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Discovery announces US partner

Vitality continues to rise in prominence.

JOHANNESBURG – Financial services group Discovery has partnered with US-based John Hancock Insurance to make its Vitality programme available to US consumers, it said on Wednesday.

New John Hancock policyholders will now be able to participate in the Vitality programme and determine their Vitality Age – a measure of their overall health. Similar to the incentives-based Vitality programme in South Africa, policyholders’ life insurance premiums will be determined based on steps taken towards healthy living. 

Founded in 1862, John Hancock Financial was bought by Canadian insurance company Manulife Financial in 2004 and now operates as its US unit. It is one of the largest life insurers in the United States.

“The partnership with John Hancock strengthens Discovery’s position as the global leader in the field of incentivised wellness,” Discovery said in a stock exchange filing.

The group previously tried and failed to set up a standalone health insurer in the US back in 2000 called Destiny Health. Destiny Health was wound down in 2008 and stopped selling insurance in 2009, costing Discovery time and money.

Unlike Destiny Health, Discovery’s Vitality programme remained in the US and The Vitality Group now covers 700 000 members in 50 states.

Overall, Vitality now covers three million lives in six markets.

Sold previously in the States through a partnership with insurance group Humana, the HumanaVitality partnership ended last year. In its interim results for the six months to December 2014, Discovery said, “While the partnership was fruitful for Discovery, it caused brand and product confusion among distribution channels, and conflicted with the Vitality Group’s agenda for expansion in the US. Humana will continue to use the Vitality asset for a period of two years.” 

Discovery has built a strong global presence through a number of different partnerships, namely with Ping An in China, AIA in Asia and Australasia, and the Generali Group in Europe.

Formerly in partnership with insurer Prudential in the UK, Discovery now wholly owns VitalityHealth and VitalityLife (previously PruHealth and PruProtect). 

On Tuesday it announced that its R5 billion capital raise, primarily aimed at funding its fast-growing business in the UK, was significantly oversubscribed. About R1.3 billion has gone towards increasing its stake in DiscoveryCard, a joint venture with banking group FirstRand, from the previous 20% to 74.99%.

No details were given as to the monetary value of the John Hancock partnership or how profits will be shared.                                          

Discovery was not immediately available for comment.

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