Manulife Financial Corp. said Thursday it will cut about 700 jobs as it becomes the latest financial services company to streamline and digitize customer service operations.

The cuts will largely target customer service positions that are no longer necessary as the company automates customer transactions, said Manulife Canada chief executive officer Michael Doughty.

“Our industry, including us, are still doing too many things the old way: processing paperwork, accepting mail, answering telephone calls on information requests that clients should be able to access on their own. This is a pretty bold step in transforming ourselves to become a digital, customer-centric organization,” said Doughty.

Read: Manulife, Sun Life partner with tech firms to simplify benefits administration

The job cuts will come through voluntary exit programs and natural attrition over the next 18 months, the financial services company said.

Manulife plans to focus personal client services on the 20 per cent of services dealing with major life events like a death in the family, while automating the 80 per cent of client interactions that cover submitting claims, asking questions and other routine tasks.

The shift is needed as customer expectations have changed dramatically in recent years and the financial services industry needs to catch up, said Doughty.

“Client expectations have changed so dramatically, and they no longer compare us to other financial services institutions, they compare us to the best service that they’re getting from the best companies across any industry.”

Manulife said that along with cuts to customer service jobs the company will look to recruit and train digital talent to adapt to new technologies.

Read: Michael Doughty to become Manulife Canada CEO as company announces global shakeup

The company is already using artificial intelligence in its life insurance operations to analyze millions of data points with algorithms to speed up the underwriting process, Doughty said.

Manulife will continue to expand its use of technologies — including artificial intelligence — across the company, he said. “We are, over time, basically addressing with a lot more urgency the need for us to provide customers with the automated, digital experience that they need.”

Manulife said it will also consolidate its two Kitchener-Waterloo operations into one Canadian division headquarters to cut about 350,000 square feet from its footprint in the city. The company also has major operating locations in Oakville, Ont., Halifax, Toronto and Montreal.

The company has more than 13,000 staff in Canada as part of a global workforce of about 35,000.

Winnipeg-based insurer Great-West Lifeco Inc. underwent its own transformation last year with a plan announced in April to cut 1,500 positions over two years as it moved to modernize customer service and cut costs.

 

Read: How blockchains, AI can transform pension administration

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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