Ask A Senior: “I'll Start By Answering Why People Avoid Insurance.”
“If every Vietnamese person had insurance, the social security network will be extremely stable, and maybe then, Vietnamese people will live a much better life.”
Source: Maika Elan for Vietcetera.
Sharing his expertise with Vietcetera readers today is Lam Vu Thang, the Director of nest by AIA and Southern AIA Exchange. The young professional was born in 1988 and is credited with laying the foundation for nest by AIA - a unique delivery service with an insurance financing model focused on enhancing the experience for customers before, during, and after purchasing insurance.
With nest by AIA’s evident success under his leadership, Thang was then entrusted to steer the Southern AIA Exchange in the beginning of 2020.
And with his professional expertise, effective leadership and resilience, Lam Vu Thang is now managing nearly 1,500 people of both nest by AIA and Southern AIA Exchange (including employees and sales agents) after only five years of operation.
What did you do before managing your team of 1,500?
My family has a long history in the post-office and electronics industry, so naturally my parents wanted me to pursue a career in those fields. After studying electronic engineering for a year, I realized that I liked economics more. Since then, I began my search for opportunities to pursue my passion, which led to studying abroad at The Singapore Institute of Management. That was a defining moment in my career.
When I returned to Vietnam, my first job was at the Standard Chartered Bank. After only four months there, my friends coaxed me into switching to sales to working with them at HSBC. The decision proved to be wise as it not only helped me develop the skills I have today, but understand the challenges that come with working in this industry. And after working at HSBC for five years, I came to AIA Vietnam - where I have been able to fully dedicate my time to my passion for almost 6 years.
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What is it about the insurance industry that has made you stay for so long?
When I was younger, I remember asking the adults in my house: "What can I do to give back to the people in our community?" The answer I got was: “You should divide your life into three phases. First, fulfill the obligations to yourself, so you don't have to depend on others. Second, take care of your family, don't let it become a burden on society. And lastly, after completing the first two stages, take care of other people.”
In the insurance industry, I discovered a truly beautiful thing: while still at stage two, I had already completed stage three. Helping Vietnamese people understand the value of insurance and its support against uncertainties and risks also delivers value to their daily lives.
In Vietnam, an underprivileged family who meets with an accident, will almost always fall on hard times. In more mature economies, where insurance is common, people usually get back on their feet within 3-5 years.
When I first started working, I was inspired by the quote: “If every Vietnamese person had insurance, the social security network will be extremely stable, and maybe then, Vietnamese people will live a much better life.”
5 years ago, Vietnamese people had a misconception that the insurance industry was a scam. What are your thoughts on this?
I'm going to start by answering why so many people avoid insurance. It's because after the initial chit-chat, things get complicated and for many people navigating the legal maze can feel like a scam. In 90% of cases, when the insurance company refuses to pay the claim, it’s because the original paperwork wasn’t done properly.
When I first joined the insurance industry, I would hear this complaint everyday. From then on, I was determined to change how insurance consulting is handled and underline the benefits of buying to slowly transform clients' typical prejudices towards insurance consultants. If you can buy insurance, you can claim* it.
When selling, it must be done properly, so when problems arise, the customer can understand the rules of the contract and be properly compensated for. If sales agents can’t do that, they shouldn’t be selling insurance in the first place.
The second complaint is that usually after the insurance is sold, the insurance is no longer properly taken care of and the financial counselor goes MIA. Nest by AIA and AIA Exchange are organizing events to help create more value for customers, so that sellers and buyers have the opportunity to interact and build a strong relationship with each other.
Besides that, AIA Vietnam also offers perks that take care of their clients' well-being. This is a special feature that distinguishes nest by AIA and AIA Exchange from the rest.
Can you tell us more about your team?
In the beginning, financial advisors were mainly made up of bankers because they were already well trained and had the discipline and integrity. Due to the increasing demand to connect and understand customer needs, in addition to the need for hard skills in the industry, AIA Vietnam started recruiting from other areas such as FMCG, hotels, and within the service industry.
To support financial advisors, nest by AIA and AIA Exchange have built 4 different business support teams: the marketing team for events and campaigns; the training team who trains experts in handling clients; the recruitment team to ensure the recruitment of quality sales, and the analytics team who is in charge of analyzing data, and recommending solutions for each department.
Has digitalization made the job of being an insurance sales agent easier?
Before, when meeting a client, experts had to bring briefcases full of pre-filled documents and other paperwork. And if the client changed their mind, you would have had to start over. This was not only inconvenient, but printing dozens of paperwork did not follow AIA Vietnam's eco-friendly mission.
Now, all the information can be updated via iPOS on the iPad.
With this system, customers can also access their information on their mobile devices, no need to go to the counter directly. The customer that's logged into the AIA Vietnam is counted as an interaction. Digitalization helps customers and employees save time and increase the number of interactions they have. This advantage has already been maximized in previous seasons.
What is the biggest challenge you face when increasing manpower?
When scaling from five to nearly 1,500 people, it’s crucial to maintain quality. How can I make sure everything goes according to plan?
Therefore, nest by AIA and AIA Exchange have training classes at a variety of levels. And management takes care of that, while the quality assurance department is responsible for ensuring quality customer service. I am proud to say that after many years of operation, our customer complaint rate has stayed below 2%.
There are many young people looking to join the AIA Vietnam family. What do you think is attracting them?
What attracts people from all different fields to AIA Vietnam is the fact that there is room for creativity and even madness here. Can you think of any other insurance company that runs their own fashion shows? Or art exhibitions?
Each member who joins the team is well trained in terms of expertise, soft skills, and the ability to build a strong company image using social media to spread awareness on the value of insurance and the well-being of customers.
AIA Vietnam empowers you to try anything, as long as it creates a fresh experience for our customers. I'm a technical guy, so I'm not very creative. I need people to bring creativity to AIA Vietnam.
What are your plans for 2021?
The biggest goal is to make the nest by AIA and AIA Exchange experience accessible to more people. Next July, AIA Vietnam will have more offices in the central district of Hanoi and in Saigon.
The second goal for nest by AIA and AIA Exchange is to protect as many Vietnamese people as possible through our products. We are committed to providing them with the best support, the best service, and to help them understand and be compensated for when they encounter problems. I am proud that there have not been any cases that needed compensation that nest by AIA has not fulfilled. We will continue to focus on developing our strengths and create new aspirations to serve our customers.