Sixteen winners, the best of the best of the insurance industry, edged out hundreds of entries to the 21st Asia Insurance Industry Awards this year. On 1 November, they were cheered on in their moment of glory by some 500 guests who attended the Awards gala presentation dinner held in conjunction with the Singapore International Reinsurance Conference (SIRC).
India shone extra bright as two Indian insurers swept three titles, while Allianz too saw its name etched in three trophies. Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company of India proved that emerging markets have in several ways leapfrogged their developed peers in technology, by clinching the Technology Initiative of the Year Award and sharing the Digital Insurer of the Year title – introduced for the very first time this year – with Cathay Life Insurance Co Ltd (Taiwan).
This year saw not just new categories, but also new entrants. Lloyd’s Asia was honoured with the General Reinsurer of the Year title, a first-time candidate turned first-time champion!
The Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed on industry veteran Mr Mark Tucker, with his immense and ineffable achievements at AIA and Prudential during the course of his career, benefitting their millions of life insurance policyholders in Asia. Meanwhile, Aviva’s Mr Chris Wei, arguably the industry’s leading proponent of digital insurance, was named Personality of the Year.
All the deserving laureates demonstrated true grit and excellence in their Awards journey, prevailing in the process during which hundreds of submissions were first parsed to 40 finalists, which were then subject to another gruelling round of scrutiny before 23 esteemed judges who then voted on the 16 champions.
Hosted annually by Asia Insurance Review, the AIIA is now in its 21st year and is a much sought-after mark of excellence and peer group endorsement for insurance players in Asia. It is held in high regard for its well-defined criteria and transparent judging process, and is audited by KPMG. Sponsors this year include RGA, Peak Re, Aon, AIG, Tokio Marine, Toa Re, MSIG, Muang Thai, Swiss Re, Remark, QBE and Medix.
As we congratulate the winners again, we thrust three quick questions to them – How you plan to use the Awards in your business? What will you need to do to defend or stand tall as a Winner? And what is the winning formula in insurance today? What gives the edge? Here’s what they have to say. A
Life Insurance Company of the Year – Muang Thai Life Assurance PCL
Business excellence and commitment to success
Celebrating the Award win as an award for everyone at Muang Thai Life (MTL), Mr Sara Lamsam, President and CEO of Muang Thai Assurance said they are extremely proud of the win, adding that it is a “testament of our business excellence and our staff’s commitment to
“The Award will be used to reinforce MTL staff’s motivation to continue their dedication to meeting MTL’s ambitious goals. Furthermore, the Award is a reflection of the Thai life insurance industry’s success as a whole,” he said.
To compete in the Thai life insurance industry, MTL will continue to develop towards business excellence with a commitment to serve their customers’ specific needs. They will also strive to become a globally competitive digital insurer, built on solid business operations across the region.
Mr Lamsam believes that the winning formula today for insurance companies is to be highly adaptive, while also establishing a strong business foundation of management and financial strength.
“Customer centricity has become a key component in garnering customer loyalty and creating a positive customer experience. To establish a competitive edge in any customer segment, multi-distribution channel strategy, product differentiation and value-added services at every point of engagement are all important. Moreover, innovation has become another crucial factor as it has the potential to help insurers provide a more seamless and one-to-one experience for customers,” he said.
General Insurance Company of the Year – Apollo Munich Health Insurance Co Ltd
Aiming for healthier lives for everyone
“We are extremely delighted to be the first standalone health insurer in Asia-Pacific region to win the General Insurance Company of the Year award from an esteemed body like AIIA. This recognition serves as a motivation for our stakeholders – advisers, employees and partners,” said Mr Antony Jacob, CEO, Apollo Munich Health Insurance.
He added that the Award reinforces their vision to be a trusted leader in the health insurance sector through providing innovative solutions to the citizens of the country. Ever since they have been living their purpose of “Making India Health Confident”, they are working to make healthcare accessible to every individual. “We aim to partner with our customers in leading healthier lives,” said Mr Jacob.
He believes that insurers need to constantly innovate and keep pace with evolving customer expectations to keep ahead and “Customisation” is the mantra to empower customers with more choices, he said.
Educational Service Provider of the Year – Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance
Promote lifelong learning
The Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) is “very proud to win the Educational Service Provider of the Year Award”, said Ms Prue Willsford, CEO, ANZIIF.
“Our genuine desire to serve in the best interests of insurance professionals, opens the way for collaborative partnerships and the creation of connections that enable our industry to thrive. Over the past year, we have been working more with industry bodies and associations throughout Asia to continue to serve insurance professionals across the globe and support them in their learning journey,” she said.
