Jan 03 2023 / Round the Table Magazine
Winning over the overseas skeptic
By Antonette Reyes
People working outside their home country comprise almost 5%, or 169 million, of the global labor force. Call them expats, guest workers, immigrants or migrant workers, the Philippines has among the largest labor diaspora with 10 million, or 10% of its population, living abroad as permanent, temporary and undocumented workers. Last year, 2.2 million Filipinos left the country to seek better pay and career prospects overseas, and they sent back to their families $31.4 billion in remittances, representing about 10% of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to the Philippine central bank.
The Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and other people who work in foreign lands to support their families and achieve financial stability are a source of outside capital for nations with struggling economies. The Philippine government even calls OFWs “our modern-day heroes.” Yet a troubling development that came to light during the pandemic is OFWs are vulnerable to known risks and perils in their host countries because only 32% had insurance coverage, per the Department of Labor and Employment. Many don’t have savings or investments either.
Despite working away from their loved ones for many years, they still don’t have any savings for themselves and their families, as they don’t know when and how to start their financial journey. Kier Reyes Gumanit, a one-year MDRT member from Butuan City, Philippines, has learned that some OFWs, having been scammed in the past, are afraid of investments, and others have limited knowledge about insurance. He approaches OFWs intending to understand their challenges and their perspectives about financial products.
“I need to prove that I am not just a trustworthy financial advisor, but someone who would help them overcome these challenges and improve their lives over the long run,” Gumanit said. “Walking into the client meetings, especially with OFWs, I always put myself in their shoes. I need to comprehend their fears and priorities,” Gumanit said.
For example, with the current exchange rate favoring foreign currency earners, inflation in the Philippines is wiping out income gains OFW families may have as they find themselves spending more on necessities.
“My OFW prospects and clients fear being unable to save for college funds as their income is already used up by recurring expenses such as groceries, mortgage or rental costs, and utility bills,” Gumanit said. “They also fear returning to the Philippines without enough savings for retirement and health concerns.”
His clients and prospects hope their insurance plans will enable them to stay ahead of these worries, so they can fund their children’s education, prepare for health challenges, start a business, or have a comfortable retirement using the funds from their policies that increased in value over time.
Sometimes, OFWs find themselves torn between securing their future and those of their loved ones.
“I had a client who wanted to buy two products, an insurance product for herself and an educational plan for her child. However, due to a limited budget, she could only afford one. I advised her that she needs to protect herself to better look after her child and explained how she could save for the next plan and an emergency fund. Six months later, we were able to process the educational plan of her kid.”
Gumanit takes the extra step to educate them first about insurance and about himself by sharing his credentials, track record, market updates and insights.
“I regularly message and check up on them from time to time to see if they have questions about their policies or even their finances such as budgeting and saving,” he said.
He also shows that insurance has living benefits, not just death benefits.
“I make sure they understand that there are hospitalization benefits, rewards, bonuses, cash backs and riders, which they can enjoy while they’re alive.”
Gumanit gets to know his OFW prospects better by helping them with the small matters too.
“I pick them up from the airport when they are back home or drive them around,” he said “No discussions about insurance or investments since we’d already been corresponding. We just talk about life. When they’re ready, they’ll let me know.”
After getting the approval of their insurance applications, he feels fulfilled to see peace of mind on his clients’ faces. They know the fruits of their labor will outlast them and benefit their loved ones.
“As financial advisors, we can provide OFWs and other clients working abroad with excellent and compassionate service to help them make well-informed decisions about insurance and investments that can be life changing for themselves and their families,” Gumanit said.
Antonette Reyes writes for Team Lewis, a communications agency assisting MDRT with content development for Asia-Pacific markets. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.