Stephen Clark, new CEO of AIA Vietnam
Good products, excellent customer service and professional sales people are three fundamentals in the operation of AIA Vietnam. With the rich experience and deep understanding of the Asian market, the new CEO of AIA Vietnam is expected to help this financial institution to become the preferred insurance company in Vietnam. On the occasion of the New Year, Stephen Clark has an exclusive interview with Vietweek.
Vietweek: Expectations of the AIA Group in general and AIA Vietnam in particular for a CEO is very high. Do you feel much pressure?
Stephen Clark: Having spent the past six years as CEO for two of AIA's joint venture companies in the Philippines, I am 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 increasingly professional distribution partners, I see enormous potential for AIA Vietnam.
The nomination of a new CEO by a financial institution usually implies changes in its operation directions. 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-recognized 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. This goal is fully aligned with the work that has already been undertaken by my predecessors. By building on this foundation we are now ready to take the company to the next level.
Vietnamese insurance market competition is severe. What are AIA's specific steps to become the preferred choice for Vietnamese customers?
- Healthy competition in any business is always a good thing, particularly for customers. The insurance industry is no different. I have absolute respect for all my immediate competition whether they are fellow insurers, banks or other financial institutions I firmly believe that we all share the same core principles that is to run efficient and effective businesses that contribute in a positive way to peoples lives, as well as making a meaningful impact on the economy and the country as a whole.
I feel what sets us apart at AIA, is that we have an experienced team that not only understands the insurance business intimately, but is passionate about doing the right things, in the right way. We know that to be our customers preferred choice, we have to offer competitive products and sound financial advice, through sales channels that our customers can relate to and that they can easily access. We know too, that it doesn't stop there - we must provide an after-sales service and support that our customers and distribution partners are fully satisfied with. But most importantly, we know that this is a never-ending quest. We are continually striving to improve everything we do.
At present, the role of bancassurance is still very limited in Vietnam. With your rich experience in bancassurance management, could you please share your strategy to develop this channel at AIA Vietnam in the future?
- Regardless of how insurance is sold in Vietnam today, the fact is that we still have one of lowest insurance penetration rates when measured against our Asian neighbours. According to a well-respected reinsurance company, only around 5 percent of the Vietnamese population has life insurance. 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.
The sale of insurance products continues to be dominated by insurance agents in Vietnam. But this is to be expected and is a trend that we have seen in many countries that have experienced similar economic and socio-demographic development patterns to Vietnam. As the country's financial infrastructure develops, including regulation, risk-control measures and accessibility to funds, so does the ability of insurance companies to develop a broader range of products as well as introduce a greater variety of sales channels.
With this in mind, we at AIA Vietnam, whilst continuing to rely heavily on our experienced and professional agency force, continue to explore new and innovative ways of introducing our products to a wider audience. Although my most recent experience has been in building insurance distribution through bank partners, I see the Vietnamese banking environment as having some unique differences to other countries. A big proportion of the adult population remains unbanked and there are varying levels of readiness by banks to partner with insurance companies. In this sense, as an industry we still have some way to go in order to see bancassurance channels taking a meaningful share of new insurance sales.
Huynh Thanh Phong Regional Chief Executive, Chairman of Board of Directors, AIA Vietnam said: "Stephen Clark has much experience in development of distribution channels, especially the non-agency ones. Currently in Vietnam, the life insurance market only develops channels mainly through agencies. Other channels are not available or just in an initial stage. His contributions are expected to bring about new successes to Vietnamese life insurance industry in general, and to AIA in particular. Additionally, he also has long working experience in the Asia and some regional countries, therefore I am confident that Stephen Clark will easily understand and get adapted to the local cultures."
You have mentioned agents. They are truly the bridge between insurance companies and customers. In Vietnam, there exists a severe competition among the companies in the industry. Do you have any different strategy/way to best attract and mobilize this force to AIA Vietnam?
- Agents will continue to be a very important sales channel for us and therefore our focus is to continually build a professional agency force. Comprehensive financial planning is an ongoing process. A single insurance product purchased once, is unlikely fulfill all our customers financial needs. As we all progress through life, our income levels change, our health needs change and so do our protection needs, a professional agent should be there not only at the beginning for the first product sale, but also to work alongside customers to ensure all insurance needs are met during ever-changing circumstances.
This type of long-term focus and professionalism is something that AIA Vietnam is working hard to achieve. By recruiting individuals with the right skills and passion for insurance; providing ongoing and regular training and support, together with well-planned career progression, I am confident that our AIA agents will not only become successful businesspeople in the own rights, but will become customers preferred choice when choosing insurance products.
Of course it's also very important for our agents to have absolute confidence in our financial stability. AIA Vietnam is part of the AIA Group, one of the largest, financially secure life insurance companies in the world today. In the current global uncertainty, this is becoming increasingly important to our agents and customers alike.
Strong brand, deep financial strength, competitive products together with superior training and support, I am confident, will lead to AIA Vietnam becoming the preferred insurance company in Vietnam.