She added that ANZIIF will “continue to promote lifelong learning to the industry” and as a business will practice what they preach, ensuring that they not only remain innovative and current, but also continue to push for greater value placed on learning.
While believing that there are many variations to a winning formula, Ms Willsford said: “We believe in placing a strong focus on the customer, the people in your business and being open to innovation, change and collaboration is what gives a business, and even an industry, the edge.”
Innovation of the Year – MetLife Asia
Collaboration and allocentricity
Around three years ago, MetLife introduced the idea that insurance might be ripe for disruption and embarked on a journey to create a distinct lab focused on creating new growth, said Mr Zia Zaman, Chief Innovation Officer, MetLife Asia & CEO LumenLab. Committed to driving disruptive innovation, it launched conVRse, a global first-of-its-kind Virtual Reality (VR) customer service platform designed to revolutionise the interaction between insurers and customers.
“conVRse is a collaboration between a lot of different people – PNB Metlife, MetLife, LumenLab, and one of our partners Imaginate. It is also a partnership with our customers who told us over and over again what they want us to do better,” he said.
Mr Zaman thinks having allocentricity, the ability to think from someone’s else’s point of view, to maximise collective good, might be the winning edge in business today. “Over time, we recognized that we needed to shift employees’ mindsets not only towards growth but also towards becoming more customer-led and expansive. This inspired us to invest time in thinking about our talent and about how we could make ourselves more agile. Our employees have thus developed not just customer centricity, but allocentricity as well.”
For the future, Mr Zaman said they will continue their efforts to listen actively to what their customers want them to do better and he added: “We have our eyes on a different prize next year – the CSR Award.”
Service Provider of the Year – Medix Global
Accountable healthcare landscape for everyone, anywhere
Medix Global is proud to share the win, seeing it as a huge honour as it indicates recognition from their peers.
“We see this Award as an opportunity to share our great experience in expanding business in Asia, hoping to be an example for many additional disruptive companies to join, specifically in the insurance industry,” said Ms Sigal Atzmon, President, Medix Group.
Working towards creating a more responsible and accountable healthcare landscape for everyone, anywhere, they will continue to expand, to innovate, disrupt and to remember that they are there to serve their customers, said both executives. They also hope to assist in helping insurance payers evolve into insurance players.
On what is the winning formula in insurance today, they say there needs to be a shift in mindset from focusing on the cost of healthcare and SLAs to focusing on digitalisation and the quality of healthcare.
Broker of the Year - Willis Towers Watson
Seeking new ways of embracing risk
Cybersecurity is the number one concern for business executives in Asia Pacific, said Mr Simon Weaver, Head of Corporate Risk & Broking, Asia, Willis Towers Watson, referring to their proprietary research. Hence their winning this Award for their focus on this emerging risk and their Cyber Quantified Tool is “hugely gratifying”.
He added that they see a greater need to combine the mastery of new technologies such as blockchain, Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence, with a strong enterprise approach. So going forward, they will continue to raise the bar for the risk and insurance industry in Asia, to give local insight and global perspective on the risk ecosystem across Asia. “We will also continue to explore new ways of embracing risk in order to drive superior business results – and sustain our winning proposition,” he said.
Reinsurance Broker of the Year – Aon Benfield
Commitment to excellence in client service
Commitment to excellence in client service is the key trait that Aon Benfield will maintain and improve upon to continue to be seen as number one in their sector, said Mr Jeremy Fox, COO (Asia Pacific), Aon Benfield.
Adding that winning the Asia Insurance Industry Award is a prestigious honour; he said “being singled-out by one’s peers and competitors as best-in-class is a fantastic endorsement” so they will communicate the winning of the accolade to their clients and prospects.
As for the winning formula, Mr Fox said this is much the same as any other business sector – a commitment to excellence in client service, the provision of appropriate products, and the ability to add value to clients’ businesses. “If a firm can excel in all these areas then it will likely be a success,” he said.
General Reinsurer of the Year – Lloyd’s Asia
Committed to thought leadership and operational efficiency
“Winning the AIR General Reinsurer of the Year Award represents a significant milestone for Lloyd’s Asia,” said Ms Angela Kelly, Country Manager, Singapore, Lloyd’s Of London (Asia) Pte Ltd.
“We will use the Award to shine a light on our growth story in the region as well as all of the important initiatives we have undertaken and continue to invest in. The growth story is important because it is an ongoing story, one which will continue to evolve alongside the Asia region,” she said, adding that areas they are continually committed to are that of thought leadership and operational efficiency.
On what the winning formula in insurance is today, she said these would be firms that are “able to disrupt themselves and adapt to changing environments”. “They are more likely to be at the forefront of the industry as they develop strong value propositions relevant to their clients setting them apart from the competition,” she said.
