Mr. Wayne Besant, the newly-appointed CEO of AIA Vietnam, tells VET about his eagerness to work in the country and where he will take the company in the future.
■ You were appointed CEO of AIA Vietnam in June, which was officially approved by the Ministry of Finance in early August. How has your time as CEO of AIA been so far?
I felt honored and it didn’t take much time for me to decide to accept the appointment in Vietnam, which is one of the fastest-growing life insurance markets in Asia. Upon my arrival I immediately noticed Vietnam is a dynamic country with a much potential in life insurance. I feel proud to have gained the trust of the AIA Group’s management and, more importantly, I am very happy to have the opportunity to work for and contribute to the development of AIA Vietnam, a dynamic life insurer, as well as to the country’s insurance market.
■ Vietnam is still new to you, and the expectations on you of the AIA Group as well as AIA Vietnam would be quite high. Do you feel any pressure?
To tell you the truth, I have felt some pressure but in a positive sense; a type of pressure that gives you more energy and more determination. Before coming to Vietnam I was CEO of AIA New Zealand for over five years. So I fully believe that with my experience and my dedication, together with our great team of employees and sales force, who are very dynamic, professional and full of creativity, we can continue and improve upon the achievements with our AIA Vietnam team.
■ What is your plan to help AIA Vietnam become No. 1 in Vietnam’s insurance market?
AIA Vietnam has recently been one of the fastest-growing life insurers in the market. In 2014 our value of new business (VONB) increased 114 per cent and annualized new premiums (ANP) increased by 47 per cent against the same period last year.
“Upon my arrival I immediately noticed Vietnam is a dynamic country with a much potential in life insurance”
Mr. Wayne Besant, the newly-appointed CEO of AIA Vietnam
As Mr. Mark Tucker, CEO and President of the AIA Group, told the media during his visit to Vietnam at the beginning of this year, Vietnam is a very important market for the AIA Group and it will continue to fully support AIA Vietnam to make it become the best life insurer in the country. Having quality, differentiated services and sustainable growth to provide a good experience to and the best protection for our customers is the most important goal of AIA Vietnam at this time, not becoming No. 1 or aiming at any other ranking.
Building on our previous success, I believe that AIA Vietnam will continue its sustainable growth with further breakthroughs. We will continue to invest in strengthening our distribution channel’s competitiveness through our Premier Agency strategy as well as by adopting effective alternative distribution channels. We will further expand and enhance our two unique models, “nest by AIA” and “AIA Exchange”, which were launched earlier this year in Ho Chi Minh City and to other major cities in the country. In addition, we will continue to invest in service quality improvements as well as in sales and service networks, together with having the right product portfolio. We believe that the effective implementation of these strategies will enable AIA Vietnam to become the pre-eminent life insurer in Vietnam and be chosen by millions of customers in the future.
■ In the first half of 2015 AIA Vietnam’s partnership distribution channels have recorded significant achievements. As you were formerly in charge of retail banking at ANZ New Zealand before joining AIA, do you think that this is another advantage AIA Vietnam holds in developing the bancassurance channel, which is in its initial stages in Vietnam?
In 2014 we began to strengthen our partnership distribution channels, especially our bancassurance partnership with strategic partners. And, in fact, we have made very good progress.
Although this distribution channel has great potential, success will require a long-term commitment and in-depth cooperation between banks and insurance companies. Our priority in the next phase is to focus on strengthening the overall relationship with our bank partners, via effective business strategies, the application of high technology to serve our customers better, and the development of new products that suit the different and unique needs of the bancassurance customer segment. I also believe that my many years of experience in the banking industry will help me to support my team.
■ What do you think about Vietnam’s life insurance market in particular and its financial services in general? Are there any similarities with the markets you have worked in?
Vietnam and New Zealand share certain similarities in the life insurance industry, which include a young and dynamic population and, in particular, an increasing awareness about insurance among young people. The biggest difference is that Vietnam’s population is much larger. New Zealand is of a similar geographic size to Vietnam but its population is only around 5 million people! New Zealand has almost the same life insurance penetration as Vietnam.
The ratio of people in Vietnam with life insurance coverage is around 6.3 per cent and life insurance represented only 1 per cent of GDP in 2014. This, however, means that the potential of the life insurance market in Vietnam is huge. And I am very excited about that.
■ When it was announced that you were to be the new CEO, you said “Hello Vietnam, my new home!” What do you feel now after living and working in Vietnam?
During my first days in Vietnam I was really impressed by the peaceful country and its friendly and welcoming people. I am also lucky to have had the chance to visit some places in the northern, central and southern regions. I realized that there are cultural differences between the different regions and each has its own charm. That enriches my experience in this beautiful country.
I have found that Vietnamese people love sport, especially football. The football fans here are just as passionate as those in other countries. I also enjoy Vietnamese food, which is so diverse and delicious.
I really love Vietnam. And every day here I love it a little more. My family has also come to Vietnam, and they love it just like I do. Vietnam has truly become our home.