Mr Stephen Clark, CEO of AIA Vietnam, tells VET that the insurer's agents are key in driving the company forward.
Do you think AIA Vietnam will sustain the growth momentum it achieved in the last three quarters over the remaining months of 2014 and into 2015?
I believe that the foundations are in place for robust growth well into the future. Even though our Premier Agents are among the best in the industry we still have some way to go in terms of offering truly professional and tailored financial advice to our many customers. We rely heavily on our agents to always have our customers’ best interests at heart. As such, we need to ensure that our agents receive the best training and support so that in turn our customers can feel confident that their financial futures are in safe hands. Of course, this is an ongoing process and we can never become complacent. Besides good quality advice, service and products, we are continually improving in important areas such as sales compliance, ethical behaviour, and adherence to regulatory guidelines and rules. Protecting our customers, therefore, is not just about life insurance. As our customers’ financial sophistication grows, so too must that of our agents.
Does this mean the agency force is the key factor in AIA Vietnam’s success?
Yes, definitely. The continual development of our professional agency force is very important to our long-term success in Vietnam. Of course, we are also seeing that Bancassurance is becoming increasingly accepted by bank customers and AIA Vietnam is fast becoming a key player in this channel with its exclusive Citibank partnership. Our customers are becoming much more knowledgeable about insurance and, as a result, demand high levels of advice, service and support when making important purchasing decisions. We must therefore make sure that we are able to consistently deliver at the highest levels, regardless of the channel used by our customers. There is still much to do, but the overall competency of our many agents and advisors is something that we take very seriously and we continue to invest heavily in this area. Competent agents and advisors result in satisfied customers and this makes me confident in the quality and sustainability of our business for many years to come. Adding to this, all of us at AIA believe strongly in our operating principle of “doing the right things in the right ways with the right people and the results will follow”.
|Consistent and strong growth in new sales over the past few years has been reinforced by another set of excellent results for AIA Vietnam, as the company continued to deliver superb growth during Q3 2014. VONB, a measure of profitability, increased by 92 per cent and ANP increased by 24 per cent compared with the same period last year. A new milestone was achieved for the company in August, with AIA Vietnam achieving annualised new premium sales of over VND111 billion in a single month, becoming one of only a few life insurers to ever achieve this in Vietnam. According to Mr Clark, these excellent results can be attributed to the company’s focus on quality - quality sales advice, quality service and support, and quality products. “A relentless pursuit to improve the quality of our agency force has been at the core of improving performance in this increasingly competitive insurance market,” he said.|
You have mentioned the development of the agency force, including Premier Agents. How do you ensure the quality of your agency force apart from training and incentive programmes?
Becoming an AIA agent is a career choice for many of our new joiners. We support every one of our agents not just with the basics of how to sell insurance, but over time we look to develop their skills and knowledge in a way that allows them to become truly professional Premier Agents. So we always look to select talented individuals who really want to help customers reach their financial goals and ambitions.
Our successful agents are rewarded with excellent compensation and benefits as well as having the opportunity to work with fellow professionals in a stimulating working environment. Being a member of one of the largest multinational life insurers in the world, AIA Vietnam adheres to global best practice when it comes to corporate governance, sales compliance and ethical standards. This of course applies across our entire business, including our agents. In many of these areas the AIA Group is a leader, however we also work closely with renowned industry bodies such as GAMA, MDRT, LIMRA and LOMA, all of which are well-respected for their training and career development programmes.
To continually build our customers’ confidence, AIA deploys strict supervisory and disciplinary measures for all of its agents. Apart from ongoing training programmes and support, we closely supervise sales behaviour and sales procedures to ensure that all our agents comply with our Code of Conduct, the Vietnam Insurance Law, and MoF regulations. I firmly believe that a high quality, professionally managed agency force is crucial for every life insurer.
Can you tell us more about the disciplinary action imposed when agents violate the Code of Conduct?
AIA Vietnam follows a clear and strict Code of Conduct that has been embedded into the culture of the organisation. Every AIA executive, manager, staff member, and AIA agent is mandated to comply with our Code of Conduct. Built up over many years using best practice from our many companies around the region, the AIA Code of Conduct takes into account local regulatory and legal requirements pertaining to the life insurance industry. Our focus is on ethical behaviour, education and prevention, and we apply strict disciplinary action on any AIA member who violates our Code of Conduct. In fact, at AIA we have zero-tolerance when it comes to Code of Conduct breaches, as would be expected of a leading insurer. We employ very clear guidelines and every AIA member is made fully aware of the range of penalties that will be applied should a breach be identified. Penalties can range from written warnings for minor misdemeanours through to termination of employment, or for agents the termination of their licence to sell any AIA product or service. Additionally, for the latter the agent may be put onto an industry “black-list”, maintained by the AVI, which effectively means they must not work in the life insurance industry for 3 years. This may seem harsh, but integral to AIA Vietnam’s success is our strong commitment to building lasting customer relationships based on trust, confidence and integrity. We can never be complacent and will always look to continually improve and learn.