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Manulife 20% YTD stock gain today 'years in the making,' CEO says



Manulife's stock has soared over 20 percent year-to-date, a success story that CEO Roy Gori attributes to years of strategic planning and execution. In a recent interview, Gori highlighted the significant traction the company is seeing, primarily driven by its Asian and wealth management businesses. Gori, who took on the CEO role in 2017, aimed to transform Manulife into the most digital and consumer-centric company in the industry. His experience in growing Manulife’s Asian operations has been pivotal in this journey.


Asia continues to be a major growth area for Manulife. Gori pointed out the vast opportunities in the region, noting that insurance and wealth penetration are still relatively low. "Asia is a really important focus area for us… It continues to grow," he said. However, Gori emphasized that Manulife's strength lies in its diverse business model, which allows it to withstand challenges in any single market or region.


In addition to expanding its business, Manulife has been optimizing its portfolio. Recently, the company completed two reinsurance deals to move away from low-growth assets and free up capital. Since 2018, these efforts have released $11 billion in capital. "We had a lot of capital dedicated to risky businesses with low returns. We have been divesting those businesses and redeploying that capital to our organic businesses that are delivering much better returns," Gori explained.


Manulife is also investing heavily in new technologies, particularly generative AI. Gori believes that the insurance industry has lagged in digitizing customer experiences, which presents an opportunity for Manulife to differentiate itself. "AI is proving to be a tremendous opportunity for us… We believe we can create a better experience through digital tools," he said.


Higher interest rates have provided some tailwinds for Manulife, and the company is well-positioned to benefit even if rates decrease. "We have hedged a lot of our interest rate exposure and will fare well even if rates go down," Gori noted.


A strong workplace culture remains a key focus for Manulife. Gori believes that culture is the only true competitive advantage a company has, and Manulife's efforts in this area have been recognized and contributed to its financial success. "Culture is everything. We have done a lot of work on it and are being recognized for it," he said.


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