Name : Ng Keng Hooi
Position : Group Chief Executive and President, AIA Group
What do you think of Myanmar as a country?
Myanmar has tremendous economic and social development potential underpinned by strong fundamentals including, but not limited to, a sizeable and young domestic population, a strategic location among the growth markets of ASEAN and SAARC and rich natural resources.
As with any emerging economy that is experiencing rapid growth, Myanmar faces challenges including the need to significantly invest in infrastructure, deepen the local capital markets and widen the accessibility to, and understanding of, retail financial services products to the general public. We strongly believe that the development of a life insurance industry that delivers sustainable quality growth is one way to address the challenges being faced by Myanmar and to further support economic and social development.
Could you start by telling us a bit about AIA group and what the brand stands for?
AIA Group is the largest independent publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group. We have a presence in 18 markets in the Asia-Pacific region and the business that is now AIA was first established in Shanghai almost a century ago. We are a market leader in the Asia-Pacific region (ex-Japan) based on life insurance premiums and holds leading positions across the majority of its markets.
Our Vision is being the world’s preeminent life insurer and our Purpose is to play a leadership role in driving economic and social development across the Asia Pacific region.
All countries need investment to ensure economic growth and to improve people’s living standards from generation to generation. Our investment of long-term insurance funds contributes directly to economic development and growth through expanding capital markets, financing infrastructure schemes and investing in commercial enterprises, all of which demonstrate the value of life insurance to the markets in which we operate.
We are promoting and encouraging healthy living across communities in Asia to fulfil our brand promise of helping people live longer, healthier, better lives.
Could you tell me more about your duties and responsibilities?
I lead the AIA Group as the Group Chief Executive & President. My chief responsibilities are to set the strategic direction of the Group and lead the executive management of the Group’s business.
I am a passionate believer that what we do at AIA is all about people – attracting the best people to AIA to help its customers achieve their hopes and dreams for a better future for themselves and their families. Helping our people reach their true potential remains one of my top priorities. I have the great privilege of working with our highly talented group of employees and partners across 18 markets in AsiaPacific to continue building on AIA’s long history of success.
Looking ahead, we know we cannot be complacent. I am committed to ensuring that AIA continues to innovate and differentiate our customer offering – we put our customers at the centre of everything we do, while capturing the substantial growth opportunities that exist across the region.
What are the current projects that your team has been working on?
AIA is the second largest life insurer in the world by market capitalisation and as an institution of this size; there are many things that we are doing across our footprint at any point in time.
We are fortunate to be operating exclusively in the Asia-Pacific region, which is the most dynamic region for life insurance in the world.
By 2020, the cumulative new GDP in Asia will be 5 times larger than the growth in the US. Creating a potential life market 17 times the size of Asia today and 7 times larger than the G7.
AIA is in a very strong position. We are uniquely placed in the right markets with industry-leading distribution, award winning product development and a strong financial position to capture the opportunities ahead. We remain completely focused on helping millions of people meet their substantial and growing long-term savings and protection needs while helping them to live longer, healthier and better lives.
What are your future expansion plans in Myanmar?
AIA is very optimistic about the long-term economic growth prospects of Asia and Myanmar is no exception. In Myanmar, we would like to be in a position to contribute meaningfully to the sustainable development of the national economy and the insurance industry, as we have successfully done, and continue to do, in many Asian markets. To this end, we would like to invest our time, experience and capital to build a robust, high-quality business here, backed by the strength of the wider AIA Group if given the opportunity to set up a local operation.
AIA is in a number of other countries as well. What are the differences between working in Myanmar and other countries?
AIA has a portfolio of life insurance businesses across 18 markets in the Asia-Pacific region, nearly all of which are wholly-owned. In Myanmar, we currently have a representative office but no operating company yet. We would greatly welcome the opportunity to invest and set up a wholly-owned life insurance company in Myanmar.
What kinds of service does AIA provide for local and international Companies?
AIA provides employee benefits, credit life and pension services to corporate clients. It is important to note that the majority of our business is to provide protection and long-term savings insurance solutions for individual customers as the group life and medical insurance markets are generally smaller than individual life insurance in most of Asia. Through an extensive network of agents, partners and employees across Asia-Pacific, AIA serves the holders of more than 30 million individual policies and over 16 million participating members of group insurance schemes. We are also a major institutional investor in the local capital markets as we back our policyholder liabilities with local investment assets. We have over $170 billion in investments across the AIA Group, the vast majority of which are in local Asian bonds and equities.
How much does AIA cooperate with other local insurers and Myanma Insurance (MI)?
Our Chief Representative has built strong relationships with the new MI team, including Dr Sandar Oo.
AIA has conducted a number of workshops for the local industry and has sent Insurance Business Regulatory Board (IBRB) staff to AIA companies overseas for training. AIA has also acted as a consultant to the local industry for issues relating to product development, underwriting and claims and operational matters.
What is your opinion on current trends in the Myanmar insurance sector?
The first local license was issued more than three years ago, but local insurers still have not been given the freedom to sell the same products as Myanma Insurance (MI).
We are looking for further clarity on the role of the foreign representative offices (FROs) in the insurance industry so we can gain the necessary approvals and licences to start investing and building a business in the Myanmar market. We believe that there is a need for a robust life insurance industry in Myanmar and we are well-qualified to support this development. There is great potential in the Myanmar economy and life insurance market and we are enthusiastic about the prospect of opening a fully licenced business here.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking up to start up a business and invest in Myanmar?
We view careful planning as crucial to achieving long-term success and delivering a differentiated offering that can improve lives of the people of Myanmar. We have a lot of experience when it comes to opening new businesses in emerging insurance markets across Asia and we understand that patience is often required to gain the necessary clarity and sign-offs when opening up a successful operation.
Can foreign insurers sell their products in Myanmar?
At this stage, this is not permissible.
From a business standpoint, what do you feel will be the biggest challenges facing you and your team over the next 1-3 years?
Since our IPO in 2010, AIA has put in place a proven growth strategy that has seen our main operating financial metric, Value of New Business (VONB) increased almost 6 times. We remain absolutely focused on executing this strategy and to capture the numerous opportunities in Asia, which make it the most exciting region in the world for life insurance.
We always continue to challenge ourselves and our strategy to ensure that we capture all the opportunities we have. We recognise that we still have a lot to do and we are greatly energised by the tasks ahead.
AIA has a proven track record of delivery and will be celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2019. We are entering a new chapter: one that is full of enormous and exciting opportunities for AIA. As we move into 2018, we will continue to focus on our key competitive strengths – including Premier Agency, profitable partnerships and innovative products. We will do this as we place the customer at the centre of everything we do. We want to give our customers the best possible experience as we help them live longer, healthier, better lives.[/paypal]