Life Reinsurer of the Year – RGA
Providing security and improving people’s lives
RGA has long believed that insurance solutions are an integral and essential part of every person’s life journey, said Mr Tony Cheng, its Executive Vice President, Head of Asia. “Throughout the more than 20 years we have partnered with insurers in the Asia Pacific region, we have consistently sought to provide substantial and novel ways to make life and living benefits insurance more inclusive, relevant, user-friendly… even exciting,” he said.
Noting that Asia, like much of the world, faces ageing populations, a growing middle class and persistent low interest rates, amongst other challenges – as well as increased regulatory scrutiny, Mr Cheng said they had long believed that only through innovation that is underpinned by strong data science and guided by medical science, technology, and the principles of customer engagement, can true progress be made.
“RGA is serious about innovation, data and future technology solutions. Ultimately, the goal of life insurance is to provide security and improve people’s lives. At RGA, we pursue that goal relentlessly,” Mr Cheng said.
Corporate Social Responsibility Award – Allianz Ayudhya Assurance PCL
Supporting underprivileged children in Thailand
Winning the Asia Insurance Industry Awards is a clear indication that Allianz Ayudhya Assurance PCL’s motto of “Doing Good Together” is on the right track, said Miss Sothonsinee Supanusorn, Assistant Manager – Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Allianz Ayudhya Assurance PCL.
“We have been supporting children in Thai society for a decade. This Award will be shared among the stakeholders to make them proud of the activities that they have played a part in and to assure them that we are on the right path,” she said.
She added that they have embedded Corporate Social Responsibility as one of their core values to engage employees, agents, customers, press and general public to create impact and sustainability.
The insurer is strongly determined to give back to society by providing various opportunities to underprivileged children in Thailand, to help develop Thai children to become good citizens in society.
They also see this focus of contributing back to the society as the winning formula in insurance today. Miss Supanusorn said: “Recognition from an international renowned award is a big pride for us. It highlights our long-term commitment and determination to give opportunities to underprivileged kids, thus setting a good example for others and building a good image for not only the insurance industry as a whole but also other industries. We trust that this will help influence others to also join our path to improve Thailand’s future through the development of children, leading to sustainable development of the Thai society in the long run.”
Technology Initiative of the Year – Digital Insurer of the Year (Joint-Winner) –
Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Limited
Constant evolution is the winning formula
Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company clinched two Awards at this year’s Asia Insurance Industry Awards and Mr Tapan Singhel, its MD & CEO, summed up their motto which they believed had helped them achieve the wins – “We wish to be the Gen-C of insurers where we do not surface only at the time of paying claims but are out there – CONNECTED with our customers, proactively guiding and communicating with them, 24/7!”
Saying that the “Technology Initiative of the Year” Award and the “Digital Insurer of the Year” are testimonials to the milestones that they have achieved on the digital front, he added: “As an organisation, we are highly elated at the appreciation that we have got on the prestigious Asia Insurance Industry Awards platform.”
Calling themselves a “customer-obsessed company, he said: “What differentiates us from our peers is the customer service levels and company’s strong understanding of the market dynamics and its streak of innovating new customer centric initiatives. Both of these have been a key driver in sustaining our position as one of the leaders in the Indian insurance industry.”
He added: “We are working towards becoming a one-stop shop for all solutions to the unforeseen problems faced by our customers and have created an entire ecosystem of solutions that are not just limited to insurance.”
Mr Singhel believes that the winning formula today is to be ahead of the evolution curve. “The modern evolved customer seeks personalised solutions from service providers in all purchase aspects. Today, technology has made the entire experience of insurance, right from decision making to purchasing and even settling of claims, hassle free and instantaneous for customers,” he said.
Hence it is imperative for the industry to innovate continuously. For Bajaj Allianz GIC, he said: “The constant evolution has always been our winning formula, one that gives us an edge over all the other brands!”
Digital Insurer of the Year – Cathay Life Insurance
Contributing to the dynamic image of insurance in the digital world
“To be named the Digital Insurer of the Year in 2017 is a great achievement of Cathay Life Insurance,” said Mr Ta-Kun Liu, Senior Executive Vice President, Cathay Life Insurance Co Ltd, as it means that the insurer, with more than 55 years’ experience in the industry, has indeed transformed itself into an “innovated digitalised insurer”.
He added: “We are well aware that the future is moving towards digital, how to tap on technology to deliver and administer effective and holistic service is Cathay Life Insurance’s main purpose. We will always build our transformation on a customer-centric value to ensure superior consumer experience and establish leading and professional standards for insurance industry, that will, ultimately, contribute to the dynamic image of insurance in the digital world, in order to link up with the digital development around the globe.” A