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Asian-Americans Courted

April 06, 1986|NANCY YOSHIHARA

Metropolitan Life, which has aggressively and successfully marketed its insurance to Latinos, is turning its attention to a new ethnic group: Americans of Asian ancestry, the fastest-growing minority in the United States.

The New York-based company, which has more than 300 Asian-American sales representatives nationwide, has targeted Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington for the marketing program. The campaign includes sales and promotional materials translated into Chinese and Korean.

In preparation for the new program, Metropolitan Life conducted a series of focus group studies among its own representatives who sell insurance to Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino clients.

The study showed that in financial management, security is critical for most Asian-Americans. They tend toward saving or investing, or both, favoring more conservative investments in real estate, certificates of deposit or money-market funds. Stock or bonds are considered risky and unfamiliar to them.

As of the 1980 Census, 3.7 million Asians and Pacific Islanders lived in the United States. And 380,500 refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have taken up U.S. residence since the Census was taken.

About 68.5% of all Asian-Americans live in five states: 35.5% in California, 16% in Hawaii, 8.7% in New York, 4.7% in Illinois and 3.6% in Texas.

Metropolitan Life said that the Asian-American market is growing 14 times faster than the general U.S. population and that the present Asian population is expected to double in 20 years.

In its study, Metropolitan Life picked up the following differences in insurance buying patterns among the four Asian-American groups:

- Chinese clients prefer life insurance products in the form of whole life policies and its universal life variations. Term life, where insurance is payble to a beneficiary only when an insured dies within a specified time, is deemed a "waste" because it does not provide cash value--savings.

- Koreans are primarily interested in protection for their family when they buy life insurance but do not place as much importance on the cash value as do the Chinese.

- The concept of insurance is new for nearly all Vietnamese because only the wealthy could afford it in Vietnam.

- Filipinos with young children tend to use insurance as a way of providing an education fund, while older Filipinos are more interested in insurance for protection but not necessarily for retirement income.

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