New AIA Vietnam chief full of ambition

13:00 | 06/02/2012
In his position as the incoming CEO of AIA Vietnam, Stephen Clark tells VIR’s Song Ngoc how his industry experience can help further develop AIA Vietnam and ensure the company continues to contribute in a meaningful way to the insurance industry in Vietnam as well as AIA Group.  

The expectations from AIA Group and AIA Vietnam on a new CEO are huge. Do you feel any pressure in taking on this job in a new market?

Having spent the past six years as CEO for two of AIA’s joint venture companies in the Philippines, Iam aware of the very high expectations of the group. AIA is very focused on being an important and integral part of the insurance industry in all the countries it currently operates within.

Vietnam is no exception. My aim as CEO of AIA Vietnam is to build on the great work that has already been undertaken by my predecessors.

The company is well-positioned to move into a more dominant position in Vietnam and together with an exceptionally talented management team and staff, as well as an increasingly professional agency force, I see enormous potential for AIA Vietnam.

So, what will be AIA Vietnam’s future direction?

Our goal is to become the preferred insurance company in Vietnam. Simply speaking, we want AIA Vietnam to be the insurance company of first choice for our customers, our staff, as well as our distribution partners.

With AIA fast becoming a well-recognised insurance brand in this country, I feel confident that by focusing on the core fundamentals, such as good products, excellent customer service and professional sales people, we can become the company that people immediately think of either when they need insurance solutions, or as a company to work for to build a long term successful career.

What are AIA’s specific steps to become the preferred choice for Vietnamese customers?

We must be obsessive about the finer details of our business. By this I mean that we must provide life insurance products and solutions that cater to the unique needs of our Vietnamese target markets. We must offer professional financial advice, through sales channels that our customers can relate to and that they can easily access.

And we must provide after-sales service and support that our customers are fully satisfied with. Aligned with AIA Group, we at AIA Vietnam are dedicated to narrowing the “Protection Gap”. Also known as the insurance penetration rate, this is the gap between the level of insurance cover people need and the cover people actually own.

Vietnam has one of the lowest insurance penetration rates when measured against our Asian neighbours. According to a well-respected reinsurance company, only around 5 per cent of the Vietnamese population have life insurance.

I feel passionately that as a leading insurance company in Vietnam, it is our obligation and duty to remedy this imbalance, to ultimately ensure that as many people as possible are fully protected when unplanned and unexpected events occur.

Despite having been in Vietnam for more than 11 years, AIA Vietnam is lagging behind other life insurance companies. How long will it take AIA Vietnam to become number one in Vietnam’s insurance market?

I would like to refer to a recent media interview where Huynh Thanh Phong, AIA Group’s regional chief executive and our AIA Vietnam chairman said: “The important objective for AIA at this time is not market share but becoming the preferred life insurance company in Vietnam. We want to build a company of high quality, with a passion for improving people’s lives, as well as playing a meaningful role in the Vietnamese life insurance market over the next 10 years”.  

Since its launch, AIA Vietnam has made steady progress every year. Our sales continue to improve whilst the quality of our business just gets better and better. We have seen our workforce grow with us, and Iam extremely proud of the skill, loyalty and customer-commitment demonstrated daily by our distribution partners, staff and management.

As CEO, I see myself as an integral member of this well-established competent team. By delivering on the promises made by our chairman and shared by me, Iam confident that as the preferred insurance company we will naturally see our market share improve over time.

What are the development opportunities for the Vietnamese life insurance market, especially in the current context of increasing inflation?

I talked before about the “Protection Gap” and in a high inflation environment, the gap becomes even greater over time. So we see a very clear opportunity in Vietnam for insurers like AIA Vietnam to grow the life insurance market. With a relatively large, young and industrious population, adequate insurance protection is critically important.

Provided products are tailored accordingly, we can protect the income, not just of individuals, but also their families and even their businesses. Insurance offers peace of mind and if planned correctly, can ease the financial burden on breadwinners.

Vietnamese customers can choose diversified insurance distribution channels. How will AIA Vietnam develop this channel in the time to come?

The sale of insurance products in Vietnam continues to be dominated by agents. In fact, this is not dissimilar to many of our Asian neighbours with developing economies. However, as consumers become more financially astute, usually as a result of higher earnings and generally higher awareness of financial products, we see the need for a greater variety of sales channels.

For the foreseeable future therefore, AIA Vietnam remains firmly committed to growing and professionalising our agency channel. Having said this, we continue to explore new and interesting ways to interact with our existing and new customers.

In Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan, insurance companies offer multiple channels including direct marketing, telemarketing, bancassurance and even internet and affinity marketing. Although I don’t feel that we are quite there yet in Vietnam, we will continue to work closely with our various partners, including banks to explore ways to offer exciting products to a broader range of customers.

Only by offering a customer-oriented range of products via channels that Vietnamese consumers choose to deal through, will we ultimately reach our goal of being the preferred insurance company in Vietnam.

By Song Ngoc

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