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Women in insurance

By Herminia S. Jacinto

THIS article is inspired by the celebration of Women's Month this year and a column in this paper last week, titled "Why people are buying insurance during the pandemic." Allow me, dear reader, to pay tribute to the women who make insurance available to the clients (sellers of insurance products) and their women clients, the buyers.

The pandemic is one time when people took a good look at their existing resources, which will support them just in case the inevitable happens. In the traditional Filipino family, the mother is usually responsible for the running of the household and providing for the day-to-day needs of the family. She decides what insurance protection her family will need. I recall one insurance agent told me that she spent days explaining to a businessman the value of getting adequate insurance protection on his life, but she could not get him to sign up. She almost gave up. But one fine day, the wife joined them in the meeting, and after listening to my friend about the benefits of insurance, the wife immediately said, "Go. We are signing up!" I am fully convinced that women make the best decisions in the family.

Let us look at the Philippine insurance industry, which used to be dominated by men. Over time, women have become a formidable force in the insurance business occupying significant positions in their respective companies. The agency force in the life insurance business is a woman's world. Try attending an agency conference or other event of the agents and one can see that the top sellers are the women agents or financial advisors. Cheers to the superb convincing powers of these ladies! These women agents continue to reinvent themselves. They use state-of-the art gadgets in their selling activities. They are up to date with the latest developments in the country, investments, the stock market and fashion, of course. Most, if not all, of our qualifiers to the prestigious MDRT (Million Dollar Round Table) conferences in the United States are women.

Allow me to pay tribute to some women leaders in the industry. First is none other than former Insurance commissioner Gregoria Cruz-Arnaldo, who was appointed by former president Ferdinand Marcos to head the Insurance Commission from 1970. It was during her tenure as Insurance commissioner that Presidential Decree 612, otherwise known as the insurance Code of the Philippines, was issued and implemented.

Commissioner Cruz-Arnaldo organized and headed several organizations in Asean and Latin American and African countries. She founded the Association of Insurers and Reinsurers in Developing Countries, composed of companies from various countries, including the United States, Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia, of course. The secretariat is based in the Philippines. Two other ladies, Adelita Vergel de Dios and Evangeline Escobillo, became Insurance commissioners at different periods after Mrs. Cruz-Arnaldo retired in 1985.

In the private sector, the life insurance industry credits Ms. Esther Tan, former president of the Sun Life of Canada (Philippines) with building a huge number of life insurance agents, mostly ladies. Their agency force continues to be one of the best in the country. Insular Life Assurance Co. — the only mutual life company in the country — is now headed by Ms. Nina Aguas, chief executive officer (CEO) and executive chairman, its first lady CEO. There are many women executives in the life insurance companies, which shows that the women are the "nurturers" not only at home but also in their companies.

The non-life insurance companies have been managed and led by ladies at one time or another. The chairman of the largest non-life insurance company, the Malayan Insurance Co., is Ms. Helen Dee. She chairs other companies in the Yuchengco Group but it was Malayan which first benefited from her leadership and expertise. She led the country in seeking support from global reinsurers for the reforms being instituted by the industry after suffering from heavy losses in the 1980s. Without reinsurance support, the industry cannot cover large risks and catastrophic events. Her sister, Yvonne Yuchengco, succeeded her as president but is now the vice chairman of the company.

There are more empowered women in insurance but due to space constraints, I will write about them another time.


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