as the fact that employees benefit from insurance coverage for their families and can participate in our employee stock ownership trust to build a happy life after retirement.

New parents, meanwhile, are entitled to a maternity bonus of NT$100,000 (£3,400), an annual childcare subsidy of NT$15,000 ($510) per year for children up to the age of six, and maternity leave that is superior to that offered by the state. Fubon Life also provides a complete training and counseling system, smart digital tools and excellent employee benefits, inviting young talent to work together to build their careers with us.

Leading the way on ESG
Fubon Life continues to develop its responsible investment strategy and alternative energy investment plan, with our green investments totaling NT$1.8951bn ($64.37m) in 2021. This year we will strengthen our carbon reporting, launch an internal carbon pricing operation, and introduce a science-based target for carbon reduction of eight percent by 2025. In terms of corporate sustainability reporting, we will adopt more stringent standards for corporate self-assessment, and incorporate SASB sustainability accounting standards and TCFD climate risk financial disclosure indicators.

Fubon Life’s green finance strategies have been adopted by more than 460 sales agencies and 20,000 tied agents across Taiwan. Last year saw Fubon Life focus on river conservation and water resource issues, cooperating with the Society of Wilderness to lead Taiwan’s enterprises in launching a three-year continuous quick screening survey of river waste.

In 2022, Fubon Life will continue to make an impact in line with Fubon Financial Holdings’ ‘Run for Green’ initiative, creating ‘Work for Green,’ a brand new sustainability innovation mechanism that links sustainability goals with performance.

This year, we will also work with our tied agents and policyholders to plant more than 10,000 trees in cooperation with the Tse-Xin Organic Agriculture Foundation, choosing tree planting sites with the goal of restoring the natural ecology. Sites include Fushoushan Farm in Taichung, which is located in the upper reaches of the Dajia River within the catchment area of the Deji Reservoir, one of the main water sources in Central Taiwan. By planting trees here, we aim to stabilise the reservoir’s water storage capacity, which in turn helps to maintain the water temperature at 17°C, thereby safeguarding the habitat of Taiwan’s landlocked salmon. Another tree planting site is Tainan Taijiang National Park, home to the largest lagoon in Taiwan. Our project will help reverse the effects of climate crisis-induced sea level rises in the lagoon by preventing further loss of sand from the sand bar at its mouth.

We take our social responsibilities seriously too. To respond to the needs of our rapidly ageing population, Fubon Life is working with the Taiwan Association for Dementia, the Federation for the Welfare of the Elderly, the Formosa Cancer Foundation, the Taiwan Foundation for Rare Disorders and other public welfare partners, advocating for issues including better access to medical care for elderly people in remote areas. The company has also been actively engaging with county and municipal governments, local communities and universities to expand the scope of care and promote social inclusion to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In view of the health risks posed to the nation by the pandemic, Fubon Life continues to play an educational role, building universal awareness of the importance of risk protection.

Beyond Taiwan
We are optimistic about the future of Taiwanese society but we are looking beyond our borders too. Fubon Life’s operations in overseas life insurance markets were fruitful in 2021, with our subsidiaries in Korea, Hong Kong and Vietnam all performing well. We will continue to leverage our strengths and develop insurance products targeted to local markets, while prudently evaluating appropriate investment opportunities to expand into the Asian market. By adopting such an approach, alongside our ambitious strategies in Taiwan, we move steadily towards our goal of becoming one of Asia’s foremost financial institutions.