Thinking of getting life insurance? If you compare the policies of the major insurance companies here in the Philippines, you’ll discover that they’re more or less the same, offering similar benefits and riders. So the deciding factor then is: customer service.
We all know how life insurance agents (or financial advisors as they now call themselves) can be so attentive to the point of obsequiousness when they’re trying to make a sale, but what about afterwards?
This is not a review of the insurance products of Sun Life Financial Philippines per se — like I said, you’ll most likely find comparable offerings from its main competitors such as Philam Life or Manulife. Instead, this is about our experience with their after-sales service, especially the all-important claims time, which is the true test of an insurance company.
Twenty years ago, my mother bought a simple endowment life insurance policy from Sun Life of Canada (Philippines), the life insurance arm of Sun Life Financial Philippines. With this particular plan, the beneficiary (me) will receive a guaranteed payout, called an endowment, plus non-guaranteed returns in the form of dividends, upon maturity of the policy or death of the policyholder (my mother). (Sun Life no longer offers this plan; among their current products, the closest to it is Sun Acceler8.)
Update December 2017: A reader shopping for an insurance policy e-mailed me asking for the specific details and figures of my mother’s plan. I’d rather not post such information for privacy and security reasons, but below is a redacted summary of her policy. Hers was a participating policy, which means it paid dividends. My mother availed of the Premium Offset option, wherein the plan’s dividend allotment was used to pay its premiums.
My unsolicited advice to folks looking to buy life insurance: insurance is not investment, so don’t confuse or combine the two. The main purpose of life insurance is not to grow your money, but to financially cushion your dependents from the loss of your income due to death or disability. Keep your insurance and investment vehicles separate. As such, I don’t recommend Variable Universal Life (VUL) insurance.
Wishful thinking: what if I could travel back in time to twenty years ago, knowing now that my mother remains healthy and outlives her policy? Well, I would tell her to invest her premiums in Philequity Fund — which I believe was the only existing mutual fund in the country at that time — instead. The return on investment (ROI) would have been around 480% (!).
(No, I’m not advising to forgo life insurance and dive all-in on investments, especially if you have dependents. I was just imagining a hypothetical scenario with the benefit of hindsight. I would only recommend it if you are single with no dependents and planning to stay that way.)
I don’t know if the other local insurance companies offer this, but one thing I appreciate about Sun Life is that they have a convenient online portal, My Sun Life, where one can easily check policy details. Through My Sun Life, we were able to keep tabs on the dividend values, so we knew exactly how much the policy was worth.
The policy matured last month, and we’re happy to report that we received the benefits from Sun Life with no problems at all. My mother called their toll-free number at 1-800-10-SUNLIFE (7865433) the day after maturity for confirmation, and the rep said they will issue the benefit check within several business days and send it to the address on file via courier.
True enough, the check arrived after 14 business days. My mother and I were pleasantly surprised and impressed at Sun Life’s easy claims process, as we were expecting to have to haul ass to one of their branch offices to fill out a bunch of forms and submit a ton of identity documents in order to personally claim the payout. (In comparison, my mother had to go through exactly this laborious process a few years ago with another insurance company, PhilPlans, for her pension plan with them.)
It was indeed hassle-free dealing with Sun Life. Basically, the only action on our part was to call their call center at no cost. One of the reasons my mother chose Sun Life was because of their longevity — apparently they pioneered life insurance in the country and have been around here since 1895 (!). I can see now why they’re still standing strong when other insurance companies have gone belly-up. Our experience with Sun Life has been positive, and as such I don’t hesitate to recommend them for your life insurance needs.