A tale of thirty-eight cities

Manulife has received approval to sell insurance in Shantou, a port city in China. While all the attention of late has been on variable annuities sold by Manulife in the U.S. and the strain that has put on the balance sheet, in many ways the future of the firm is in China.

After first receiving permission in 1996 to enter the Chinese market in Shanghai, Manulife has been adding cities at a fast pace. Manulife is now licenced in 38 cities and has more than ten thousand agents.

Most of those cities are huge. Shantou has a population of five million, making it twice the size of Toronto. Of the ten cities in which Manulife was licenced in 2007, for example, eight were bigger than Toronto. The plan is to have 30,000 agents in 100 cities by 2015.

For a Canadian firm to sell financial services in China sure beats shipping our natural resources from here for value added at the other end.

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